Week 1 updates from the University of California Multi-Unit Strike

This post was written by Isabella Trierweiler and Pratik Gandhi. The views presented here are not necessarily representative of the views of the American Astronomical Society or other institutions with whom our authors are affiliated.


Authors’ note: For more background on the strike and the events leading up to it, check out our previous bite covering it here!

Large crowd of strikers standing outside an academic building at UC Irvine and shouting slogans. Most strikers are holding up placards saying "UAW on strike". Front row folks are holding up a large banner saying "United for a fair workplace".
Rally at UC Irvine. Image credit: SRU-UAW  

The UC-wide academic workers strike began with a bang on Monday, with tens of thousands of workers joining the picket lines, solidifying it as the largest strike in higher education in US history! Support for the strike is growing outside of academic workers too, with unionized construction and delivery workers withholding work and refusing to cross picket lines on campus. The larger community is getting involved as well, from speeches by local elected officials at the daily strike rallies to food donations from local restaurants. 

The persistence and sheer magnitude of the strike appears to be taking UC by surprise. While bargaining was planned to continue on Tuesday, on Monday night the administration suddenly canceled the session citing a lack of meeting spaces. Following a strong turn out of picketers on Tuesday morning, the UC retracted the decision by the afternoon and began a joint bargaining session with the post-doc and academic researcher unions. Similarly, towards the end of the week the UC planned to cancel weekend bargaining sessions, and then backtracked to resume bargaining following massive turnout from striking workers at Friday’s rallies (including UCLA’s march down Wilshire Boulevard and UC Berkeley’s picket in front of UC President Drake’s mansion).

Huge rally at UCLA takes over Wilshire Boulevard. Video credit: Isabella Trierweiler

Bargaining highlights for the week include discounts for e-bikes, advanced notifications for student research appointments, and paid time off. Additionally, one of the biggest victories won by the union was getting the UC to agree to joint negotiations with all four bargaining units representing post-docs/researchers, graduate student researchers, and academic student workers (including teaching assistants). The teams also made progress on establishing terms for the newly formed Student Researchers Union. However, there remains a stalemate around the key issue of wages. The latest UC offer of a minimum graduate student salary of $27,880/year with annual 3% raises remains too low to alleviate rent burden and match the cost of living. As an example, the average rent for an apartment within walking distance of UCLA’s campus is over $2000 per month, with national inflation currently at over 7% per year. 

Picture of a large group of strikers biking on the UC Berkeley campus. Three riders are prominently featured -- one on the left looking focused, one in the middle waving at the camera and holding a strike placard, and one on the right -- all wearing helmets.
Bike rally at UC Berkeley. Image credit: UAW 2865 

Strikers from the various campuses overwhelmingly agree that the picket lines have been places for building immense community and solidarity, with discussions, teach-ins, drag shows, and other activities in addition to the marches. Strikers at UC Davis and UC Berkeley even took to the streets in massive bike rallies. A number of the campuses have started self-organized community kitchens to feed thousands of workers at the picket lines on a daily basis, with the one at UC Davis raising over $7,000 in monetary donations.

Strike kitchen at UC Davis. Video credit: Pratik Gandhi

As the strike enters its second week, academic workers across all ten campuses are showing no signs of backing down, with massive rallies and marches planned for the next few days leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. Workers are committed to the picket line for as long as it takes to obtain a fair contract with positive working conditions for all, and the ball is now in the UC’s court.

How can you help?

For people affiliated with the University of California, one of the best ways to support the strike is by showing up to the picket line! Information about picket locations and times for all campuses can be found here.

Even if you are not part of the UC community, there are still plenty of ways to lend your support! One of the most effective ways to do so is by donating to the strike and hardship fund, which will be used to support workers whose wages are docked during the strike. Other ways to support are described here, including petitions to sign and sharing letters of solidarity.

Astrobites will be posting updates as the strike progresses in the coming days/weeks, and you can also follow along with updates from the bargaining process here

Edited by Briley Lewis

Featured image credit: UAW 2865

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This post was written collectively by multiple members of the Astrobites team. Meet the authors of Astrobites.

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