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UC academic employees vote to strike for better working conditions, wages, housing

Members of several academic worker unions, pictured. The coalition of unions is calling upon the UC to increase wages for living costs and provide more workplace safety. (Shengfeng Chien/Daily Bruin staff)

By Shaanth Kodialam

Nov. 2, 2022 10:43 p.m.

This post was updated Nov. 4 at 12:10 a.m.

Academic workers across the University of California overwhelmingly voted Wednesday night to authorize a strike that calls for increased wages, better working conditions and affordable housing.

The voters are a part of a coalition of around 48,000 academic workers throughout the UC system, including teaching assistants, postdoctoral scholars and student researchers in United Auto Workers 2865, UAW 5810 and Student Researchers United-UAW unions. Out of nearly 37,000 ballots, 97.53% of votes were in favor of authorizing a strike, according to an email sent by union officials. 

A statewide strike could take place as soon as Nov. 14, according to the unions’ website.

“It’s clear that Academic Student Employees, Academic Researchers, Postdocs and Student Researchers are united in our efforts to stop UC’s unlawful behavior and win fair contracts,” the email said.

Bargaining team members will meet tomorrow to discuss next steps, the email said, adding that academic workers are prepared to take action in the face of unfair labor practices.

The unions have been negotiating with the UC since spring 2021, alleging the UC has committed several unlawful actions such as surveying bargaining unit members and bypassing the bargaining process. They have filed 27 charges with the Public Employment Relations Board, receiving six complaints back from the board that an unfair labor practice was committed. They also called upon the UC to increase pay to account for higher living costs, improve workplace safety and provide relief from high rent costs.

“We admonish UC to cease its unlawful behavior and encourage them to come to the bargaining table to negotiate agreements that help create research and teaching environments where all can thrive,” the email also said. “But if UC continues its bad faith tactics, the results of these votes make it plain that Academic Workers are nonetheless prepared to take strong actions.”

Previously, at an Oct. 12 rally at UCLA, hundreds of union members approved a vote to strike. 

Ryan King, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said in an emailed statement that the UC believes it has given fair responses to UAW’s concerns surrounding equitable pay, safe working conditions and housing. Campuses are prepared to continue instruction and research in the event of a strike, he added.

“Negotiations are progressing, and many tentative agreements have been reached on key issues such as a respectful work environment and health and safety matters,” King said in the statement. “We are committed to continuing to negotiate in good faith and reaching full agreements as soon as possible.”

Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 2865 representing over 19,000 TAs, tutors and readers, said in a press release Thursday morning that the UC’s conduct has prevented the union from reaching fair agreements with the University. Low compensation and other burdens have created a environment where the UC has failed to support a diverse workforce, Jaime added.

“Our goal throughout the bargaining process has been and continues to be to negotiate fair agreements with UC. Unfortunately, UC’s unlawful conduct has prevented that,” said Joyce Chan, a postdoc at UC San Diego and bargaining team member in the press release. “The UAW bargaining teams remain at the ready to work around the clock with UC to reach fair agreements, and the membership has now also spoken: they are willing to take action to stop UC’s unlawful actions, if necessary.”

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Shaanth Kodialam | Features and student life editor
Kodialam is the 2022-2023 features and student life editor. They were previously a News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a second-year communication and geography student.
Kodialam is the 2022-2023 features and student life editor. They were previously a News reporter for national news and higher education and features and student life. They are a second-year communication and geography student.
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