New Hourly Work Restrictions: Are You Feeling the Pinch?

As you may (or may not) know, the administration has established a 19.5-hour-per-week cap on student employment in University positions, including library assistants, editorial assistants, research assistants, and other hourly jobs. In the past, since teaching labor was not calculated by the hour, it did not count against the 19.5-hour cap, which allowed students to supplement limited teaching income with other UChicago jobs.

WorkdayThis year, an unknown group of administrators decided to change that.Without consulting graduate students themselves (or, it seems, faculty or staff), they implemented a new payroll software system called Workday, and have used it to institute a new policy that counts TA and lecturer positions as 11-to-13-hour-per-week positions. (Who decided on this number? That’s not clear, though it certainly seems unrealistically, indeed, disrespectfully, low.) The 19.5-hour restriction leaves students who have teaching jobs with only 6.5 to 8.5 hours per week for other campus employment.

The results are already being felt: many students with library positions have had to quit those jobs, at the risk of losing their TAships and lectureships. (The pay for TAships and lectureships, meanwhile, remains stagnant at $3,000 and $5,000 per course.) And, of course, this comes on top of the health insurance deductible increase. Not only student are incomes hurt by this policy change, but library staff are now scrambling to fill vacant positions. Meanwhile, GSU organizers have begun to hear from even more students who have lost jobs or fear that they will have to choose between teaching and other paid university work in the future.  Are you impacted, or are others in your department? Please write us and let us know!

The Grievance Committee

Graduate Students United has launched the Grievance Committee as a pilot project, with the aim of exploring how a student union can help its members address specific workplace concerns. Examples of such concerns could be an unwarranted firing or demotion, withholding of wages, harassment by a peer or supervisor, or other instances of unfair and injurious treatment in the workplace.

While certain university institutions already exist to address such concerns (e.g., the Office of the Student Ombudsperson and the Bias Response Team), reports of their efficacy have been mixed. And while we hope to see these institutions become more effective, we believe there is a clear role for a union to bring its collective power to bear in advocating for the rights of its members.

If you would like to get in touch with the Grievance Committee to discuss a possible grievance, or if you are interested in joining the Committee, please email us at gsu@riseup.net with the subject “For the Grievance Committee.” Your inquiry will be handled with respect for your confidentiality. We will work with you to develop an plan of action based on your own priorities. Ultimately, we aim to to brainstorm long-term solutions for the types of grievances most commonly experienced by graduate students.