MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) – In a letter to the University of Memphis administration, graduate students from the United Campus Workers (UCW) have made demands for health insurance and living wages.
The claims include a graduate health insurance plan that covers the essential benefits defined in the Affordable Care Act and covers at least 80% of covered medical expenses.
The letter also calls for a $15 minimum wage for all graduate workers and funding for health insurance for graduate workers that does not result in a reduction in graduate scholarships.
According to UCW, the University of Memphis does not currently guarantee graduate health insurance.
UCW’s Graduate Worker Organizing Committee (GWOC) has been asking the university for three years to provide full health insurance coverage for all graduate students on campus.
However, according to UCW, the university has refused to commit even after receiving the R1 classification as a top-notch research university.
In June, UCW launched a petition calling for better working conditions, including fairer staffing, better equipment and the ability to allow workers to return to their previous shifts after being transferred to the night shift.
In the infancy of the COVID-19 pandemic, UCW also urged administrators to ensure the safety of everyone involved on the college/university campus.
Although college graduates can enroll in some health services through Church Health Center’s MEMPHIS plan, that plan isn’t insurance, UCW says:
“The U of M website describes it as ‘a Department of Health… made up of volunteer physicians and donated medical services,’ and as of Spring 2019 only 49 graduate students had signed up for the plan.”
Earlier this summer, UCW said it received word that the university was considering an “emergency fund” for expenses not covered by the MEMPHIS plan.
However, union members argue that an emergency fund “would provide only the bare minimum, not the long-term or preventive coverage that other University of Memphis employees already enjoy.”
“The University of Memphis continues to have the lowest possible end of graduate scholarships while graduate students continue to manage the high cost of healthcare themselves,” writes the GWOC. “It is unacceptable that a university claiming the status of a world-class research institution cannot meet this basic need for its researchers and teaching assistants.”
“We will continue to fight our fight with new graduate students on campus, students considering grad school, the broader UofM community, the media and anyone else who will hear us,” GWOC said in a statement.
The letter from the UCW to the university administration is attached:
Action News 5 has reached out to the university for comment, but no response has been received.
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