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The Statesman

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    Graduate Student Employees Protest Unfair Wages

    Cheers of “no justice, no peace” along with neon orange and yellow signs reading “Dean Martin, I’m hungry” and “TA’s/GA’s unite for justice” punched the air on Wednesday during a demonstration led by the Graduate Student Employees Union to protest against what the Union describes as unfair wages.

    Lawrence Martin, Dean of Stony Brook’s Graduate School approved a $2,000 salary increase to incoming teaching assistants (TA) and graduate assistants (GA), but current TA’s and GA’s will not receive the same increase.

    Teaching Assistants aid professors by grading papers and teaching recitations or workshops, which help to reinforce concepts discussed in lectures. Graduate assistants work more in the administrative offices on campus.

    See more photos here: http://www.sbstateman.com/protest/

    “It’s unfair to people who’ve already been here,” said one protesting TA for a 70-student microeconomic theory class who would not give her name. “The new students may be more inexperienced.”

    Currently, new graduate students will receive approximately $17,000 while returning students salaries will remain at $15,145 according to Victor Rosado, business agent for the Union.

    The Union represents approximately 1,000 TA’s and GA’s from over 20 academic departments.

    “It’s kind of insulting,” said Dylan, a graduate student who would not give his last name. “Like once they admit you, you’re not good enough.”

    Other graduate students agree.

    “It’s leaving a bad taste in my mouth,” said Angel Gonzales. “If we don’t do anything, though, what does that say about us?”

    The average TA/GA’s salary is $15,000. This is almost double the rate specified in the SUNY Graduate Student Employees Union collective bargaining agreement, which is $8,093, according to Lauren Sheprow of the university’s media relations department.

    “All state-funded GA and TA lines funded by the Graduate School at Stony Brook University receive the same annual salary or stipend,” said Sheprow. “There are other forms of remuneration for which GA’s and TA’s are eligible through fellowship awards and various other types of funding.”

    Many of the unionized employees on campus are full-time employees, whereas the graduate students work 20 hours a week, causing them to be in different salary brackets. The protest started at the circular fountain just outside the Administration building. Then, the procession of about 130 students and union workers marched towards the Computer Science building, which houses the Gradate School.

    With bullhorns blaring, they set out to deliver a letter to Dean Martin, urging him to hear their concerns once more.

    The protestors marched and chanted all the way up to the second floor, and took over the staircase for at least 30 minutes, chanting, blowing red whistles, and listening to Stewart Acuff, National Organizing Director for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.

    The federation is a voluntary federation of 56 national and international labor unions. This is not the first time the Union protested the wage discrepancy. They lobbied to block any plan allowing for appropriations to be used for the new Recreation Center.

    The Center was first proposed in President Kenny’s Five Year Plan (2000-2005) and is now included in the current Plan (2008-2013).

    In President Kenny’s task force report for the 2005-2010 Plan, the university acknowledged the current cost of living in the Stony Brook area is $16,077 for nine months.

    “The university should treat a significant increase in the TA stipend as a campus-wide priority?to a projected stipend of $17,550,” according to the task force on Graduate Education.

    “The university welcomes the opportunity to discuss this further with the Graduate Student Employees Union and has encouraged the Union to pursue this in the Labor Management forum,” said Sheprow.

    “We are demonstrating today [that] we are in this for as long as it takes and whatever it takes,” Acuff said. His tan skin turning a shade of purple as he bellowed through the bullhorn, “We will win.”

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