Graduate students call for improved conditions in campus march
Graduate students march for improved conditions
Hundreds of graduate students and supporters trekked across Syracuse University’s campus Wednesday afternoon in an effort to raise awareness of Syracuse Graduate Employees United‘s efforts to be recognized as a formal union.
Meeting in front of Carnegie Library with signs and megaphones, marchers then walked across campus, shouting out call-and-response chants and stopping to speak in front of the Schine Student Center. The event dubbed the March of Recognition ended outside of Crouse-Hinds Hall, where SGEU organizers delivered a letter to SU Provost Gretchen Ritter asking for voluntary recognition of their unit by the university.
James Year, a multimedia, photography and design graduate student and instructional associate, said he was impressed by the number of students who enthusiastically joined the rally between their classes and teaching commitments.
“Everyone I met was in good spirits and were all excited about the momentum we have,” Year said.
There are over 1,000 grad student workers at SU, and there is a super majority of support among that population for the union. Since launching in the fall of 2021, the SGEU has received letters of support from 254 professors, 700 undergraduate students and multiple local organizations.
SGEU is unionizing with SEIU Local 200United, a union with thousands of workers in New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. Workers within SEIU Local 200United hold jobs like nurses, first responders and educators and have a goal to control their working conditions in order to earn better pay and benefits as employees of the university.
SGEU organizers said SU graduate students working full-time earn around $22,000 while the 12-month living wage for Syracuse is $32,000. Those who are part-time employees make the state-regulated $14 an hour. Also, the SGEU says graduate students face rising rent and health insurance costs each year while also lacking basic protections from harassment, overworking and discrimination.
In an open letter delivered to the university, the students stated that they were seeking to bargain for improved working conditions for all of SU’s graduate student workers, saying that, “SU works because we do.”
If the SGEU doesn’t receive any response from the university, the unit plans to file with the National Labor Relations Board on Feb. 20 for a union election.
Sociology doctoral student Sergio Saravia said he believes in the strength of their unit.
“We hope that the university is going to recognize the union voluntarily,” Sarvia said. “But if not, we are going to file an election under the National Labor Relations Board, and we are going to vote, and we are going to win.”
Gianna Lanfrank contributed to this report.