Grad Workers Still Fighting for Contracts Six Months After Strike

Alexander Olsen, Marketing Co-Editor

On Wednesday May 31, UAW members gathered in front of Geisel Library for a rally titled “Khosla’s Public Trial,” which aimed to confront various contract abuses that UC San Diego’s administration has been practicing since the ratification of their new contracts in December 2022. These practices include:

  1. Graduate Student Researchers are being under-appointed, despite an agreement that GSRs would be hired at 50% during contract negotiations.
  2. Cuts to research and teaching positions in various departments, such as the reduction of Biology discussion sections due to fewer TAs. 
  3. Academic Student Employees and GSRs are no longer being paid the same.
  4. The Chemistry department gave 22 graduate workers U grades in CHEM 500, the highest amount across the UC system, which drastically affects the livelihoods of these workers.
  5. Marchers allege a culture of abuse from UCSD faculty.

Third-year math doctorate student Adu Vengal expressed his frustration with Chancellor Khosla going back on his word.

“Chancellor Khosla made a promise that [all the first and second years, and all the incoming cohorts] would get at least $30,000 over the year through a combination of summer funding,” Vengal said. “But as soon as we got that contract, he’s trying to take away that promise

“For example, if you were in one of these departments where this promise was there, you’re going to miss out on $6,000.”

Vengal also shared that in the math department, the incoming doctorate cohort was heavily reduced from 44 this year to 10 next year.

“These are the people who do most of the teaching in the math department,” Vengal said. “To balance that, they’re having discussion sections up to 100 people with only one teaching assistant. So it’s just like a massive hit on educational quality.“

The UCSD Guardian previously reported that the Biology department is reducing the number of Instructional Assistants, resulting in discussion sections with up to 300 students. 

Second-year chemistry doctorate student Hiya Datta explained how the chemistry department is retaliating against strikers.

“22 students in chemistry, which is like the most any department — actually any UC campus at all — received U grades and in CHEM 500,” Datta said. “Basically, it’s a kind of a dummy course credit that you take, and there’s no assignments associated with it, you just have to enroll in it to do the appointment as a TA or an ASC. People were enrolled in it and went on a legal strike, which they are entitled to do, and received U grades from supervisors. What that does is it causes you to have a U on your transcript, and … kind of jeopardizes your future employment.”

Graduate workers have tried to dispute these grades, but the process has taken months, while the effects of the negative mark continue to have consequences on their livelihoods. Datta emphasized how this speaks to a larger issue with UC’s response to new grievances.

“There is one issue that this whole action is about, and that is our labor relations office, who deals with our grievances, just negotiating in bad faith, and they deny pretty much every grievance and send it to arbitration,” Datta said. “It is not like a functional system, the way it used to be before the strike. We file grievance after grievance, and the UC is just stalling because they think they can get away with not paying us, not litigating the illegal retaliation, and all these other issues that are affecting us. And we have to show them that we’re not okay with waiting and that it’s unacceptable to play games with our time.”

The demonstrators marched along Gilman Drive, blocking traffic and buses, and ended in the Chancellor’s Complex near Price Center.