University of California Academic Workers Strike, Citing High Cost Of Living
UC Berkeley Halts Construction At People's Park After Protests Students on the University of California, Berkeley campus in Berkeley, California, US, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. Following hours of angry and tense protests, UC Berkeley officials abruptly announced Wednesday afternoon that they would pause work on transforming historic People's Park into housing due to the destruction of construction materials, unlawful protest activities and violence on the part of some, according to the Los Angeles Times. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images Bloomberg / Contributor
Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Contributor via Getty Images

Academic workers at the University of California are going on strike over pay and benefits disagreements. 

Around 48,000 UC teaching assistants, postdoctoral employees, graders and researchers are unhappy with their current salary status and benefits. They are looking to secure minimum salary increases and more, noting that they do not make enough money to reside in the state of California — where taxes and the cost of living continue to make it difficult for workers in various sectors to continue operating. 

“At every turn, the university has sought to act unlawfully at the bargaining table, which is preventing us from reaching an agreement,” Neal Sweeney, the president of UAW Local 5810 said. The union represents over 11,000 UC postdoctoral employees and academic researchers.

The UAW also said the strike at the University of California is the biggest academic walkout in higher education in the history of the country, The Washington Post reported. 

“We’re the ones who perform the majority of the teaching, and we’re the ones who perform the majority of the research,” Rafael Jaime, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles, said. Jaime is president of U.A.W. Local 2865, which represents around 19,000 workers.

“We’re the backbone of the university,” he said, per The New York Times, “and I have a hard time seeing how operations are going to be maintained with us on the picket line.”

Jaime said he doesn’t make enough money to live in a Westwood apartment near the school, so he lives downtown and splits the cost with two roommates.

The cost of living in Los Angeles, California, is 49% more than the national average, according to Payscale. Housing is 129% more, while utilities and groceries are 7% and 13% higher, respectively. 

“UC’s primary goal in these negotiations is multiyear agreements that recognize these employees’ important and highly valued contributions to UC’s teaching and research mission with fair pay, quality health and family-friendly benefits, and a supportive and respectful work environment,” the university system said on its website regarding the strike and discussions with the United Auto Workers. 

“UC believes its offers are generous, responsive to union priorities, and recognize the many valuable contributions of these employees,” it added, saying its “proposals include pay increases, expanded paid leaves, increased family support and child care benefits” for several positions.

The strike could negatively impact students as they get ready to take their final exams. 

The UAW is requesting $54,000 salary per year for all graduate employees, $70,000 per year for postdoctoral employees, a 14% salary hike for academic researchers and “[a]nnual cost of living adjustments and experience-based increases,” according to a website regarding the strike. The union has also asked for its members to receive reimbursements for childcare, longer paid parental leave, and public transit cards.

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