September 1, 2015
Fellow Graduate Assistants,
Last Friday, the University of Missouri informed graduate students employed as teaching assistants and research assistants that the university could no longer afford to provide healthcare subsidies. In doing so, the University of Missouri effectively stripped its graduate students of their healthcare, leaving them with less than fourteen hours to find new insurance.
While the administration later reversed its position, stating that it will defer this decision until next year, this decision demonstrates the increasing lack of concern for the living conditions of graduate students who provide a majority of the undergraduate education at most institutions around the country. Further, the reversal of this demonstration due to the threat of a collective walkout by the University of Missouri graduate assistants, demonstrates the power of graduate assistants to demand fair treatment when organized.
Here at SIU, you are protected by a collective bargaining agreement negotiated by your union, Graduate Assistants United, which requires SIU to provide health care compliant with the Affordable Care Act. Despite this, GAU and other student organizations were forced to aggressively lobby the university into adopting an ACA compliant health plan, which we received last year.
Keeping in mind the struggle that our own unionized graduate assistants faced, and still face in negotiating adequate working conditions, health care included, Graduate Assistants United stands in solidarity with the graduate employees at the University of Missouri and offers its full support for their efforts at organizing and collective action to demand fair treatment and better working conditions.
President, Graduate Assistants United