A letter to the community was issued by Mercedes Brooks at the end of March:
Dear community members,
We are writing to spread the word about the University at Buffalo graduate student worker movement.
Please consider donating to the Boycott Protection Fund, sharing this appeal, or signing the solidarity pledge below to help us fight wage theft as part of a larger fight for living wages.
“I will have to pay $3,000 per year in fees out of my $20,000 salary. This is a lot of money, and I can’t afford to visit home twice a year.” – Jnanajyoti Bhaumik, UB PHD Student, Mathematics
“Fees cost almost 15% of my yearly salary. I am buying groceries on a credit card. All my friends live paycheck-to-paycheck.” – Anonymous UB Graduate Student
We are currently 1 of 3 State University of New York (SUNY) campuses engaging in a boycott against exploitative fees, including student workers at SUNY Albany and ESF. A recent Graduate Student Employees Union survey of graduate workers at UB found that 71% of respondents face financial strain and hardship to pay broad-based fees. Graduate workers at SUNY Stony Brook staged a successful strike against broad-based fees last fall, resulting in the elimination of this hardship as well as the mobilization of social movement and labor forces on other campuses to demand that our workplaces follow suit. We join alongside high-profile protests at Columbia University, NYU and campuses across the country as part of a growing student and student-worker movement. Justice in education is a crucial step in the path towards stronger communities and a better world, a journey we can only make together, hand-in-hand through solidarity.
“Fees take a substantial part of my monthly stipend. I am always one paycheck away from clearing out my bank account.” – Anonymous UB Graduate Student, Neuroscience
“Because of SUNY fees requiring me to pay 10% of my salary, I have to live in my car this summer in order to make ends meet.” – Anonymous UB Graduate Worker
“The simple solution is, pay us more.. The Buffalo area is charging $800 for a studio apartment, before utilities. $24,000 net income is considered the threshold for not being impoverished in Erie County. This is insanity.” – Zaque Evans, UB PHD Student, Sociology Department
Workers should not pay broad-based fees to their employer. This constitutes an unjust, exploitative wage theft system that could not be rationalized in any other workplace. Although we continue fighting on the legislative field as well, we feel called by this time of historic protest, pandemic and poverty to make community a word of action. Ongoing attacks on social justice, public education, and workers’ rights have only strengthened our resolve to demand that SUNY, CUNY and New York State live up to its values by providing accessible, quality education for all New Yorkers and fair wages for all workers.
The Boycott Protection Fund helps us pay late fees for boycotting graduate workers. We understand that this is an especially difficult time to give and deeply appreciate your consideration.
If you are able to donate funds, please donate to the Boycott Protection Fund at cashtag $UBBoycottFund to directly support graduate workers.
A scannable image to use with CashApp can be found here if that is convenient: https://twitter.
Petition to abolish fees for graduate workers at SUNY and CUNY (City University of New York)
To sign the solidarity pledge, click here and choose “Sign the Solidarity Pledge” below the drop-down menu readinig: “Will you:” Please feel free to enter “community member” or any associated groups on the next page where “Department” is indicated.
The solidarity pledge reads: “We pledge our solidarity with the graduate workers at UB boycotting student broad-based fees. As fellow graduate students, undergraduates, faculty, staff, family and community members, we stand alongside boycotting graduate workers to call for an end to current and future student broad-based fees.”
More information can be found here:
Living Stipend Fee Boycott Frequently Asked Questions
Just As It Sounds, episode 13, “Student Fees: Paying to Work”
Podcast featuring graduate workers from Stony Brook and UB.
More testimonials collected by Graduate Student Employees Union and shared at https://twitter.com/
“Our fees are often a cost we have to pay before we are even paid for teaching/TA, it is also a really considerable portion of our income. The only way for us to get paid is to subsequently agree to pay those fees.” – Anonymous Graduate Student at UB
“These fees are clearly work taxes. UB is striving to re-awaken the exploitative age of company towns. Employess shouldn’t have to pay fees to provide labor.” – Anonymous UB Graduate Student, Chemistry
“Having to pay the school fees despite working for the school is outrageous. UB needs our services. Without graduate student labor, they would be forced to hire outside labor at even higher rates to replace us. In addition, employers cannot legally force employees to pay fees for most things, yet UB and other colleges force graduate students to do just that. This needs to end now!” – Anonymous UB Graduate Student, Chemistry
Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns at ublivingstipendmovement@
Thank you so much for your time.
With solidarity and gratitude,
Living Stipend Movement
UB Living Stipend Movement , ublivingstipendmovement@