Temple University graduate students rally for better wages on Feb. 14, 2023. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

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Update Feb. 22: Union members rejected the agreement by a vote of 352 to 30 and remain on strike.

Temple grad student workers have reached a tentative agreement with the university that would increase compensation over the next several years.  The strike isn’t over until the new agreement gets ratified by union membership, the Temple University Graduate Student Union said on Saturday.  

TUGSA members began striking Jan. 31 over disagreements with university administration on pay, benefits, and working conditions. 

The dispute captured the attention of labor leaders and elected officials across the commonwealth and around the nation after Temple’s controversial — and potentially unprecedented — decision to revoke tuition remission and health coverage for student employees participating in the work stoppage.

A chapter of the AFL-CIO, the union represents about 750 graduate student employees. Temple has claimed more than 80% of union members continued working through the strike.

The tentative agreement on the table would increase the minimum stipend paid to teaching and research assistants for this year, according to a statement from university Senior Vice President and COO Ken Kaiser. It would also provide a one-time payment to be made in February, and guarantee increases to the minimum stipend for each of the next three academic years.

Student workers would retain free “single health coverage,” Kaiser’s statement noted, without addressing union demands to include dependents and families in their health plans.

A quid pro quo to assuage hostile actions taken by each side in recent weeks is also part of the tentative agreement, per Kaiser’s statement: Temple will reimburse workers for any health costs incurred since it canceled striking students’ plans, and will restore tuition remission. Meanwhile, the union will withdraw unfair labor practice claims it made.

The union was seeking a raise from a minimum stipend of $19,500 to $32,800, in keeping with the rising cost of living in Philadelphia. Across town, the University of Pennsylvania recently announced it will increase doctoral students’ pay by nearly 25% to $38,000 for the 2023-24 academic year. 

If the tentative agreement is ratified, it will become the new collective bargaining agreement covering all TUGSA members. 

“The collective membership makes decisions and we will continue with that process as we have through this entire year of negotiating,” union contract negotiation team member Haroon Popal said.

Neither Temple nor the union immediately responded to requests seeking comment and clarification of the agreement’s principles.