Student workers at Johns Hopkins University rallied Tuesday afternoon to demand fair wages and boost their union organizing campaign.
The group, called Teachers and Researchers United, arrived at the Keyser Quad on the Homewood campus along with supporters from outside the university, including a representative from the Baltimore Teachers Union.
Graduated working students have several demands. They want to earn a living wage and want safe and reliable jobs and transportation. They work to ensure timely payment, improved support for international students and effective grievance procedures. At the event, organizer and graduate student Andrew Eneim said hundreds had turned in signed union cards.
“Johns Hopkins University respects the right to organize and has a long history of positive and productive relationships with campus union representatives,” university spokeswoman Megan Christin said in a written statement.
“For our graduate students, the decision to join a union or not is a personal choice that is entirely up to each eligible voter. The university will not seek to influence this decision or the outcome of the process,” Christin said. “As always, we encourage graduate students to seek facts and information, and to listen to the diverse perspectives that enrich our academic community.”
Eneim, who works and studies at medical school, said his scholarship is about $35,000. Others in his school may make $2,000 less depending on their research area.
“Everything is really different, which is part of the problem,” Eneim said.
He said they are asking that graduates be paid about $40,000 or possibly more. This figure is based on the MIT Living Wage Calculator and rising inflation.
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The crowd listened to a number of speakers supporting the union. Emcee and graduate student Caleb Andrews said it was the biggest event since 2019, when the organization successfully campaigned for dental and eye insurance. Hopkins students began lobbying for a union in 2018.
“You have a right to a union and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” Andrews said.
Another graduate student, Jodie Baris, discussed how the decentralized nature of Johns Hopkins allows for disparities in pay and difficulties with grievance procedures. She said low wages meant students struggled to buy groceries or pay for expenses like car repairs.
“Equal pay is a university issue that affects all students at Hopkins,” Baris said.
Martin Yepes, a Hopkins graduate student, said late payment exacerbates such problems for college graduates. He said missed paychecks make people choose between paying medical bills or buying groceries. He also said graduate students with scholarships have a higher chance of being paid late.
Yepes said late payment could be considered a mistake if it happened once, but he said about 150 students have come forward with the same problem.
“Why not [Hopkins] meet the deadline that keeps the roof over your head?” Yepes said.