UC academic researchers, student employees go on strike

Thousands of researchers and student employees at the 10 University of California campuses are on strike Monday in an effort to secure improved pay and working conditions.

UC officials are in contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers regarding four separate academic bargaining units: postdoctoral scholars, academic researchers, academic student employees (teaching assistants/readers/tutors) and graduate student researchers, Ryan King, spokesman for the UC President's Office, told City News Service on Sunday.

"Our campuses have been preparing to mitigate the impact of any strike activity on our students by ensuring, to the extent possible, continuity of instruction and research. This includes encouraging departmental and academic units to provide additional support and resources to students for learning. Additionally, campuses will be prepared for contingencies should a strike interfere with the conclusion of the academic 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 University has conducted over 50 bargaining sessions to understand the complex and unique needs of each of the four bargaining units represented by UAW and worked in good faith to offer a fair, multiyear agreement that recognizes the valuable contributions of our Postdoctoral Scholars, Academic Researchers, Academic Student Employees (teaching assistants/readers/tutors), and Graduate Student Researchers. 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.

Prior to the strike vote, the University and UAW achieved many tentative agreements on key issues such as a respectful work environment and health and safety matters. In the last year, the University of California has settled contracts with a number of unions representing thousands of University staff, including lecturers, nurses, police, childcare and administrative bargaining units. These agreements are illustrative of the University’s good faith and commitment to collaborating with its labor partners to reach fair agreements that are in the best interests of the University as well as its employees. These agreements were reached without labor unrest and we hope to be able to do the same with the UAW. The University looks forward to continuing negotiations in good faith with the UAW and settling these contracts as quickly as possible so that important learning and vital research at our locations may continue," UC officials said in a statement provided to FOX 11. 

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Rafael Jaime is president of UAW Local 2865, which represents the 48,000 striking tutors, readers, graduate student instructors and teaching assistants. Three tentative agreements were reached Monday, Jaime said.

"At this point, the priority should be round-the-clock bargaining in good faith as opposed to switching to a mediation process, Jaime said. "We remain willing and able to meet with the university on an ongoing basis to reach a resolution."

Union officials say some of the employees make as little as $24,000 per year. Along with higher salaries and greater annual raises, the workers are demanding free public transit passes, improved child care benefits and greater job security.

"After months at the bargaining table and 26 unfair labor practices filed, we have no choice but to move towards a strike," Jade Moore, a bargaining team member, said in a statement.

Mai Do, a bargaining team member of UAW 2865, said "Too many people are being forced out of UC because they aren't paid enough to afford the rising cost of housing, on or off campus," the newspaper reported.

The talks affect 48,000 workers, including 17,000 student researchers. They voted to authorize a strike in October.

A work stoppage could have a serious impact in classrooms, potentially leaving classes without instructors and professors without workers to grade assignments. It could also halt a significant portion of the research that occurs at UC campuses