Temple graduate students ratify new pact, end 6-week strike

Temple grad student strike
Temple University Graduate Students’ Association members march through the school’s campus Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Jack Tomczuk

Temple University graduate students who are teaching and research assistants have overwhelmingly ratified a new contract, ending their six-week-long walkout.

The Temple University Graduate Students Association, which said Monday evening that the vote was 344 to 8 in favor of ratification, said the new agreement “addressed the union’s core demands of increased wages, more affordable dependent health care, reasonable leave policies, and better working conditions.”

Members last month voted 352 to 30 to reject another proposal that was reached Feb. 18 and to continue the walkout.

The new agreement, which the union called “the most robust” in its history and will be in effect until 2026, includes a market adjustment to pay “with significant wage increases in the first year followed by substantial raises in subsequent years,” the union said. Also included are partial health care coverage for dependents, increased parental and bereavement leave, and improvements in the grievance procedure and articles relating to workload, the union said.

Over the past six weeks, the university has “demonstrated remarkable resilience,” Temple President Jason Wingard said in a statement that he’s pleased with the agreement.

He said, “Perseverance conquers, and today’s agreement is evidence of our collective willingness to unite and advance,” The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The association, which represents about 750 members, began the first strike in its two-decade-long history on Jan. 31 after more than a year of negotiations and no agreement. The students teach core undergraduate courses and assist professors with research.

The university has said that about 20% of graduate students who are teaching and research assistants have not continued to work, but the union said at least twice that many were on strike. Many classes were moved online to accommodate new instructors’ schedules, and in response to reports of intimidation of students and instructors, the university said.

Temple had withdrawn free tuition from the strikers, giving them a month to pay in full — or face a late fee and a financial hold that would bar them from registering for more classes. Union leaders said the university has also been deactivating the health care accounts of striking students.

Under the new agreement, graduate students’ minimum pay will rise to $24,000 in the first year and $27,000 by year four — a 30% increase over the life of the contract, the Inquirer reported. Graduate students will also get a $500 one-time payment and the university will pay 25% toward health insurance subsidies for their dependents.