By David M. Greenwald
Around 48,000 academic workers across the ten UC campuses walked out on Monday. It was the nation’s largest strike of the year as everyone from TAs to postdoc scholars walked out, prompting canceled classes and disruption to the normal workings.
“UAW members at UC remain on strike, and we will be walking picket lines tomorrow,” Rafael Jaime, president of United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents 19,000 of the 48,000 workers, said Monday night.
“At this point, the priority should be round-the-clock bargaining in good faith as opposed to switching to a mediation process,” he said.
Among the demands, the workers are demanding significant pay increases, child-care subsidies, enhanced healthcare for dependents, longer family leave, public transit passes and lower tuition costs for international scholars.
In the meantime, the largest student body in the UC system has backed the strike in solidarity.
The resolution was authored by Michelle Andrews, UCSA Labor Relations Officer and Government Relations Chair; Shruti Adusumilli, UCSA Academic Affairs Officer and University Affairs Chair; and David Ramirez, UCSA Vice Chair of Government Relations
The University of California Student Association passed the resolution backing the current strike, saying “the University of California Student Association (UCSA) stands in solidarity with UAW and urges all students and faculty at all UC campuses to join the strikes in solidarity, and not cross the picket line.”
In addition, they urge “students to avoid reporting any discussion sections that do not meet through the duration of the strike as that would be acting against the strike” and call on the University Office of the President for “UCOP to immediately meet UAW’s contract demands and address the cost-of-living crisis on its campuses.”
In their resolution, they also condemned the unfair labors practices by UC and called on UCOP “to reform its labor practices.”
They added, “UCSA recognizes the impacts that this strike will have on hundreds of thousands of UC students and urges UCOP to meet future union demands in a more timely and equitable manner to prevent future strikes from needing to occur.”
The resolution cited, among other things, the increasing cost of living on UC Campuses, which “presents an insurmountable barrier for many graduate students and academic researchers.”
According to the United Auto Workers (UAW), the union representing over 48,000 graduate student researchers, in a housing survey, “92 percent of graduate student workers and 61 percent of postdocs report being ‘rent-burdened,’ meaning they spend more than the federally established affordability limit (30 percent) of their gross income on housing costs. The average graduate student worker spends a majority of their income – more than 52 percent – on rent, putting them in the ‘extremely rent-burdened’ category.”
Further, according to UAW President Ray Curry, UC graduate students and academic workers “organized their union to win job protections, stop persistent bullying, harassment and discrimination from university supervisors, as well as address the crushing burden of housing expenses.”
A letter by Assemblymember Ash Kalra, signed by 32 of his colleagues noted, “To avert the strike and the massive disruption that this will cause for the UC System and for the surrounding communities, we urge you to immediately cease committing unfair labor practices as alleged, and bargain in good faith with UAW Academic Workers in all four bargaining units.”
The university’s current proposal “would set the standard for graduate academic employee support among public research universities,” a UC statement countered, arguing that graduate students work part time while pursuing their degree and that their pay is “just one of the many ways in which they are supported as students.”
UC added, “UC believes its proposals have been fair, reasonable, and responsive to the union’s priorities, and looks forward to continuing negotiations with the UAW and settling these contracts as quickly as possible.”
They added: “We strongly disagree with the UAW allegations that UC has engaged in unlawful behavior. Throughout the negotiations, UC has listened carefully to the union’s concerns and bargained in good faith, as illustrated by the many tentative agreements reached thus far including on topics underlying the UAW’s allegations. Despite these claims, UC remains committed to continuing its good faith efforts to reach agreements with UAW as quickly as possible.”