The Coalition for Graduate Employees at Penn State University Park held a rally on the steps of Old Main to kick off a campaign to unionize the university’s 3,500 graduate employees. They have been working towards this point since September when the coalition officially announced its intentions.
Nathaniel Porter is a fifth year Ph.D. student and graduate employee in the sociology department at Penn State. He says graduate employees are vital at the university and their wages should reflect that.
“We are employees who contribute to the university’s research, to their mission of teaching, to everything the university does,” Porter said. “Graduate employees are much of the glue that helps hold Penn State together.”
Graduate employees like Irene Arellano say they just want a voice when it comes to issues that affect them.
“Students are asking for recognition and negotiations on issues including pay, benefits, mental health services, racial and gender equity among faculty and students,” Arellano said.
University spokesperson Lisa Powers said in an email that the university recognizes the many challenges students face and hopes to continue to interact directly with the student employees without a third party.