“I can’t even get close to paying rent with it,” explained a Master’s graduate worker in the McCourt School of Public Policy. In the Integrative Cognitive Neuroscience department, a doctoral worker worries that due to the funding climate, there might not be a professor who has the funding to keep her on, and, due to no fault of her own, she may be forced to leave Georgetown. A doctoral worker in the Psychology department flies home each summer, unable to afford rent without a stable income and childcare costs, drastically cutting into time she could be in her lab working on projects and completing her research.
Stories like these are far too common. Funding for the sciences is getting harder and harder to come by, and student-workers are unsure if their funding lines will eventually run out. Student-teachers who try to take on teaching responsibilities over the summer are told days before classes start that they are cancelled, and that they will not be funded. International workers face limitations in external funding sources they can apply for, and struggle even harder to make a living wage.
The current stipend for doctoral graduate workers is $28,000 on Main Campus, and $30,000 on Medical Campus. Both stipends are below a 2016 estimate from MIT of the living wage for a single adult in D.C. While we have received small raises every year, it still has not caught up to the living wage, and there is no guarantee these raises will continue. We saw how quickly Georgetown was willing to unilaterally increase our workload and remove our ability to gain part time jobs in 2016, demanding a 33% increase in work without discussion. Coming together, we can ensure that we have a powerful say in future decisions about our pay, and we can fight for a living wage to support us in D.C.
At New York University, their first bargained contract in 2002 included a 40% pay increase for stipends. At the University of Massachusetts Amherst, their GEO negotiated a 3.5% increase for each year in their latest contract (Article 32.1). A recent strike by University of Illinois Champaign ended with a 4.5% pay raise for the lowest paid employee and increased parental leave flexibility.
We know there is a pay gap between academia and industry, and we love the research we do. But we can discuss our love for research and teaching as much as we'd like, but it's harder to love—or even to complete—our work when we're faced with an unexpected health bill, an increase in rent disproportionate to the increase in wages, and high travel costs for conferences, publishing, field research, or just to see our families. Georgetown University relies on us to teach undergraduate students (who each pay almost $50,000 a year in tuition), grade exams, run experiments, analyze results, propose new research, and use our combined knowledge to apply for grants that bring in millions of dollars every year for Georgetown. Together, we affirm and demand acknowledgement that we are valuable workers for Georgetown, and we deserve to be paid appropriately.
Since stipends are set by the Graduate School, GAGE can address inter-departmental differences and make sure that all co-workers in all departments are insured the financial stability they need for themselves and for their family and dependents by raising the minimum to something that is more respectful to our employee contributions. GAGE will negotiate to ensure that we are not losing high quality scholars due to the funding climate, by providing contracts that are more stable from the beginning.
Together, we can secure a living WAGE for GAGE.