Striking Temple University Grad Students Reject Proposed Contract

The Temple University Graduate Students' Association voted against ratifying the proposed contract, saying it didn't meet pay or healthcare demands.
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  • With over 83% of its members voting, the student labor union overwhelmingly rejected the proposed contract — with 92% voting against it.
  • According to the union, the contract said that by 2026, average pay would increase to just over $23,600.
  • The contract did not satisfy the union's pay and healthcare demands.

The graduate students' strike at Temple University will continue after labor union members this week rejected Temple's tentative contract.

Temple University Graduate Students' Association (TUGSA) on Feb. 21 announced it had rejected Temple University's proposed contract.

A few days earlier, the union and Temple had reached a tentative agreement that raised base wages and reinstated tuition remission and healthcare benefits for striking students. It then went to union members for a vote.

Over 83% of the union members voted on the tentative agreement proposed by Temple University, with 92% voting to reject the deal.

According to the union, the tentative agreement would have immediately raised the average teaching/research assistant pay to about $21,000 and just over $23,600 by 2026. By 2026, the average increase would be only $4,100 more than the current average pay.

The union's demands for base wages are $32,800, which is lower than the raise Ph.D. students got from the University of Pennsylvania in January.

The union said the proposed contract also did not satisfy its demands for dependent and family healthcare.

"Temple says they will look into 'more affordable plans' for dependents, but without any guarantees on when/how/or what this would entail," the union tweeted.

The union made the tentative agreement to review the legitimacy of Temple's offer and bring it to its members. Now that union members have rejected the contract, the union said it will work as soon as possible with Temple to settle a new contract that meets students' needs.

"TUGSA members know that @TempleUniv has the resources to support its graduate TAs and RAs, that is why the strike has grown every day since it began, including since the details about the TA were shared with members," the union tweeted. "It has always been about choices. We've made ours."

Ken Kaiser, chief operating officer for Temple University, said the university was disappointed to hear the union did not ratify the tentative agreement.

According to Kaiser, the agreement retroactively increased the pay minimum by 10%. It would increase the pay by 5%, 2.5%, and 2.25% for the next three years, respectively. Temple would have also paid every union graduate student $1,000.

The agreement kept free health coverage for graduate students and added bereavement and parental leave. It would have also restored tuition remission and healthcare benefits for striking students.

"Although the TUGSA leadership left the Friday meeting promising to unanimously recommend the agreement for ratification, the TUGSA membership did not ratify the agreement," Kaiser said. "Therefore, the parties will return to bargaining soon, and we will continue to negotiate with TUGSA in good faith as we have done to date."