By ELIZABETH DESANTIS
IU student graduate workers were voting Sunday and Monday to decide whether or not to go on strike this week to demand the university recognize their union.
The Graduate Workers Coalition met Sunday afternoon at the Monroe County Public Library to discuss terms for the strike. So many students packed the venue that latecomers had to stand and listen in the entryway. Students in the crowd chanted, “Yes, vote yes!” about the upcoming vote, and many carried signs reading, “I voted yes to the strike.”
Students then marched to the Switchyard Brewing Company to mark the start of the voting.
Online voting to approve the strike went live Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. and will continue until 3 p.m. Monday. The Graduate Workers Coalition will announce the result of the vote after voting closes.
After university administrators rejected a request from the workers to hold a union election in February, over 1,000 students have signed union cards while 470 faculty members have signed letters promising neutrality, according to the coalition
Several IU departments--including Cognitive Science, Chemistry, Mathematics, Sociology, Theater, English, French and Italian--have also promised neutrality toward the strike
The Graduate Workers Coalition is also raising funds to support students through a Go Fund Me campaign, which has raised over $23,000.
The graduate students are protesting mandatory fees, low wages and the lack of a voice to advocate for themselves. Many complain of inadequate compensation for their work in a city that has had steadily increasing rents over the past several years.
Fair market rent prices in Bloomington are higher than the national average; rent in Bloomington is more expensive than 86% of all monitored areas.
The IU administration has offered graduate workers a five-percent raise amid the impending strike.
IU grad student Anne Kavalerchik says she’s not content with a “completely inadequate raise.”
Instead, she says the university needs to be on alert.
“I think that the university is paying attention and that they should really be thinking very hard about the fact that we have today 1,000 graduate workers who are ready to go on strike,” she said. “I’m very confident that the vote will pass, yes. I’m very confident that graduate workers will be able to withstand any threats that they want to give to us.”
On Saturday, Dean of the IU Graduate School James Wimbush published an op-ed laying out arguments against unionization.
"Injecting a union into these relationships would create the antithesis of why students pursue their graduate degrees — changing the focus from full-time education to part-time work," Wimbush wrote. "In essence, it would alter their status from students to employees."
Students and faculty will take to picket lines in six locations across IU’s campus Wednesday in solidarity with the strike.
The coalition says it expects more than 200 students at each of the picket locations.