By: Jordan Poltorak
DAVIS, CA– Graduate students have rallied around UAW workers and called for a strike authorization vote, with potential ramifications for the UC system.
UC Davis workers gathered on the quad on October 13 to gather support for their strike authorization vote. Graduate students joined them and passed, by a unanimous vote, to hold a strike authorization vote. It is common for graduate students to work as teaching assistants or readers at UC Davis and to speak up against treatment they feel is unacceptable. In February 2020, graduate students withheld winter quarter grades.
They were following suit of the UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara graduate students; they were bargaining for a COLA (cost of living adjustment). Similarly to the current movement, they advocated for higher wages to aid academic workers with a high cost of living.
The UAW is one of the largest worker’s unions and is bargaining for better pay and working conditions. Voting occurred across all nine UC campuses between Oct. 26 and Nov. 2, posting updates about the vote on Twitter.
On Oct. 21, graduate students spoke at the rally to explain their support for the movement. Most concerns included a lack of family care and an inability to pay for necessities. The article mentions graduate students had said more than half of their paychecks were going toward rent. With other bills to still pay and costs like food, it was nearly impossible to cover all of the expenses.
Graduate students have been bargaining with the UC system since the 1930s. The UC chapter of UAW’s website dives into this history. As early as 1938, teacher assistants organized for better working conditions. Sixty years later, in 1998, they created chapter UAW 2865. The chapter spans all the UC campuses and has over 19,000 members. A statement from the UAW organization says workers at UC Davis are “ready to join the powerful history of UAW members striking on behalf of America’s working class.”
The potential strike is specifically for academic workers and would last until the UAW reached a deal with the University of California system. The UAW website describes that a strike would entail academic workers refraining from work and “would participate in picket lines” to “increase the visibility of the strike.”
The halting of work by all academic employees will impact the UC system. The combination of picket lines, phone banking, and outreach would cause the university to take notice and possibly make a deal with a UAW.
Undergraduate students are not unaffected by this either, as many of those graduate students are TAs in their classrooms. In the event of a strike, these undergraduate students may be without their TA.
The window to vote on the strike has closed. Over 36,000 votes were cast and 98 percent voted in favor of a possible strike. According to the UAW Twitter, this is the “most decisive strike authorization votes ever taken by Academic Workers in the US.”