NEWS: Sanders Stands with UVM Graduate Student Workers Moving to Unionize

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today sent a letter to University of Vermont (UVM) President Suresh Garimella in support of the nearly 650 graduate student workers attempting to form a union and win a seat at the bargaining table.

“In my view, it is more than appropriate that graduate students exercise their constitutional right to organize and achieve long needed improvements to stipends, benefits, and working conditions,” wrote Sanders. “For far too long, the trend in our higher education system has been going in the wrong direction: student workers are required to work longer hours for lower pay with weaker job security, all while taking on more and more debt. Too many graduate student workers have to take on two or even three jobs just to get by. In my view, stronger unions and worker protections are a key part of solving this crisis in our colleges and universities.”

Over the last few years, graduate students all across the country have voted to organize and a number of them have signed contracts with their universities. Graduate student workers play a critical role in the financial success of a university and the academic achievements of its student body. While being relied upon by UVM to conduct research, teach courses, and provide other essential work – all while maintaining a full course load – student workers pursuing a Master’s degree currently receive minimum 12-month stipends of just $27,850, and PhD student workers receive just $32,000.

In the letter, Sanders requested that President Garimella remain neutral throughout the bargaining process and ensure that these workers, who dedicate each day to the mission of the University, are able organize together free of any attempts to disrupt, delay, discourage, or otherwise hinder the election process.

“Now is the time for the University of Vermont to show up for its people, rather than stand against them,” Sanders concluded. Last April, Sanders also sent a letter to interns, residents, and fellows of the UVM Medical Center in support of their efforts to form a union.

To read the full letter, click here.