Maine graduate student workers hold rally for organizing a union

Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 4:47 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 24, 2023 at 4:56 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - Graduate students at the University of Maine held a rally Friday afternoon as part of their effort to organize a union.

“We’ve come together out of our silos and joined together united with a common goal to make UMaine the best institution that it can be. I truly see this as an opportunity for UMaine to negotiate with workers and provide fair compensation that recognizes our humanity and reflects the immense amount of labor graduate workers put into the system,” said graduate student worker Amanda Gavin.

“We are full human beings working for this university, and we deserve to be treated and respected as such,” said graduate student worker Em Sowles.

Graduate students cited issues such as low and inconsistent pay, a lack of health benefits, and their desire to have their voices heard.

“I don’t think I’d have to do a lot to convince most of you here that when we agree to do some amount of work, we expect to be paid the correct amount and on time. Well, in my four years here, more semesters than not, I’ve had some issues with that,” said graduate student worker Anthony Piña.

The University employs around 1,000 graduate workers.

The movement to unionize has approximately 500 signatures.

Joining the workers were faculty, local leaders, and others to spread their support for the initiative.

“There may be some in the university system that are hesitant to recognize a union. Well, they need to get over that. Grad students need to have their voice recognized because we need that voice making things better for everyone,” said Maine State Senator Mike Tipping.

The University of Maine made the following statement:

“We very much value our graduate student workers, as they are a vital part of the campus community. We recognize the right to unionize. The University will await the outcome of the election, and at that time, we’ll have further discussions with our graduate students and/or the appropriate union representatives.”