Graduate student workers at IU-Bloomington hope to form labor union

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Students walk past the newly-completed Metz Bicentennial Grand Carillon in the Cox Arboretum during the first day of spring semester classes at Indiana University Bloomington on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020. (Image courtesy of Indiana University)

More than 1,500 graduate student workers at Indiana University’s main campus are formally requesting the school allow an election to form a labor union. If successful, they could become the largest labor union on the campus.

The Indiana Graduate Workers Coalition-United Electrical Workers delivered union cards to the Board of Trustees earlier this month, asking them to hold a union election. They hope to see better wages and benefits, an external grievance process for labor disputes and an end to mandatory student fees for workers.

Cole Nelson with the worker coalition says before the union drive this fall, members met with university leadership to ask for student workers to be exempted from mandatory fees totaling about $700 per student.

When no action was taken, the coalition organized roughly 800 graduate workers this spring in a student fee strike which they estimate cost Indiana University hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“This certainly caught the university’s attention but, still, there was no indication that they were willing to commit to ending fees for graduate workers,” Nelson said. “Let alone raising our pay, ensuring that we’re making a decent standard of living, making sure we’re able to pay rent and all the rest of it. We recognize that the best and most effective path forward is to establish a union so we can have an official bargaining relationship with the university.”

Indiana University did not reply to a request for comment on the unionization effort.

The coalition estimates it would represent about 2,500 graduate student workers on the Indiana University Bloomington campus if unionized.

The other recognized unions on campus are the AFSCME Local 832 representing custodians and maintenance workers and the CWA Local 4818 representing mostly clerical staff. Both estimate they have between 200 to 300 members and represent a little more than 1,000 workers each.

This story comes to IBJ courtesy of WFYI.

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