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UCLA graduate students vote to strike for COLA, pending approval from 10 departments

Hundreds of students rally Thursday in support of cost-of-living adjustments for graduate student workers. They voted to strike next week pending the approval of graduate students in 10 departments. (Niveda Tennety/Assistant Photo editor)

By Marilyn Chavez-Martinez, Bernard Mendez, and David Gray

March 5, 2020 5:24 p.m.

This post was updated March 5 at 6:01 p.m.

Nearly 100 graduate students voted Thursday to go on strike starting next week, pending the approval of graduate students in at least 10 departments.

The wildcat strike, a strike not approved by a union, will continue indefinitely until graduate students’ demands for higher wages and affordable housing are met, striking workers said.

The student-workers, who gathered for a rally on Janss Steps on Thursday, agreed they would strike only if 10 different departments release statements agreeing to participate. Participating graduate students will not teach or grade if the strike occurs.

Graduate students from at least three departments – including anthropology, gender studies and Chicana and Chicano studies – have expressed support for the strike, but no department has officially released a statement of support.

 

Organizers may pursue alternative forms of protest if not enough departments approve the strike, said Sucharita Kanjilal, an organizer and an anthropology graduate student. Graduate students from each department will collectively decide the conditions of approval.

The strike comes after weeks of protests and demonstrations by graduate student workers across the University of California advocating for wage increases adjusted to the cost of living.

UC Santa Cruz graduate students first went on strike in December, refusing to release undergraduate fall grades. The strikes continued Feb. 10 as some teaching assistants still withheld grades. At least 17 students were arrested during protests, and UC Santa Cruz fired 54 graduate student employees who still had not turned in grades Feb. 28.

Around 30 more students said they were told they would not be eligible for spring quarter teaching positions after participating in the protests, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Protests began at UC Santa Cruz in December. Graduate student workers have called for strikes and demonstrations on campuses across the University of California. (Jintak Han/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Hundreds gathered at Janss Steps at noon before the vote, including professors, lecturers and students. No graduate students voted against the strike and seven voted to abstain, a rally organizer announced. Many more did not participate in the vote.

“There’s always a chance that these things fail,” Kanjilal said. “But I think we’ve already brought more attention to this than ever before.”

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Marilyn Chavez-Martinez | News and outreach senior staff
Chavez-Martinez was the 2020-2021 Outreach Director. She was previously an assistant news editor managing the campus politics beat and still writes for the Daily Bruin news section occasionally. She is also a fourth-year English and Economics student at UCLA.
Chavez-Martinez was the 2020-2021 Outreach Director. She was previously an assistant news editor managing the campus politics beat and still writes for the Daily Bruin news section occasionally. She is also a fourth-year English and Economics student at UCLA.
Mendez was the 2020-2021 News editor. He was previously a staff news reporter for the Science & Health beat and a developer for The Stack. He is also a third-year math student at UCLA.
Mendez was the 2020-2021 News editor. He was previously a staff news reporter for the Science & Health beat and a developer for The Stack. He is also a third-year math student at UCLA.
David Gray | News Editor
Gray is the 2019-2020 News editor of the Daily Bruin. He was previously an assistant News editor and a reporter for the city and crime beat. He is also a third-year political science student at UCLA.
Gray is the 2019-2020 News editor of the Daily Bruin. He was previously an assistant News editor and a reporter for the city and crime beat. He is also a third-year political science student at UCLA.
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