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Temple University graduate students began striking Tuesday for the first time in that union’s history, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Bethany Kosmicki, a member of the Temple University Graduate Students’ Association’s negotiating team, said in a news release that “Temple’s administration has repeatedly ignored our demands, refusing us fair pay, affordable dependent health care and increased parental leave.”

She said teaching and research assistants are “a core function of the university, teaching essential courses and conducting world class research. We deserve a contract that reflects our value to the university.”

The union says it represents nearly 750 of these employees.

The Inquirer reported that their average annual pay is $19,500, “and the union has sought to raise it to over $32,000, which it said is a necessary cost-of-living adjustment.”

The union’s news release said, “Temple administration’s current proposal increases the base salary for graduate employees to just $22,500 by 2026.”

“Our students’ education is our top priority,” the university said in a statement, “and we have plans to keep their learning experiences moving forward during any work stoppage. If a graduate student instructor chooses to strike, the university will assign alternative instructors.”

“Temple has proposed annual pay increases (3 percent each year for four years) that align with what other Temple full-time bargaining units have accepted and offered one-time payments of up to $500 (depending on an individual’s appointment terms),” the university said. “The university also offered to double the parental leave and provide additional bereavement leave for these part-time employees. In addition, the university would continue to offer health care benefits coverage to graduate student employees across the entire calendar year, with no contribution required from the employee. Every other Temple employee contributes part of their salary toward health care and prescription insurance. [The union] members would continue to receive free tuition for their programs of study, on average, valued at about $20,000.”