Local News

UC Grad Workers Go On Strike

By Margo Rawlings

Local Editor

On Nov. 14, 48,000 University of California (UC) graduate workers, academic researchers, and postdoctoral scholars throughout the nine campuses of the UC system started a still-ongoing strike for better compensation. The strike has brought many school activities to a halt, with canceled classes, closed labs, and ungraded work. 

The strikers claim that their salaries are insufficient to live in the cities where they work, where the most common salary for graduate workers is around 23,000 dollars per year, according to the Academic Workers Union. They are asking for an increased minimum salary of 54,000 dollars per year for graduate workers and 70,000 dollars per year for postdoctoral researchers, with annual increases based on costs of living. Sarah Arveson, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, explained, “We’re still facing wages that absolutely do not match the cost of living in the cities that our UC campuses are based in, and we really feel that.” 

In response to the strikes, UC leaders offered a new minimum salary of 24,874 dollars for teaching fellows and assistants, 28,275 dollars for graduate student researchers, and 60,000 dollars for postdoctoral scholars — salaries that are still under what strikers request. UC leaders have defended their offers on the basis that graduate student workers are only part-time employees, who can work a maximum of 20 hours per week while working towards their degrees. On the other side, UC graduate students complain that they are overworked and underpaid. Besides the requests for better pay, workers are also asking for childcare support, paid pregnancy leave, and better health care. 

Almost 300 UC faculty members stand in support of the strikers by not crossing the picket lines, recognizing the value of graduate workers. They announced that they will not teach classes or submit grades until the strike ends. Amongst these faculty members are social activist Angela Davis at UC Santa Cruz, philosopher Judith Butler at UC Berkeley, and historian Robin Kelley at UC Los Angeles. 

On Nov. 21, a group of California lawmakers wrote to UC president to show their support for the strikers. Congresswoman Katie Porter explained that graduate workers’ “talent, innovation, and labor are an integral part of the University’s function and ability to secure funding,” and therefore, the strike should be resolved immediately. 

Not only are faculty members showing their support for the strikers, but undergraduate students as well. Life California, a UC Berkeley student in favor of the strike, said that “striking with the union for fair working wages and a better contract is vital for the sustainability of the institution.”

Despite the tentative agreement reached for postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers two weeks into the strike, both types of academic workers confirmed that they would continue the strike in solidarity with the other graduate workers until they also achieve a satisfactory agreement.  

(Sources: LA Times, Time Magazine, The Guardian, NPR, KQED, Times of San Diego)

Categories: Local News

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