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USC Student Workers Begin Voting To Form Union

There is a grey stone inlay in a reddish brick wall. Carved into the large inlay are the words "University of Southern California."
Thousands of student workers at USC will be voting on whether or not to unionize. Their issues range from pay to unsafe working conditions.
via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Student workers at the University of Southern California will be voting to unionize, starting today, as grievances that range from inadequate pay to unsafe working conditions have been mounting.

"New lab conditions are not pristine, clean labs, in some cases," said Yoni Hirshberg, a master's student in the school's cinema and media studies program. "I've been walking into labs where people say there's a gas leak, and nobody's doing anything about it. People have been injured by chemical spills and by burns."

USC is home to 3,000 student workers, which include research and teaching assistants, as well as assistant lecturers. The Graduate Student Workers at USC (GSWOC-USC) has been organizing for the last two years. There has been a wave of university unionizing activities across the country, from Columbia University to the UC System.

Today and Thursday, the GSWOC-USC will be balloting across the campus. If they succeed in unionizing, they will focus on raising pay, better health care, and protection against discrimination for sexual harassment victims and international students.

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Other grievances, and USC's take

Student workers claim they face reprisals for sexual harassment without adequate protection from the university. Some students pay more than half of their income to USC in the form of rent. Students are on the books to work 20-hours-a-week, but may actually log in 80 hours.

According to Andrew Stott, Vice Provost for Academic Programs, USC does not support the unionization effort, saying the "university leadership already has an open, collegial, and cooperative relationship" with the Graduate Student Government. Further, the university said students' rights are codified in the "Policies and Procedures" section of the Graduate Student website. Students can also report problems to the Office of Culture, Ethics, and Compliance.

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