On the Picket Line

Temple University graduate assistants rally for new contract

By Osborne Hart
October 31, 2022

PHILADELPHIA — Unionized graduate assistants at Temple University protested outside the school’s board of trustees meeting taking place at Charles Library here Oct. 11 demanding a new contract.

The demonstration, organized by Temple University Graduate Student Assistants, American Federation of Teachers Local 6290, represents more than 700 teaching and research assistants at the school. They teach core classes and carry out research for regular professors.

“We do a lot of work and work long hours,” Manasa Gopakumar, a former local president and current union negotiating committee member, told the Militant. “TAs teach two classes a week, with up to 30 students per class,” he said. “That can take 60 hours a week or more.” At the same time, they’re also laboring to complete work on their degrees.

Temple’s student body is growing and the college is making money — $239 million profit in 2021. They raised tuition by 3.9% for this year, while slashing the school’s budget for staff and other expenses by 3.6%.

The teaching assistants’ contract ran out in February and the university administration has “stalled, stonewalled and delayed at every opportunity” since, the union said in a flyer handed out at the rally.

They’re demanding wage increases, health care coverage, parental leave time and child care. Many have families to support. The university’s wage offer is a measly 2% increase, while inflation is running over four times that amount.