A Graduate Worker’s State of the Union
by the Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU)
Across the University, graduate workers are being told to do more while making the same poverty wages. TAs are teaching more recitation and lab sections, and graduate workers are seeing new tasks suddenly added to their workload. Many 150+ person classes that used to have 3 TAs now have 2, and 200+ person classes that used to have 4 TAs now have 2 or 3. According to UB, teaching 25 - 50 more students doesn’t constitute additional labor.
The Economic Policy Institute finds that the cost of living in Erie County for a one-person household to be $35,000 per year. UB’s PhD graduate workers typically make around $20K, while UB’s non-PhD graduate workers make $12K. That is anywhere from $15K - $23K less than the cost of living.
Fees: A Work Tax
Graduate workers fees at UB cost approximately $1,400 per semester and are due before graduate workers have even been paid. While most PhDs no longer pay fees due to graduate worker organizing and protesting, our MFA and non-PhD colleagues are still paying a work tax, shelling out a significant portion of their pay for services they need to perform their job. This would be illegal in any other context. Non-PhD workers make the least and pay fees, meaning that their net incomes are below the federal poverty line.
A graduate worker’s state of the union is this: the University at Buffalo knowingly keeps their graduate workers in severe financial distress and poverty, while their top administrators have received $20K+ bonuses EACH since the pandemic started.
Satish Tripathi, President*
2019: $420K + $281K**
2020 $420K + $281K**
2021: $450K + $281K**
Scott Weber, Provost*
** (additional money for serving on other UB Boards, which is a requirement of being President: https://www.ubspectrum.com/article/2021/12/president-tripathi-made- more-than-780000-plus-benefits-in-2020)