Strike of 48,000 University of California Scholars Causes Whole System to Shut Down

About 48,000 unionized academics across the University of California’s 10 campuses, who do most of their teaching and research in the state’s top higher education system, left their jobs on Monday morning demanding better salaries and benefits. The system-wide strike includes teaching assistants, postdocs, graduate students, teachers and colleagues, and workers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which have disrupted classes already scheduled just weeks before finals. It’s the year so far, and union leaders also say it will be the largest of any academic institution in history. UCLA staff joined the picket line at 8 a.m. and protested with signs, t-shirts and slogans at multiple locations across campus, like groups at UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, and UC Merced. UC Irvine strikers began protesting on campus at 8:30 a.m., and strikes were set for 9 a.m. on other campuses, including UC Davis and UC San Francisco. 48,000 workers, represented in the four UAW bargaining units, demanded a base salary of $54,000, which is more than double the annual average current salary of $24,000. UC has proposed a 7% increase in pay in the first year and 3% in the following year, but workers say it is not enough. “We’re overworked, underpaid and exhausted,” said Jamie Mondello, 27, a psychology graduate student worker at UCLA and a member of UAW Local 2865 and Student Researchers United. “Our offer attracts everyone to a decent wage. Overall, we just want to be treated with dignity. We keep UC running.” Mondello says he earns about $37,000 a year as his colleague and plans to add an assistant in the next quarter to supplement his earnings. She was on UCLA’s picket line on Monday morning and, along with hundreds of other academics, said, “It’s on strike. unfair labor practices.” She shouted “48 thousand people.” “We can fight all day.” Graduate student researcher Trevor Scheopner joined a protest at UCLA Monday amid a strike by nearly 48,000 University of California scholars. More than two-thirds of his income goes to rent, Scheopner says, and the cost of living in Los Angeles and rapid inflation are making income increasingly difficult. (Christina House/Los Angeles Times) Lavanya Nott, 30, a third year graduate and student researcher in the Department of Geography, says she earns $24,000 a year from her job and $2,000 a year from her second job. Campus Grades for Non-native English-Speaking Teaching Assistants “It’s almost impossible to live in LA or most cities in California,” she said. “Many of us have a second or third job.” Nott calls her income “poverty-level wages,” and she says 92% of graduate students struggle with rent. She is paying $1,500 a month to live with her partner in a one-bedroom apartment provided by UC Housing. Although she is childless, she said she knows that parents are really struggling because the childcare subsidies provided by UC aren’t enough for people to send their kids to daycare on UC’s campuses, she said. I think it will give us the peace of mind and freedom to focus on our work and have dignity, with a little bit of money and how limited we are financially,” Nott said. “We just want to get out of poverty.” Strikes force international students to pay non-resident tuition, which puts them on a “treadmill” to complete their degree in five years, she said. Covers costs over 5 years. Protesters are picketing at UCLA as nearly 48,000 University of California scholars strike on Monday (Christina House/Los Angeles Times). “Postdocs, researchers, graduate assistants basically run the university in a number of ways,” Nott said. said. “We teach most of our classes. We grade more papers than any other faculty member. We conduct state-of-the-art research that significantly finances UC systems. Our requirements are only 3% of UC’s annual budget. It’s a very small question about what UC can afford.” Rafael Jaime, president of UAW Local 2865, which represents 19,000 of 48,000 workers, said he and his fellow union members went on strike early Monday in UC San Diego, where he was full of energy. “We’ll be out here as long as it takes time,” said Jaime. He said unions continue to negotiate “around the clock” and while some progress has been made on stronger protections against harassment and abuse in the workplace, both sides are “still a long way off on many of the issues that will make UC”. A more equal university.” In addition to higher wages, workers want childcare subsidies, enhanced health benefits for dependents, access to public transport, lower tuition for international scholars, and improved accessibility for workers with disabilities. Protesters are picketing in UCLA on Monday. (Christina House/Los Angeles Times) It wasn’t immediately clear how many classes, labs, or scheduled academic activities were suspended on Monday, but students at UCLA reported that many classes were canceled. Ebony Morris, a 21-year-old art college sophomore, said a discussion group meeting in one of her own classes had been canceled until her strike was over. “It’s a smaller way to get everything you can get in class,” she said. Morris said the grades of assignments and exams were also most likely to be affected by the strike. “We are truly here because we want to make academia better. No one wants a strike, we are here just for fair working conditions and fair contracts.” — Jamie Mondello, a graduate student in psychology at UCLA, said, “I think UCLA should pay the people who work here.” “If you have to strike, you have to strike. I think it is a human right to pay your life.” Breanna Reyes, 20, and Vanessa Salgado, 20, are both seniors in their undergraduate studies and majoring in Spanish. Reyes said one of her classes was canceled indefinitely and the other went online until the strike ended. Salgado said several classes and discussion groups have been canceled. “Obviously there is confusion in grading and class, but the point is to create confusion and inform staff of ongoing issues, so we don’t do that. Salgado said. Reyes said she was thinking of some students joining the strike in solidarity. “In big lectures, we don’t get individual attention and we don’t ask a lot of questions,” Reyes said. . “In the discussion group, we get more expressive, ask about homework, get feedback and improve our overall grades, so I think missing out on this will hamper the experience of the first quarter.” Mondello, a graduate student in psychology at UCLA, said she appreciates many undergraduates understanding that strikes are necessary for academics, not an effort to punish them and faculty. “No one wants a strike and we are here just for fair working conditions and fair contracts.” She said she is particularly concerned because union leaders have accused the university of engaging in illegal bargaining tactics on multiple occasions. She filed 23 complaints of unfair labor practices with her state’s Public Employment Relations Commission, including including negotiating table bypass and intimidation tactics. In three cases, the Commission filed a complaint, meaning that the Commission found sufficient evidence that an unfair practice may have been committed. Only one of the three complaints was resolved at a resolution meeting. The UC rejected the tort, stating that differences should be resolved at the negotiating table, not the picket line. “UC will continue to work in good faith to reach an agreement with the UAW as soon as possible,” UC said in a statement. Trade in good faith. “UC is one of the best public university systems and research institutions in the world because of its ability to attract the most talented scholars from a variety of backgrounds,” the letter reads. “But the UC system cannot live up to its mission and reputation if its employees are not respected.” The university system managed to avoid a strike planned by about 6,500 instructors in November. Times reporter Teresa Watanabe contributed to this report.
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