U. of C. graduates’ strike into third day, no end in sight

Graduate students are upset about low pay, health care costs and the administration’s unwillingness to recognize their union.

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Hull Gate, the stone entrance that leads into the heart of the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park.

About 250 graduate students at the University of Chicago have gone on strike over pay, health care and to get the university to recognize their union.

Victor Hilitski / Sun-Times

A graduate student strike at the University of Chicago stretched into its third day Wednesday, with no meetings scheduled with administrators.

“The mood is exuberant,” said Laura Colaneri, a graduate student in the department of Romance Languages and Literatures. “It’s the third day of this action. I’m tired, I’m sore. I’m joyful and excited to be with other workers.”

About 250 graduate students are walking the picket lines, Colaneri said. The key issues are pay, health insurance benefits and, they say, the administration’s unwillingness to recognize the union the graduate students formed two years ago.

Colaneri says she is paid about $29,000 a year before taxes.

Another issue is late pay. Some students said they received their checks two to six weeks late, according to a survey of graduate students conducted in 2018.

“There is quite a serious thing with workers not being paid on time and no way to file a grievance,” Colaneri said.

In a statement, U. of C. spokesman Jeremy Manier said: “The university continues to believe that graduate students are students first and foremost, and that direct engagement among graduate students and faculty is the best path to improving graduate education. This is based on the university’s commitment to providing outstanding graduate education.The university has longstanding and positive relationships with 11 unions representing about 1,400 employees at UChicago.”

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