U of California Academic Workers make history with largest, decisive vote to strike Nov. 14

Academic Workers at all 10 campuses of the University of California, represented by the United Auto Workers, have voted resoundingly to authorize a strike starting Nov. 14. The strike will include four UAW bargaining units — Postdocs, Academic Student Employees, Graduate Student Researchers and Academic Researchers — totaling 48,000 workers who together power UC’s research and teaching. Of the 36,558 workers who cast a ballot, 97.53% voted to authorize a strike, which is the largest and most decisive strike authorization vote ever taken by Academic Workers in the United States.

“I voted to authorize a strike because I want to do my work in an environment that is fair and equitable, where we can focus on our research instead of how we are going to make ends meet,” said Tarini Hardikar, a student researcher at UC Berkeley and bargaining team member. “I do this in solidarity with all 48,000 of my colleagues.”

Across all 10 campuses of the University of California and the UC-managed Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Academic Workers perform the majority of academic working including teaching hours, grading papers and performing cutting-edge research that generates over $6 billion annually in state and federal funding and drives innovation in areas such as medicine, computer science, agriculture and green energy.

The four bargaining units have coordinated their organizing and bargaining strategy to build power against the notoriously anti-union employer and formulated a set of common demands called “Fair UC Now.” These include fair compensation to address skyrocketing rents, stronger protections against workplace harassment and discrimination, equal treatment for international scholars, and contract provisions to address the climate crisis.

But rather than coming to fair agreements, the university has engaged in a wide variety of unlawful tactics at the bargaining table, which forced UAW to file more than 25 Unfair Labor Practices with the Public Employment Relations Board. In some cases the university’s responses did not even bother to respond to the charges, and PERB has issued a series of complaints against UC. 

“Too many people are being forced out of UC because they aren’t paid enough to afford the rising cost of housing on or off campus,” said Mai Do, a teaching assistant and bargaining team member at UC Riverside. “I’ve had to take on credit card debt while working at UC just to cover my necessities, because over 60% of my salary is spent on rent alone. When workers like me are being paid $27,000 a year, we cannot just wait around for the university to change course and stop their unlawful conduct. We have no choice but to move towards a strike.”

If UC continues to bargain in bad faith, the November strike would be the largest in the history of the University of California and the largest ever at a university in the United States “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 UCSD and bargaining team member. “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.” Academic Workers across the UC system are ready to take bold collective action and strike until they win.

Supporters can show their solidarity with the striking workers in many ways: joining a picket line, signing the petition to UC President Michael Drake, contributing to the union’s strike support and hardship fund, and more ways to support can be found here.

Featured image: Over 1,300 Academic Workers rally for a strike authorization vote at UC Los Angeles on Oct. 12. Credit: Phil Travis, @UAW2865 Twitter.

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