The University of California is suspended as 48,000 academic staff continue to strike

Photo credit: Ian Castro / fairucnow.org

Members of academic workers’ unions demonstrate at UC Berkeley on November 14, 2022.

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Demanding better pay, more benefits and job security, 48,000 academics in the University of California system continued to strike for a second day Tuesday, resulting in canceled classes and halted research.

Academics and their supporters picketed throughout the university system, which includes 10 campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The strike leads to the closure of laboratories and the cancellation of classes just before midterms. Some disruptions were due to the absence of teaching assistants, but some professors also canceled courses in solidarity with the strikers.

The strike, which began Monday morning, is affecting postdoctoral students, student employees such as teaching assistants, graduate students and academic researchers at California’s preeminent public research university system. Strikers teach many primary school classes and often lead discussion sections in courses.

“We teach the courses, grade the papers and conduct the cutting-edge research that has earned UC its reputation as the best public university in the world and a global leader in R1 research institutions,” Student Researchers United said in a statement. “In short, UC works because we do it.”

The University of California Student Union is encouraging undergraduate students to support the strike by joining the picket line and encouraging professors to cancel classes and donate to the strike fund.

“It appears the campus is completely closed right now, and that’s a real demonstration of our power,” Tanzil Chowdhury, a member of the UAW negotiation team and a research associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, told The Daily Californian of UC Berkeley.

Workers are demanding higher wages, improved parental leave and childcare support, reduced housing costs and support for international scientists. All four bargaining units are represented by the United Auto Workers.

The negotiating committee proposes a minimum salary of $54,000 for graduate students, a minimum of $70,000 for postdocs and a 14% salary increase for academic researchers. It also proposes a rent cap for on-campus housing, which will provide $2,000 a month for childcare, as well as subsidies and incentives for public transportation and bicycling. It also demands longer hours for its workers to ensure job security. The union is also demanding that the university reimburse visa fees and tuition fees for its international workers.

The University of California says it has countered with wage proposals that would put system workers on par with highly selective private universities.

“The salary proposals offered to the UAW, if accepted, would place UC’s academic staff at the top of the pay scale among public AAU universities and are actually more comparable to what private universities like Harvard, MIT and USC offer. ‘ the University of California said in a statement.

The academics have found support from 33 members of the State Assembly, who signed a letter last week calling on UC President Michael Drake to end “unfair labor practices” and warning that the strike could lead to “mass disruption”. It found that the union had filed over 20 unfair labor practices against the university.

“UC is one of the best public university systems and research institutions in the world, not least because of its ability to attract the most talented scholars from a wide range of backgrounds,” the letter reads. “But the UC system cannot live up to its mission and reputation if its own employees don’t feel respected.”

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