Union leaders urge ISU graduate assistants to ratify contract, forgo strike


NORMAL (WEEK) – Hundreds of unionized graduate teaching assistants at Illinois State University are voting this week whether to accept a two-year contract offer from ISU’s administration.

A no vote on what would be the group’s first-ever union contract is tantamount to favoring a strike after two years of contentious negotiations.

However, the union’s bargaining team is recommending its members approve the deal that a bargaining team member said would not have happened without the union’s strike threat.

The lowest-paid graduate assistants, those making about $9.000 a year, would receive about a $300 monthly pay increase the first year that would boost their monthly salary to $1,200 per month. They would earn another $100 per month during the second year of the contract, said bargaining team member Trevor Rickerd.

Graduate assistants seeking a Master’s degree would make an annual salary of $11,700 in the second year, while those seeking a PhD would earn annual pay of $12,600, according to ISU’s ‘Last, Best, and Final Offer.’

Rickerd said the contract also reduces student fees by 10%.

The university said in its final offer that the proposal is “competitive, sustainable, and fiscally responsible.”

ISU also noted that graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) are “first and foremost, students.”

While working as GTAs, “ISU students gain valuable professional development experiences that help prepare them for the future,” the university said.

“A graduate assistantship is not intended to be equivalent to a full-time job,” administrators went on to say.

About 410 GTAs are members of the union. They will be voting on the contract until Friday, according to Rickerd.

ISU’s Board of Trustees will consider ratifying the agreement at its October 15 meeting.

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