Today, a delegation of graduate student worker members of UCW-VA met with Provost Ian Baucom about our ongoing collective effort to end graduate worker wage insecurity at UVA. Our meeting took place simultaneously with a rally in front of Madison Hall, where graduate student workers shared powerful testimonies about how wage insecurity has affected our lives. We are deeply disappointed to announce that despite hearing from graduate student workers about what we know is needed to fix this problem, Provost Baucom refused to commit to hiring more staff in the appropriate divisions to ensure that UVA’s graduate workers will no longer have to worry about late and missing payments.
For years, graduate student workers have been paid late, or gone unpaid entirely, while continuing to perform essential labor for the University. This past winter, we called on UVA Executive Administrators to Cut the Checks when dozens of graduate student workers were all missing wages during the holidays. Our collective action in January secured the creation of a task force to investigate the issue. Today, we gathered to meet with the Provost and rally together because we knew additional collective action would be needed to secure real, meaningful solutions after the task force announces its findings.
We know these solutions must include adequately hiring and resourcing the hard-working staff that are tasked with processing graduate student payments. We also know that six years ago, UVA Executive Administrators decided to lay off a significant percentage of the staff in Human Resources, that Student Financial Services is currently understaffed, and that our Department administrative offices are also understaffed. Under these conditions, it’s no surprise that mistakes sometimes happen. But when we called the question, UVA Executive Administrators again refused to staff these critical departments adequately. Let’s be clear: Anything less than fully staffing these departments is a failure to invest in both staff and grad workers. We all deserve better. We all deserve structural change.
Wage insecurity is just one part of a broader pattern of Executive Administrators disinvesting in graduate student labor and education. UCW-VA is fighting for the graduate programs UVA deserves–one where graduate student workers are well-funded, well-supported, and treated with dignity and respect. This also means fighting to ensure that SFS and other critical units in the university are fully staffed, and that those staff workers are also paid living wages and treated with dignity and respect. We will continue to organize together until these goals are won.