UMaine grad students join growing union movement
Graduate-student workers throughout the University of Maine System are taking steps to unionize and seek recognition from university officials.
Teaching, research and graduate assistants across the state said their heavy workloads are not compensated with adequate wages and benefits.
Vendy Hazuková, a doctoral student worker in the School of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine-Orono, said the more than 1,000 graduate workers there deserve a voice in negotiating school policies.
“The universities work because we do, and if we don’t have dignified working conditions, we can’t do our jobs properly,” Hazuková asserted.
Hazuková pointed out the University of Maine System offers the lowest stipends for grad-student workers compared to other public universities in New England, at less than $20,000. She noted they have received overwhelming support from the student body.
The grad students in Maine are part of a growing nationwide trend of graduate worker unions, including at Boston University and the University of Connecticut.
Hazuková said after years of complaining about inconsistent paychecks and substandard health plans, she and her colleagues are taking inspiration from those who’ve successfully organized for change.
“I think we would all just like to focus on the work that we love and do, and not count pennies every month and decide whether we can afford to go to the doctor or buy groceries,” Hazuková emphasized.
The University of Maine System said it recognizes the graduate workers’ right to unionize and will await the union election outcome before commenting further. The union is affiliated with the United Auto Workers, which has helped more than 40,000 academic workers form unions in the last eight years.