CWA Applauds Senate Higher Ed Committee for Its Push to Exempt Graduate Student Employees from Pay-to-Work Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, March 3, 2020
Contact: Kenneth Londono, [email protected], 646-335-0420

ALBANY, NY -- The following statement is in response to the New York State Senate Higher Education Committee’s vote to pass S. 3916C. Last year, this bill passed the Senate unanimously. CWA represents 5,700 SUNY graduate student employees responsible for teaching courses, grading exams and papers, and conducting cutting-edge research.This bill would require state universities to exempt graduate student employees who are teaching and research assistants from paying fees, which often function as backdoor tuition for public universities to circumvent state-imposed tuition caps and sustain operating costs. In many cases, these fees are used to fund systems and services that graduate workers rely on in their capacity as employees.

“We applaud the members of the Senate Higher Education committee for passing legislation that would end fees for graduate student employees. Requiring employees to pay fees to access the basic tools they need to do their jobs is predatory, especially when you consider most graduate employees earn barely above the poverty line. SUNY cannot circumvent state-imposed tuition caps by exploiting its workforce and forcing graduate employees to pay as much as 17% of their annual income,” said Dennis Trainor, Vice President at CWA District 1. “We look forward to consideration of the bill by the full Senate.”

“As chair of the Higher Education Committee, I have spoken to and listened to many students across New York. One of the most troubling things they speak to me about is the increasing, burdensome fees institutions are imposing on them just to do their jobs as graduate student employees.  We should be cultivating the next generation of great thinkers and innovators, not using them to attempt to close funding gaps. Many are already struggling to pay for basic needs, and should not be responsible to pay for the maintenance and upkeep of their workplace or supplement the schools' operational budgets. I am grateful to my colleagues in committee for supporting this bill and look forward to seeing this critical piece of legislation considered by the full Senate,” said Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Queens).