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University of California workers plan to resume picketing Monday as strike continues

In addition to salary increases, workers are demanding free public transit passes, $2,000-a-month childcare reimbursements for workers with children, and more.

November 25, 2022 3:36pm

Updated: November 28, 2022 12:05am

Union-represented University of California workers are set to resume picketing across all 10 UC campuses on Monday after a brief break for Thanksgiving as a strike involving thousands of workers could enter its third week.

A strike that started Nov. 14 involving 48,000 United Auto Workers-represented teaching assistants, academic student employees, graduate student researchers, postdoctoral scholars, readers and tutors remained ongoing across all 10 UC campuses as of Friday. Workers took a break from the picket line on Thursday and Friday as campuses closed for the holiday but plan to continue picketing on Monday unless a contract with the UC is negotiated.

The unionized UC workers are demanding increased salaries with annual cost of living adjustments, arguing higher wages are needed to address the rent burden many workers experience. According to UAW member surveys, 92% of graduate workers and 61% of postdoctoral scholars are rent burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their pre-tax income on housing costs.

The UAW is specifically demanding a $54,000 minimum salary for grad workers – a significant increase compared to roughly $24,000 salary provided to the average graduate student worker.

“We are not asking for the world,” Adam Moore, a third year PhD student at UC Davis and graduate student researcher, told The Center Square in an email. “We are providing essential services that the UC cannot function without – the least they can do is create a workplace that pays fairly, isn't hostile and is safe.”

In addition to salary increases, workers are demanding free public transit passes, $2,000-a-month childcare reimbursements for workers with children, expanded paid family leave, longer guaranteed appointment lengths to ensure job security and reduced tuition costs for international student workers.

The UC and the UAW have reached tentative agreements on work environment and workplace accessibility issues, but several demands are still under negotiation. In a statement on Wednesday, the UC said the proposals offered by the university to the UAW would “place our graduate students and academic employees at the top of the pay scale across major public universities and on par with top private universities.”

“Though we have reached many tentative agreements with the union, we remain apart on key issues related to tying wages and pay increases to housing costs and tuition remission for nonresident international students,” the UC said in a statement. “To this end, the University continues to call for the UAW to join us in seeking neutral private mediation to help secure a contract.”

As negotiations remain ongoing, workers say they are prepared to continue striking until a fair contract is reached. Jackie Ku, the unit chair for UAW 2865 at UC Irvine, told The Center Square that morale remains high among workers as the strike continues.

“We want a system that is accessible, that is equitable, that is keeping up with the UC ideals, and we’re saying we can’t do that if the UC doesn’t put its money where its mouth is,” Ku said. “So we’re going to stay out here, we’re going to keep fighting this fight. We’re going to keep showing the UC that they can’t brush this under the rug.”

If an agreement is not reached over the weekend, the strike will enter its third week on Monday.

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