January 11, 2023

Earlier today, USC’s Vice Provost for Academic Programs sent out an email to all graduate student workers suggesting that forming a union would not be in our best interest, specifically with respect to stipends and benefits.

GSWs have been involved in forming GSWOC-UAW since 2016, and over the past eight months, a supermajority of GSWs — nearly 2200 of us across USC — expressed our support for forming a union by signing union authorization cards. Over 100,000 academic workers across the country are UAW members, representing roughly ¼ of UAW membership nationally. We are enthusiastic about our role in the national movement to dramatically improve higher education. GSWOC-UAW (Graduate Student Worker Organizing Committee – United Auto Workers) is by, of, and for USC graduate student workers (GSWs).

Over the past several months, we have had countless positive conversations with coworkers and colleagues about forming a union. In those conversations, the ability to negotiate wages with USC has consistently been one of the most important reasons for forming a union. In preliminary results from the Workplace Environment and Compensation survey, 78% of respondents (342 so far) have reported experiencing stress related to rent and other living expenses. 97% of respondents agree that Grad Student Workers should be paid a living wage, and a majority of GSWs report working 40 hours a week or more on teaching and research.

Furthermore, recent contracts at other universities demonstrate that collective bargaining works – for instance, at UCLA, under the recently ratified union contract a typical TA will see their salary increase from $23,246.50 for 9 months to $41,786.50 for 9 months by 10/1/2024, an 80% wage increase. At Columbia University, where GSWs are also unionized, the minimum salary is over $45,000. By forming a union, we are joining a nation-wide movement that is already raising standards for graduate worker compensation. 

With collective bargaining, we – as graduate student workers – will have the power to negotiate our wages with USC administrators as equals. But the message from the Vice Provost’s email is clear: Without a union, wage increases — and other essential benefits — will be entirely up to USC administration.

Reminder: Upcoming Events!

  • First coffee hour of the year is tomorrow, Thursday, January 12th at 12PM in Viterbi Quad (Google Maps link here). Bring your friends and join us for some coffee, donuts, and conversation! RSVP here
  • Curious about how collective bargaining works? Join for our collective bargaining overview on Tuesday, 1/17 at 5:00 pm. RSVP here to receive a zoom link!
  • Tuesday 1/17 at 11:00 am, we repeat our recognizing anti-union tactics training via zoom. RSVP here!

If you have any questions or just want to learn more, please do not hesitate to simply respond to this email. You can also fill out this short survey to get more involved, follow GSWOC-UAW on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram, or check out gswoc-usc.org.

In solidarity, 

Megan Cassingham, Chemistry
Stepp Mayes, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Julia Stal, Population and Public Health Sciences
Maggie Davis, Sociology