After forty days of striking, graduate workers at the University of California system agreed to end their labor strike. The strike led to situations, such as undergraduate students not having teaching assistants to help them to prepare for final exams and professors picked up the slack on grading and classroom instruction.
NPR reported that the workers agreed to end the strike on December 23.
The new contract, which raises pay for the lowest-earning workers by 80%, covers 36,000 of the 48,000 workers and will last through May 31, 2025. It stipulated that by the end of 2024, minimum pay for teaching assistants will go up to a minimum of $36,000 and graduate student researchers will earn at least $40,000. They also receive $2,000 in childcare subsidies per semester.
The university administration’s statement read, “Today’s ratification demonstrates yet again the University’s strong commitment to providing every one of our hardworking employees with competitive compensation and benefit packages that honor their many contributions to our institution, to our community, and to the state of California.”
The workers are represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW), which is unusual since UAW historically represented blue-collar workers. But, as labor union membership plummets, unions have gone into academia to find more dues-paying members. UAW 2865 president Rafael Jaime said, “The dramatic improvements to our salaries and working conditions are the result of tens of thousands of workers striking together in unity.”
Accuracy in Academia previously reported that about 12,000 of the 48,000 initial striking workers had already returned to work after reaching a separate agreement with the university administration. For those 12,000 workers, the university agreed to a 29% pay raise for postdoctoral employees and academic researchers, more job security, family leave time, and child care subsidies.
On average, graduate students earn around $24,000 a year as teaching assistants or other part-time work on campus.
These graduate student workers demanded a minimum salary of $43,000 for part-time work, which is unheard of in higher education and in the real world. The university said it already offered to raise salaries from $47,000 to $75,000 by 2024, which would cover tuition and fees. Neither side admits that by increasing workers’ wages, it would mean an increase in tuition and fees for the undergraduate students.