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ISU Graduate Student Union marches amid possible strike

Written by on October 30, 2023

Photo provided by the Graduate Student Union

NORMAL, Ill. – For months, graduate students attending Illinois State University have proposed different negotiations about various aspects of their contracts. Most recently, members of the Graduate Student Union voted for a strike authorization with 92 percent. 

One of the primary things they are fighting the most for is being paid what they claim is a livable wage by the university. Graduate student Rebekah Mangels shares a little bit about the proposals that have gone back and forth between her fellow students and ISU. 

“So, the university has finally given us an economic proposal after seven months of bargaining, but obviously the academic proposal was not satisfying to us since the raise that they proposed for the master’s students initially was $46 per month, which wouldn’t even cover things like inflation rising and rent things like that,” she said. 

Being paid a livable wage has been a long-standing proposal from graduate students to ISU because it is an area where many students struggle the most. Mangels explains how this issue initially came up. 

“Obviously, we are focused on wages because that is causing a lot of our economic problems amongst our memberships. We recently took a poll, I believe actually a year ago already, where we were asking graduate students to explain their struggles to us,” Mangels said. “They were able to collect different options, but they were also able to expound on those options by writing responses back to us, so a big deal was the economics.” 

Mangels continues to share how she thinks the university will respond to their proposals within their contracts.

She said, “Putting pressure on the university to provide us a living wage will ultimately be a success because, ultimately, that’s what the university is going to depend on, you know, having a good reputation.” 

As graduate students have gone back and forth for months with ISU fighting for higher wages, Mangels talks about the possibility of there being a strike on campus, following a 92 percent vote in support of the strike authorization vote. 

“They said there’s no way we are giving you what you’re asking for there’s absolutely no way we can give you what you’re asking for. And then when we threatened to strike, and that turned around real fast,” Mangels said. “They were saying things like money just found itself somehow because they knew that they would lose more money over our striking than actually give us what we were asking for.”

Mangels shares that the end goal of these negotiations goes beyond just the grad students at ISU.

“We believe that undergrads should have better wages like this. We think everyone should be earning a living wage, not just grad workers. This is about everyone, this is about the collective.”

Members of GSU currently have plans to march everyday at noon outside Hovey Hall until they reach a contract they believe is fair.