Academic Workers At The University of California Reach Agreement To End Strike!
To increase pay and benefits, the University of California reached an agreement with about 36,000 graduate student teaching assistants and other academic workers on Friday. This agreement could end the prestigious state system’s month-long strike, which was the longest of its kind in the country.
Classes were disrupted at all 10 sites of the university system due to the walkout. Before the strike is declared to be over, the deal still needs to be ratified.
Some employees may receive raises of up to 66% over the next two years, according to the bargaining units. The agreements would be in effect until May 31, 2025.
The UC Berkeley union bargaining team member Tarini Hardikar stated in a news release on Friday that the tentative agreements “include incredible wage increases, expanded benefits for parent workers, greater rights for international workers, protections against bullying and harassment, improvements to accessibility, workplace protections, and sustainable transit benefits.”
The increase in benefits and salary could have an effect outside of California. Colleges and universities have been relying increasingly on faculty and graduate student employees to conduct the teaching and research formerly done by tenure-track academics but at a lower wage and benefit level.
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With these agreements, our graduate student employees will be among the best supported in public higher education, according to a news release from University of California president Michael V. Drake on Friday. These contracts will recognize their essential work if accepted and permit us to keep luring the best academic talent from all around California and the globe.
According to William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York, the 32-day UC strike was closely watched across the nation in part because it is the largest strike of academic workers in higher education.
He claimed that, like the other strikes, the one at UC is “giving direction to demonstrate that strikes are very forceful means of obtaining goals.”
The accord comes after the UC system negotiated a similar arrangement with academic researchers and postdoctoral staff members, who make up around 12,000 of the 48,000 union members who went on strike on Nov. 14. According to a statement from United Auto Workers Local 5810, the agreement will boost compensation by up to 29%, offer more family leave, childcare subsidies, and extended appointments to secure job stability.
With their existing incomes, the academic employees claimed they couldn’t afford to live in expensive places like Berkeley, San Diego, or Los Angeles.
Tim Cain, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Georgia, said the strike was noteworthy for its scope and size and what it might indicate for other campuses. Suppose graduate workers and researchers approve the contracts. In that case, it may lead to similar reforms at universities that compete with UC or where graduate workers are attempting to form unions.
National union organizing is also a result of long-term changes in American universities, which increasingly depend on graduate students to conduct research and carry out other tasks previously handled by tenured academics.
In higher education, “there’s a fundamental shift in who’s performing the academic work,” according to Cain. He continued that graduate student salaries have not increased over time, and many face fierce competition for full-time faculty positions.
The strike occurred when there was an uptick in labor unrest across the country, including among employees at Starbucks, Amazon, and other businesses, and a wave of unionization efforts among graduate student workers at other colleges.
This year, all graduate student workers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, New Mexico State University, Clark University, Fordham University, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology voted to support unionization.