Agreement Made Between the University of California and Striking Workers

The University of California and its 36,000 graduate student teaching assistants and other academic workers reached an agreement on Friday for increased pay and benefits, which might put an end to the largest strike of its kind in the country at the famed public school.

Classes were messed up at all 10 campuses of the university system because of the strike. Before the strike is over for good, the agreement still needs to be signed.

Some workers could get raises of up to 66% over the next two years, according to the bargaining units. Contracts would be in place until May 31, 2025.

“In addition to incredible wage increases, the tentative agreements also include expanded benefits for parent workers, greater rights for international workers, protections against bullying and harassment, improvements to accessibility, workplace protections, and sustainable transit benefits,” Tarini Hardikar, a member of the union bargaining team at UC Berkeley, said in a news release Friday.

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The raises in pay and benefits could have an effect on more than just California. Since the 1980s, colleges and universities have relied more and more on faculty and graduate student employees to teach and do research that tenured track faculty used to do, but without the same pay and benefits.

In a news release on Friday, Michael V. Drake, president of the University of California, said, “These agreements will make our graduate student employees among the best supported in public higher education.”

“If approved, these contracts will honour their critical work and allow us to continue attracting the top academic talent from across California and around the world.”

William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York, said that the 32-day UC strike was the largest strike of academic workers in higher education.

The strike at UC, like the others, is “providing guidance to indicate that strikes are very forceful means of accomplishing goals,” he said.

The agreement comes just a few weeks after the UC system reached a similar deal with postdoctoral employees and academic researchers, who make up about 12,000 of the 48,000 union members who walked off the job and onto picket lines on November 14.

A statement from United Auto Workers Local 5810 says that this agreement will increase pay by up to 29% and give more family leave, child care subsidies, and longer appointments to ensure job security.

With their current salaries, the academic workers said they couldn’t afford to live in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Berkeley, where housing costs are going up.

Tim Cain, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Georgia, said that the strike was important because of its size and because of what it could mean for other universities. If the contracts are approved by the graduate workers and researchers, it could lead to similar changes at colleges that compete with UC or where graduate workers are trying to form unions.

Long-term changes at American universities have made it more common for graduate students to teach classes and do other tasks that used to be done by tenured faculty. This has led to a rise in union organizing across the country.

“There’s a fundamental shift in who’s doing the academic work in higher education,” Cain said. He also said that graduate students’ wages haven’t kept up with inflation and that many are finding it harder and harder to get full-time faculty jobs.

The strike happened at a time when there was more labor action across the country, not just in higher education but also among workers at Starbucks, Amazon, and other places. There was also a groundswell of graduate student workers at other universities trying to join a union.

This year, graduate student workers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clark University, Fordham University, New Mexico State University, Washington State University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute all voted for unionization.

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