Up to 48,000 University of California academics plan to go on strike Monday

Tens of thousands of researchers and student workers across the UC system — including thousands in the Bay Area — plan to go on strike Monday, threatening to close classes and halt research projects in exchange for better wages and working conditions.

According to United Auto Workers, which represents 48,000 university employees across all 10 campuses in the university system, hordes of postdocs, academic researchers, student researchers and academic student workers plan to stop work at 8 a.m. Monday. Organizers touted the move as the largest strike in an academic system to date nationwide, arguing that it was only necessary after the university system exhibited unfair bargaining practices.

Union organizers said the strike will only be averted if the university system “ceases its unlawful conduct to secure fair contracts.”

Union organizers say their workers are severely underpaid, especially given the state’s high cost of living and mounting inflation. Some employees earn as little as $24,000, union organizers say. In addition to higher wages and higher annual salary increases, workers are demanding free public transport tickets, improved childcare allowances and greater job security guarantees.

“Too many people are being forced out of UC because they aren’t being paid enough to afford the rising cost of housing on or off campus,” Mai Do, a member of UAW 2865’s negotiating team, said in a prepared statement in the the plans announced were hit.

A statement from the University of California said the system “provided fair answers” when negotiating fair pay, work environments and housing. She said she is working to secure multi-year agreements with union employees “that recognize the important and valued contributions these employees make” to the university system.

“We have listened carefully to the UAW’s priorities with an open mind and a genuine willingness to compromise,” the statement said, adding that negotiations are continuing and several tentative agreements have been reached on work environment, health and safety issues. “We are committed to continue to negotiate in good faith and reach full agreements as soon as possible.”

The strike could have far-reaching effects on University of California campuses across the state, leaving classes without instructors and professors, with no one grading their assignments. Staff include teaching assistants and graduate students who teach classes. And they include postdocs who do much of the research on the university campus.

More than 15,000 of the workers work in the Bay Area, including 9,178 on the campus of the Berkeley University System and 518 at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Another 2,773 union members work at UC San Francisco and 2,750 at UC Santa Cruz.

In a vote in late October and early November, union workers voted overwhelmingly to go on strike. Of the 36,558 union members who took part in the vote, 98% – or 35,654 people – voted for a walkout, according to the unions’ website.