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### Insights into the Commencement of the Boston University Graduate Student Employees’ Strike

Graduate student employees at Boston University are advocating for a union contract that would ensure them salary increases, improved healthcare coverage, and enhanced benefits.

The BU Graduate Workers Union, representing around 3,000 graduate student employees engaged in teaching and research roles, is in negotiations with the university to secure a contract. The university is striving to prevent any disruptions to academic operations during the ongoing labor action.

Details of the Action

The strikers are scheduled to assemble at Marsh Plaza on Commonwealth Avenue between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Monday, with an official rally set for noon. US Representative Ayanna Pressley, a vocal supporter of labor rights, is expected to participate in the event.

The strike will persist until a satisfactory contract is reached, affecting various university facilities such as 808 Gallery, the Office of Admissions, and the Boston University Medical Campus.

Reasons for the Strike

The graduate student workers, who organized under the Service Employees International Union Local 509 in late 2022, are pushing for better wages, healthcare benefits, and additional perks like childcare assistance. Despite receiving stipends ranging from \(27,000 to \)40,000 annually for up to 20 hours of work per week, they often undertake extra responsibilities beyond their official duties without the option of seeking supplementary employment.

David Foley, the president of SEIU 509, emphasized the importance of standing up for fair treatment, stating, “BU’s actions indicate a lack of appreciation for the hard work of its employees, and we are dedicated to assisting our members in their pursuit of a just contract.”

While most PhD programs at BU offer full tuition waivers, many master’s and professional programs provide partial scholarships.

Potential Class Disruptions

The strike could impact numerous classes, but the university is taking measures to minimize disruptions to both undergraduate and graduate education. Interim Provost Kenneth Lutchen asserted that alternative arrangements would be made to cover the duties of any striking graduate student workers to ensure that students’ educational experiences are not compromised.

In a show of solidarity, adjunct professors affiliated with SEIU 509 have pledged not to act as replacement workers. Additionally, a significant number of BU faculty members have pledged their support for the strikers, assuring that students’ academic progress and support systems will remain unaffected.

University’s Position

Boston University has presented a proposal that includes raising PhD student stipends to $42,159 next year, along with an overall 13% increase over three years. Despite this offer, the union has not provided a counteroffer.

Furthermore, the university’s proposal entails increasing the minimum wage for hourly workers, extending health insurance coverage to children aged 6 or under of PhD students, introducing a partial MBTA subsidy for graduate student workers, and establishing a $50,000 assistance fund for students facing personal crises.

The university intends to withhold pay for the duration of the strike to graduate student workers.

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