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UMaine Graduate Workers Forming Union; Rally This Friday

Andy O’Brien
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Graduate workers at the University of Maine announced this week that they are forming a union with UAW. The workers will be holding a public rally this Friday March 24 at noon in the MLK plaza of the UMaine Orono campus. If you’re in the area, stop by and show your support for the UMaine Graduate Workers Union (UMGWU-UAW)!

Graduate worker organizers say they have been putting in countless hours on top of research, teaching, and administrative duties to build a union of grad workers across the University of Maine System (UMS) so that they can have a say in the decisions that affect them.  

“The UMS treats us ambiguously as students and/or workers and makes decisions on our behalf without our input. This impacts our health, our families, our relationships, and our work,” the graduate workers wrote on their website. “By building a union, graduate workers —  whose work earned UMaine its R1 Research Institution status, whose work drives the UMS teaching mission, and whose work keeps the university running, and the many other roles grad work plays — we can demand and WIN improvements to our working conditions, compensation, health care coverage, and so much more.”

Student workers expressed frustration with low wages that are not keeping up with the cost of living.

“Despite the fact that I love my research and community here at UMaine, it is unsustainable for me to live with such low wages, inconsistent or poor health care, and no seat at the decision making table,” said student worker Andrea Tirrell. “The University repeatedly makes unilateral decisions that negatively impact grad students, which is harming not only our research and learning experiences, but our lives. I’m over it! We need a collective say now.”

Student worker Frank Sternberg, who suffers from type 1 diabetes, described how he has struggled to pay for an insulin pump to manage his blood glucose because the university’s health plan doesn’t cover it.

“When I turned 26 and lost access to my parents’ health insurance, I researched enrolling in alternative options, including the graduate student plan and coverage offered through the state exchange,” said Sternberg. “Not only did the University health insurance not cover the costs associated with my insulin pump, but the state coverage was cheaper – actually, my entire premium was subsidized because of how little UMaine pays M.S. students!”

You can read more graduate worker testimonials here. For the latest news about the UMaine Graduate Workers Union, follow their Instagram.