MSU graduate student union rallies for bigger paychecks

Graduate assistants at Michigan State University have assembled makeshift campsites in front of the Hannah Administration Building as they continue to pressure university officials for more money.

Unionized graduate teaching assistants instruct about two-thirds of the classes taught on MSU’s campus, [MSU Graduate Employees Union president] Rowe said. Their paychecks are based exclusively on two- or three-year collective bargaining agreements with the university. And students are growing increasingly frustrated after negotiations reached a stalemate over the last few weeks.

Union officials said the annual stipend for teaching assistants rests at $15,400 while the living wage in Ingham County is about $23,600. The union wants a 30% increase to about $20,000. MSU would rather limit that increase to 3% — or an annual proposed increase of about $500, Rowe said.

And the union isn’t happy. Dozens of students — along with State Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr. D-East Lansing and Ingham County Commissioner Todd Tennis — converged for a rally today outside the union’s newly founded tent city near the Hannah Administration Building. Their message: Find a working compromise. 

“You were the frontlines when it came to issues like sexual assault on campus and you were not being heard,” Hertel said to the crowd. ‘The reality is, this university is more safe, more smart and functions because of you. Until you get a basic level of respect, until you get reasonable compensation, you should never stop fighting.”,12746

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