This article is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2022 academic workers’ strike. Please visit Fair UC Now for more details about the strike.
Striking graduate students continued to march during the days leading up to Thanksgiving, calling on the University of California for fair wages and better working conditions. The multi-unit UAW strike, which began on Nov. 14, is now heading into its third week. Across the UC system, academic workers, including teaching assistants and research assistants, have left their classrooms and labs to march and form picket lines. This is the largest strike at any academic institution in American history and the first strike ever that has included post-doctoral students and academic workers.
There has been some progress in negotiations, but none of the propositions from the University of California have been sufficient to satisfy the union. On Nov. 15, the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs released a letter detailing their offers in response to the demands of strikers. These included:
- One year pay average increase of 8%, followed by a 5% pay increase in second year, and a 3% increase in subsequent years.
- A new benefit for child care of $2,500 per year
- A paid leave of eight weeks to allow for baby bonding and family care for eligible postdocs
- Within 12 months of contract ratification, gaining access to a pre-tax card or other methods of paying transit coast
- A 4% pay increase in year one, followed by 3% increases for subsequent years, totaling a 16% pay increase
- Eight weeks of paid leave for family care and bonding for Family Medical Leave-eligible Academic Researchers
- Access to the comprehensive retirement, medical, dental, and other benefit programs generally available to other non-represented non-faculty academic employees
- Access to a pre-tax card or another method for paying transit costs within 12 months of contract ratification
Academic Student Employees:
- A 7% pay increase within 90 days of ratification for TAs and Associate Instructors
- A 8.33% pay increase for Teaching Fellows
- A 3% pay increase for all salaried ASEs, and hourly-based ASEs will receive a 3.5% increase annually
- Next year, TAs and Associate Instructors will be eligible for experience-based increases
- $1,350 per quarter or $2,025 per semester, plus $1,350 per summer for child care
- Covering 100% of campus fees for eligible ASEs with 25% or greater appointments
- UC-sponsored student health plan for eligible ASEs
- Expanded benefit of eight weeks of paid pregnancy and disability leave and five weeks of paid baby bonding, personal medical, and family medical leave
Graduate Student Researchers::
- 9–10% increases in year one, with a 3% increase each subsequent year
- $1,350 per quarter or $2,025 per semester, plus $1,350 for summer, for childcare
- The UC system has offered to cover 100% of campus fees for eligible GSRs
- Eligible GSRs may participate in a UC-sponsored health plan
- Expanded benefit of 8 weeks of paid pregnancy or disability leave, and five weeks of paid baby bonding, personal medical, and family medical leave
- 12 days of paid Personal Time Off
This letter received vitriol in online spaces, as many users pointed out that the pay increases were not enough to match the current inflation rate of 7.7%. Additionally, some Reddit users noted that childcare annually costs an average of $19,000, and the payment offered to current strikers is inadequate to cover this.
In a Nov. 21 email sent by the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor, the office claims that the “The offers on the table from the [University of California] are equivalent to or beyond the level of what is offered to similar employee groups at peer institutions, both public and private.”
Despite such reassurances, Reddit users stated that childcare benefits as they’re currently proposed are also not enough to cover costs for the childcare offered at UCSD. User ‘thee-tundra’ on the r/UCSD subreddit noted, “Childcare at [UC San Diego] is $1,700 per month, and they are offering $2,500 per year.”
On Nov. 16, the Associated Students at UCSD approved a joint resolution with the UCSD Graduate and Professional Student Association in support of the UAW strike. The resolution was signed by President Sky Yang and Vice President of Academic Affairs Rhianen Callahan. They published their resolution on Nov. 21 on their social media pages.
The resolution listed the reasons why the strike has commenced, particularly the rising housing crisis in California, and especially San Diego becoming increasingly unaffordable for students. The resolution also noted that the University of California Office of the President had behaved inappropriately concerning its budget and the treatment of its employees.
“A 2017 state audit found the UCOP had failed to disclose $175 million in budget reserves during a proposed tuition hike, while giving ‘generous raises and atypical benefits’ to administrative and executive employees of the UCOP,” the resolution detailed. “The UCOP has broken California labor law by committing Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs) no fewer than 27 times during these negotiations, most recently on November 2nd.”
The resolution further states that the GPSA and A.S. support the right of academic workers to strike in response to the ULPs and demand that UCOP ceases both their violations of labor rights and their union-busting attempts; they demand that they offer the UAW a fair contract so that the academic quarter can commence.
“The Associated Students of UC San Diego stand in solidarity with the UAW and support the resolution approved by the Graduate and Professional Student Association on November 14, 2022,” the resolution affirms.
Photo by Kathleen Shiroma for the UCSD Guardian.