As the Republican tax bill proceeds through the conference committee process, we as graduate students are seriously concerned with the threat of a multi-thousand dollar tax increase in the coming year. If taxation of tuition waivers as income, also known as the ‘Grad Tax,’ appears in the final form of the bill, most graduate workers will find it difficult, if not impossible, to continue their current work. Further, underrepresented and lower-income groups will be disproportionately affected. GSU and other grad unions across the country have been calling, writing, and protesting for weeks to call attention to these threats The speed with which this bill passed the House and Senate underlines the structural instability of academic work, the necessity for a real say in determining our working conditions, and shows why a strong majority of grad workers at this campus voted to unionize in October. GSU is committed to pushing to stop this tax bill from passing. But if it should pass, we are committed to ensuring that the tax reform bill will not affect graduate livelihoods.
A top priority is to prepare for this bill’s potential impact on our campus community. GSU is consulting with lawyers from our our affiliate unions (AFT, IFT, and AAUP) to determine what the effect will be on graduate workers and how it depends on their field of study, how our pay is classified under the law, international student status, and so forth. This opens broader questions about who benefits from charging tuition for graduate workers, and why Chicago’s tuition rates are so exceptionally high. Answers to these questions have direct and material impact in light of this tax bill. In order to understand and respond to the bill’s ramifications, we need more open communication and collaboration with the administration, which does have the tax and legal expertise to accurately predict the relevant effects of the Grad Tax on our campus community and the power to mitigate them.
Therefore, we demand two actions of the administration:
- First, we call on the university administration to open channels of communication with GSU to collaboratively determine the full effect of the bill.
- Second, we call on the administration to commit publicly to ensuring that graduate student take-home pay will not be reduced, if the Grad Tax should become law. As the legally recognized bargaining representative of UChicago graduate workers, it is GSU’s mandate to defend the material interests of our members, and the administration’s responsibility to work with GSU in good faith.
GSU’s position is that any decrease in graduate pay is unacceptable, and as workers we will take whatever action is necessary in response to the threat posed by the Grad Tax.
We will continue to update you as the situation unfolds. Given the fact that this harmful tax bill has not yet been passed, we encourage you members to continue to call the congresspeopleand senators who are on the conference committee. If you have any questions, reach out to a Departmental Organizer or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Department Organizers of GSU