President Maurie McInnis announced a raise in graduate worker stipends in a campus-wide email sent out on Monday morning.
She announced in the email that if a teaching assistant (TA) or graduate assistant (GA) earns less than $22,500 over the course of a nine-month appointment, they will now be paid that amount. If they are currently earning $22,500, they will receive a $500 raise. If a TA/GA earns less than $27,875 in a year, they will be compensated with this amount. If they already make $27,875, they will be paid an extra $619. According to McInnis, the total cost of funding this additional raise is around $1.3 million.
In their preliminary bargaining meeting with the administration, the Graduate Student Employees Union’s (GSEU) Chapter President John Klecker said that administration told them the “absolute earliest” they would hear an offer was Nov. 19.
Now, four days early, McInnis said that all graduate student employees will receive a wage increase according to the number of hours worked during the year.
“An action like this with a campus-wide email rather than discussing the offer with the GSEU bargaining team on Nov. 19, as previously decided, is a bad faith act,” Klecker said in a statement to The Statesman. “It is an attempt to delegitimize the authority of the GSEU to bargain for members.”
The email comes in wake of the GSEU’s Living Wage Campaign that has been campaigning for months and gaining support across campus. The GSEU received a response from the administration after they carried a 10-foot scroll to McInnis’ office on Sept. 30 with over 600 signatures demanding that graduate workers be paid more, in addition to threats of boycotting President McInnis’ inauguration.
“We are in the midst of reviewing budget requests from all areas throughout the institution,” McInnis said in the email. “Along with these other requests we have also considered an additional increase in stipends for our GAs and TAs as an initial step. We will follow with a review of our Research Project Assistant stipends.”
The email also pointed out that the current GSEU contract includes two pay increases for state graduate assistants and teaching assistants, as well as a total compensation package that includes insurance, pension, paid leave and location pay. The first 2% increase was retroactive Oct. 1, 2020, and a second 2% increase was paid last month, according to McInnis.
McInnis stated that although their budget is tight, recruiting and keeping graduate students is a major priority for the University.
According to an email sent out to GSEU members which was acquired by The Statesman, while these actions are a start in the right direction, they do not result in livable wages.
“While this increase was won directly from the organizing of the GSEU, this announcement was made without following the agreed-on consultation with the GSEU bargaining team,” the email stated. “We hope that the university will follow good faith communication with GSEU in the future. Our campaign will continue until we establish a genuine living wage at SBU, and we call on our campus community to continue with your support of our efforts.”
Other previous efforts to support graduate students, according to McInnis, include granting doctoral student fee scholarships of up to nearly $1,800 for doctorate and terminal degree students, as well as making $1 million available in Presidential Completion Awards in spring 2021.
In response to a proposal from the Strategic Budget Initiative, Stony Brook opened a new Graduate and Health Sciences Admissions office last summer to provide support for prospective graduate students.
McInnis has also organized a working group to look into “policies, practices, and procedures that are designed to guide the next generation of scholars through doctoral education.” The working group’s initial focus will be on recruitment, the establishment of multi-year financial support packages, evaluating educational training experiences such as research and teaching assistantships and time to degree problems, she said.
The SBU Labor Council will continue to hold their “Rally for Respect and Fair Wages” on Nov. 17 at 12 p.m. at the fountain in front of the Administration Building. The GSEU, along with Civil Service Employees Association Local 614, United University Professions (UUP) Health Sciences and UUP, will be in attendance with speakers from each union to discuss their respective campaigns and labor issues.