Campus Unrest Over Pay, Not Politics

LOW-PAID GRADUATE TEACHING assistants unite. On Apr. 3, graduate students at Yale University will start a weeklong strike. And grad students at as many as four University of California campuses aim to strike later in the month.

Spurred by budget cuts and tuition hikes, grad students are becoming militant about being workhorses who teach 50% to 60% of undergraduate classes. Currently, only seven universities--all public--recognize graduate-student unions. Unions at 15 campuses are demanding recognition, but most universities won't grant it. "Yale relies on graduate students as a low-wage labor pool," says Robin Brown, the Yale union's head and a comparative literature student.

Agitating has won some gains. Yale's 1,100 grad students didn't get union recognition in a 1992 walkout, but they did win a 28% pay hike, to $9,600 a year today. And a 1989 Berkeley strike won grad students free health care and a 50% tuition rebate.

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