Spring has left and summer is in full swing, but the fight for timely and correct compensation for graduate workers at the University of Virginia has not gone away. The Graduate Stipend Task Force released their Final Report as promised on May 4. Since the task force’s inception, UCW-VA pushed it to go beyond just addressing stipends to include wages and reimbursements. We’re excited to see that they heard us and that all forms of grad worker payments are addressed in the final report.
Our union has repeatedly made clear that adequate staffing–which means not just having enough staff, but also paying them a living wage–-is key to solving this problem. We’re glad to see that the Task Force acknowledges that staffing “may contribute to the issue of timely processing of payments.” However, we are disappointed that the high staff turnover in our departments apparently doesn’t merit immediate action.
Now more than ever—with the Task Force’s recommendations, UCWVA’s March petition, our April 7th rally, and two in-person delegations from students impacted by late stipends, Provost Baucom has a mandate to hire more staff and pay them competitive salaries to reduce turnover.
Where we have been very clear–and where the task force fails–is that the problem of grad worker wage insecurity is part of a larger structural issue, that grad workers are not respected as employees of this institution. One of the most visible symbols of this disrespect is the Task Force’s continued insistence that UVA views us “first and foremost as students.” Graduate workers are critical to the university’s teaching and research missions. We are workers.
We’re also disappointed that the report does not include anything about the consequences of missing payments. When grad workers miss utility or rent payments, we are charged late fees. When grad workers miss payments to the university, we are charged late fees. But when UVA Executive Administrators pay grad workers late, they face no consequences.
Since January, grad workers have been engaging in consistent collective action to fix a broken system that still continues to impact us—some graduate workers still did not receive their full summer stipend on time. After years of graduate workers alerting their faculty supervisors, department chairs, and deans that this is an issue, it is gratifying to finally see some common sense solutions being proposed. Without UCW-VA’s hard work, UVA’s Exec. Admin. would not have formed this task force in the first place. We call on Provost Baucom to implement the points in the letter he has had access to since March. We invite the university community to sign in support.