Graduate workers at Illinois State University gathered for a silent protest highlighting the university’s disrespect toward them as negotiations between SEIU Local 73 and ISU continue. President Terry Goss Kinzy led the annual address, which attempted to focus on challenges faced in a COVID-19 world, but faced a challenge in the form of labor solidarity.
As the address unfolded and as questions from the audience were allowed, graduate worker and Local 73 member Steven Lazaroff used the opportunity to confront the president, as other members held a banner stating “ISU pays poverty wages.”
“President Kinzy, I read a recent article you were in with WGLT [Bloomington, IL’s NPR station], and you expressed chagrin and genuine sadness at the fact that student-athletes weren’t being compensated for their work. They had a food bank, I believe, and [you commented], food banks shouldn’t have to exist,” stated Lazaroff.
“I wonder if you have the same feeling toward the graduate worker food bank and what you might do to address the poverty wages that your administration [inherited] from the Dietz administration. What are you’re going to do to end graduate worker poverty considering we generate so much money for ISU?”
Kinzy’s followed up with a non-response, stating, “Updates on the ongoing negotiations with SEIU Local 73 are available on the website” before adding that she “[looks] forward to seeing them come to a conclusion that is mutually beneficial.”
For ISU graduate workers, however, the positive outlook expressed by the administration isn’t helping the material conditions and dissatisfaction they face in the workplace. At a teach-in led by the graduate workers, graduate worker Caleb Mangruem declared, “You don’t even have to be a student worker to get behind the cause because at an institution where there is a lot of talk about shared governance, it is nowhere to be found […] It is easy for neglect and mistreatment to be swept under the rug.”
SEIU Local 73 and ISU will return to the bargaining table on Tuesday, September 28, which will be led by a federal mediator.