Cracks are starting to form among students and faculty members as the University of California graduate student strike enters its fourth week, which happens to fall right before final exams for students.
So far, about 12,000 postdoctoral and academic researchers have reached a tentative agreement with the university administration, which is about a quarter of the 48,000 total striking workers. The New York Times reported that these researchers were promised a 20% pay raise for most postdoctoral students within the next year and raise pay for lower-earning postdoctoral workers by 57% by 2027. Academic researchers get a 4.5% pay raise in the first year of the new contract and 3.5% in subsequent years.
As for benefits, paid family leave will go up to eight weeks, which is double the current length, receive up to $2,500 in child care subsidies and prolonged appointments for job security reasons. There will also be a discount on e-bike use and “stronger protections against abuses in the workplace.”
Despite these concessions, the 12,000 researchers will not end their strike because the other 36,000 striking workers have not yet reached an agreement with the University of California.
The ongoing strike is affecting undergraduate students and professors because there are no teaching assistants to grade papers and assignments, and neither are there any teaching assistants available to help students who have questions about class material or assignments. There are several reports about professors grading assignments and helping students one-on-one while the strike continues because final exams are right around the corner. Students have told local news outlets in California that they understand the reasons behind the strike, but they’re not receiving the help that they should.
It is important to note that the strike is ignoring the needs of students who pay tuition and the tuition is what funds the stipends of the teaching assistants assigned to their classes. Students are not getting what they are paying for and their grades are at risk for the time being.
These real-world problems did not deter over 1,000 faculty members, who called for California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, to weigh in about the strike’s negotiation standstill. The Los Angeles times reported that faculty members from all ten of the university system’s campuses signed a letter that asked Newsom to encourage the university to negotiate “in good faith” with the striking workers. The letter also demanded that Newsom and the state legislature pour more money into the university system.
One of the more prominent supporters of the strike is Angela Davis. Davis, a professor at University of California-Santa Cruz, is a radical political activist. She is a former Communist Party USA leader and Black Panther, as well as a former member of FBI’s Top Ten Most Wanted. In a recent interview, she said that she approved of graduate students unionizing because it “is a very good sign.” She praised the striking workers for taking the initiative because of “the decreasing power of the labor movement due to all of the union-busting policies of major corporations and of the government.” Davis said the strike is “what we need.”