The University of California Graduate and Professional Council has agreed to meet with UC President Janet Napolitano but will not negotiate contracts in response to strikes at UC Santa Cruz.
Graduate students at UCSC went on strike starting Feb. 10, refusing to teach, grade or hold office hours, in an effort to obtain cost-of-living adjustments. Police arrested at least 17 protesters by the third day of the strike.
Many graduate students across the UC have expressed frustration because living expenses near their campuses have increased disproportionately to their stipends.
The UCGPC advocates for undergraduate, graduate and professional students within the UC. Representatives from 10 UC graduate students associations voted to create the council in 2017. However, UCSC does not currently have a council board member.
Graduate students at UCLA rallied in support of the strikes at UCSC by calling in sick Wednesday. Many students said the issue affected them as well, given that Los Angeles is particularly expensive to live in. Westwood is the most expensive zip code in California and the fourth most expensive zip code in the nation, according to a report from RENTCafé.
Napolitano said in a statement Friday that she invited leaders of the UCGPC to meet and discuss issues that affect graduate students, such as cost of living and housing.
“I look forward to listening to perspectives from the UCGPC, working to find solutions and moving forward toward the shared aims of ensuring the continued well-being and success of our graduate students systemwide,” she said in the statement.
The council has agreed to meet with the UC Office of the President to discuss possible opportunities for advocacy but will not negotiate a COLA or a union contract, according to a statement from the UCGPC.
“We are not and cannot be the organization that negotiates the compensation of graduate and professional students,” the statement read.
However, the UCGPC said it is proud to continue working with United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents graduate workers and academic workers at the UC and will continue to advocate for policies that reduce the financial burden on students.
UAW Local 2865 said that while the union regularly meets with the UCGPC, the UAW is the only organization that can legally bargain with the UC.
“UC administrators are fully aware that only the union can bargain a legally-binding contract that will make progress for student-workers and hold the University accountable,” the statement read. “The time has come for UC to meet us at the bargaining table so that we can work to resolve the issues that have left so many student-workers economically insecure.”
UAW formally asked the UC to bargain with academic workers over COLA on Jan. 15, which the UC refused. Many workers pay over 60% of their income on rent, according to the statement.
Zak Fisher, president of the UCLA Graduate Students Association and a law student at UCLA, said he thinks Napolitano’s offer is insulting.
“I think she wants to give legitimacy to the idea that she is somehow actually listening to those students,” Fisher said.
Fisher added he does not think the UCGPC represents all graduate students, particularly since UCSC is not a member, as it never ratified any document in order to be represented by the council.
“I just think it’s really, really important to note that there is no document that has been ratified by every school to say that UCGPC is the quote-unquote official representatives of graduate students,” Fisher said.
He added he thinks the union, UAW Local 2865, should be included in any conversation between the UC and workers.
“(By reaching out to the UCGPC instead), this puts us on a path towards union busting for the UAW (Local) 2865,” he said. “That’s an incredibly dangerous precedent to set.”