Fordham student union protests outside Penn Club amid ongoing negotiations with the school: EXCLUSIVE VIDEO

One protestor told Campus Reform: ‘We’re doing this because we have a reason to believe that we deserve more, that we deserve better benefits, we deserve better pay.’

During negotiations last year, Fordham's president said: 'In return for half-time work done nine months a year, the union seeks scholarships and salaries that combined would exceed the top 20% of U.S. incomes.'

Graduate students from a union at Fordham University protested at an event featuring Fordham’s president amid ongoing negotiations with the school. 

On Jan. 25, the Graduate Student Workers union of Fordham University, located in New York, protested outside of the Penn Club in New York City during an event attended by Fordham University President Tania Tetlow, according to an Instagram post from the group. 

The event, an Alumni Association Reception, is an annual occurrence that “brings together more than 200 alumni from all Fordham schools and class years, providing a special opportunity to connect with fellow Rams and FUAA Advisory Board members, and meet President Tania Tetlow,” as described by an event page on Fordham’s website. 

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A graduate student, asked by Campus Reform about their motivations, said: “My motivation is making rent, more than anything else.” Discussing their other priorities, the student continued: “The most relevant thing for me would be our access to health care, specifically dental and vision.”

Another graduate student who spoke to Campus Reform at the protest stated: “We’re doing this because we have a reason to believe that we deserve more, that we deserve better benefits, we deserve better pay, just so that we can do our work better at Fordham.”

Continuing on, the protestor stated, “We teach a lot of the classes, we do a lot of the research that Fordham wants to say is what makes it a research institution. So we think it’s only fair that we get paid for that work.”

A web page from Fordham’s Human Resources department states that “Union-represented students teach less than 9% of Fordham’s undergraduate course sections.”

The student also cited “a poorly subsidized health care plan” and “wages that don’t cover the reality of living in New York City” as some of the union’s grievances against Fordham.

The union has been in the process of negotiation with Fordham for more than a year. Fordham’s Human Resources department says that “[t]he Communications Workers of America (CWA) are representing Fordham Graduate Student Workers (FGSW) in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and are currently negotiating over a labor contract setting forth the terms and conditions of employment for our graduate student workers.”

Union members interviewed with the socialist Jacobin magazine outlining their negotiations and demands on May 5, 2023. One member said: “Our demands are higher wages and better health care; job assignments are very important. And there are more specific demands, things that don’t necessarily apply to everyone, but are just as important — like access to childcare, paid family leave, those sorts of things.”

Regarding the matter of compensation, Fordham’s Human Resources department writes that “Fordham provides many graduate student workers in Arts & Sciences with a full scholarship and a stipend — a compensation package that totals approximately $81,500 in return for nine months of part-time work (capped at 19 hours per week). By contrast, the vast majority of Fordham’s 7,000 graduate students do not receive full-tuition scholarships and do not have the opportunity to teach.”

Following a union call last April to cancel classes, Tetlow sent an email stating: “We generally provide Ph.D., and some masters, students in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences with: Full-tuition scholarships worth from $42,000 to $48,000 annually, Health Insurance Supplements to cover the cost of nearly 71% of the student health insurance premium and Stipends (from $26,567 to $32,902) in return for nine months of part-time research assistance, faculty support, and teaching.” [emphasis in the original.]

Tetlow also claimed that “[u]nfortunately, the union representing these students has made a series of far more significant demands. In return for half-time work done nine months a year, the union seeks scholarships and salaries that combined would exceed the top 20% of U.S. incomes.”

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Other discussions between the union and Fordham have centered on “international employee rights and protections, grievance and arbitration, work and break room access, job opportunities, and expense reimbursement,” as well as “compensation,” according to a summary of a Jan. 11 meeting on Fordham’s website. 

Two other points of contention have been Fordham’s alleged failure to properly take care of international graduate students, as well as the graduate students’ demand to end non-disclosure agreements, which they claim are used to defend sexual abusers at Fordham, according to The Fordham Ram

An entry from Fordham’s Human Resources department states that at the latest negotiations, which took place Feb. 2, “the university presented counter proposals on equal opportunity, international students, and intellectual property. The two parties then discussed compensation and how other institutions compare to Fordham. After a caucus, the university provided additional information the union requested regarding the comparative analysis. The union then presented counters on bargaining unit information, intellectual property, health and safety, and a new proposal for extra contract agreement.” The next meeting will take place Feb. 9, the website states. 

Campus Reform has reached out to Fordham University for comment. The article will be updated accordingly.