Isabel Lohman, 23News Digital Director

Coalition of Graduate Workers held a rally on Wednesday, Aug. 23 to call attention to graduate student rights and commemorate the union’s victories.

The group started at the columns and continued to Tiger Plaza. Graduate students wore red and held signs that said “Grads make Mizzou work” and “A promise isn’t a contract.” Speakers spoke about the importance of having a health care contract, child care for working parents and livable wages.

“I have had to supplement my groceries through Tiger Pantry multiple times, many times a year because the wages aren’t great,” Sarah Senff, president of MU Graduate Student Association, said. “They are better than they were. That is the result of the collective action that the union has taken so far.”

This is the Coalition of Graduate Workers’ third annual rally. The group was formed after graduate students were informed in August 2015 that their health care would not be renewed.  It officially became a union local after partnering up with the Missouri National Education Association. One of the Coalition of Graduate Workers primary goals is “to secure a collectively bargained contract that prevents future crises, and guarantees competitive wages and benefits for graduate employees,” according to its website.

The coalition is suing the UM System Board of Curators because it does not currently recognize the coalition as a union.

Joseph Moore, outreach officer for Coalition of Graduate Workers, said the union is expecting a decision this winter or next spring. He is also focused on making sure the union has a future after he and other student leaders graduate.

“One of our primary focuses is gaining recognition,” Moore said. “But also building the union: gaining new members, solidifying the infrastructure that we have built and also training leadership.”  

This rally marks the start of the union’s fall organizing drive, Moore said.

Those who attended the rally were encouraged to join the union and continue to advocate for graduate student rights.

“I’m worrying more about how I’m going to pay rent than sometimes the work that I need to do in order to teach the best that I can,” Senff said. “And that is not fair to the undergraduates on this campus. They deserve better than that. And grads deserve better than that.”