Let’s form a union! My main concern is healthcare. Last year I had to use my NJIT health care plan, and I learned how limited and insufficient it is. Full-time grads who work as TA’s or RA’s deserve to have a plan as good as the graduate employees at Rutgers. Let’s make a union and get it. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I want to say that in all our actions, we must stick together. Unity is the great need of the hour, and if we are united we can get many of the things that we not only desire but which we justly deserve.”
As a student leader and a long-time teaching assistant, I hear many complaints from TA’s about the paltry compensation we get for the great effort we put into our jobs. Unequal division of TA duties is also a problem. A union contract would make these issues crystal clear. Collective bargaining will allow us to sit down with the administration and negotiate the number of hours each TA works and the pay we get. Better health insurance will be an added advantage. Until now, when we have raised concerns with people in the administration, they say, “You should consider yourself lucky to be paid.” Such statements are really demoralizing. A union means we will be treated with respect on campus.
| Shabnam Darjani
Graduate assistants need calmness. We need to focus on our work. We should not have to worry about paying rent, getting paid during the summer, and whether to visit the doctor when we are sick. Speaking through a union is the best and most efficient way to discuss our needs with the administration. My two top concerns are health care insurance and summer employment. A union can help us to achieve these.
|Ali Avni Cirik
TA’s, RA’s and post doc researchers are a significant part of the intellectual worker community at NJIT, yet we do not have standardized work conditions. I had a chance to study in Europe during my Ph.D. program. Our Ph.D. research counterparts in the Netherlands sign a contract which clearly itemizes their work obligations and their rights and benefits, including health care. This is more or less the same for our unionized counterparts in the U.S.
It was shocking to transfer to NJIT after three years as a graduate assistant at Rutgers University, and to find none of the benefits I’d had at Rutgers remain in place. NJIT health coverage is intended for undergraduates who are usually covered by their parents’ plans. For us grads, this means up-front payments and regular reimbursement claims rather than coverage when you need it, and no dental coverage option. For the first time in my life, I live with the fear of not having the medical coverage I need.
Having a well-represented and powerful union is perhaps the best way for the TA’s and RA’s at NJIT to be fully acknowledged as professionals doing a job, and not just as “students.” Having a contract with our employer is the first step to make sure that we will not be receiving the first pay check two months into the semester and that any changes, delays or inconveniences in our work and payment will be accounted for. For financial stability and better representation, join the Union!
Federated Department of Biology NJIT/Rutgers-Newark
As a member of a Federated Department of Biology with Rutgers-Newark, most of my fellow grad employees have the benefit of a union contract. It means that they have access to better health care and benefits. It seems only fair for all members in
a department to receive equal treatment. A union for graduate employees at NJIT would level the playing field.
The main reason I want a union for graduate employees and postdocs at NJIT is to hold department employers accountable. My employers have made financial promises but then did not put them in writing. Then these promises were not followed through. Colleagues received threats that they’d lose their jobs over issues like observing religious holidays which were unrelated to their professional responsibilities.
Together we can make one desire come true for many! All for one, one for all. Join the union!
Urban Systems Program
The prestige of a research university largely depends on the quality of its research and teaching. TA’s and RA’s are an essential part of this system. The better we are, the more undergraduate education moves forward. This is how NJIT builds its reputation in a competitive educational environment. It is essential to keep high quality researchers focused on the work we do. Now the rising cost of living in New Jersey makes it harder for graduate employees to manage and survive. We can’t afford the distraction of looking for extra income. I know that NJIT is ready for a union. It will be a step forward for everyone.