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November 25, 2022

Thousands of University of California teaching assistants strike

SANTA CRUZ—Hundreds of Academic Researchers, Postdoctoral Scholars, Graduate Student Researchers and Academic Student Employees went on strike Monday at UC Santa Cruz, joining thousands of their colleagues in the University of California system’s 10 institutions to demand a substantial pay increase, as well as better benefits.

UC Santa Cruz spokesman Scott Hernandez-Jason said the university had picketers at both entrances to the campus. 

The campus shuttle service adapted its route to allow Santa Cruz METRO buses to drop passengers off at the base of campus, and all dining halls are open, Hernandez-Jason said. 

The striking educators, he said, “are all valued members of the UCSC community and play important roles in supporting the university’s mission.”

Picketers began gathering at UCSC at 7am.

Striker Stefan Yong, part of United Auto Workers 2865 (UAW)—the union that represents many TAs—says that the UC system is engaged in “bad faith bargaining” as the three unions that represent the 48,000 academic workers negotiate for higher pay.

The demand on the table, Yong says, is $54,000 a year for the workers, up from roughly $24,000 per year.

“We need the university to negotiate in good faith so that we can get to the issues that really matter to all these workers, chief of which is the cost of housing and rent burden, and this idea that the wages that are paid by the university of California need to reflect the cost of living here,” Yong said.

The UC system, Yong says, is a profitable institution with a large endowment that can afford such an increase.

“The money thing is a matter of ‘won’t,’ and not, ‘cannot,’” he said. 

Education student Cesar Melendez of Santa Cruz said he was inspired to participate in Monday’s strike by the 2019 CSU San Diego strike.

“I saw then how my teachers were truly suffering,” he said. “I don’t want to see my TAs suffer the same way—they put in a lot of time and they work really hard.”

In a prepared statement, UC Office of the President Associate spokesman Ryan King said that the UC system is asking its departments to provide additional support to its students, and to prepare for “contingencies” if the strike interferes with the end of the term.

“The University of California continues to negotiate in good faith as we do everything possible to mitigate the impacts of any strike actions on our student learning,” the statement reads.

This includes more than 50 bargaining sessions and an offer of “a fair, multiyear agreement” to the workers.

“These employees make valuable contributions to the University’s teaching and research mission in both part-time and full-time roles, and we believe our offers of fair pay, quality health and family-friendly benefits, among other proposals, are fair, reasonable, and responsive to the union’s concerns,” the statement reads.

King says that the UC system reached tentative agreements with UAW on issues such as “a respectful work environment and health and safety matters.”

He added that the UC system within the past year has settled contracts with several unions representing university staff, including lecturers, nurses, police and administrative bargaining units.

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