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Why are UC workers going on strike? Thousands of academic staff to cease work weeks before final exams

At UCLA and nine other UC campuses throughout the state, over 48,000 union employees are anticipated to cease work after fruitless negotiations
Demonstrators are preparing to stage a protest at UC campuses (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Demonstrators are preparing to stage a protest at UC campuses (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA: Starting on Monday, November 14, thousands of academic staff members at University of California campuses could go on strike, potentially causing significant inconvenience for students. According to ABC7, at UCLA, and nine other UC campuses throughout the state, over 48,000 union employees are anticipated to strike. After months of fruitless negotiations with UC authorities, the academic staff has decided to strike just weeks ahead of final exams in December.

The United Auto Workers unions which represent nearly 48,000 postdocs, teacher’s assistants, academic student employees, and student researchers across four bargaining units, called for a strike vote last month alleging unfair labor practices. The key reason behind the strike is said to be compensation. Some workers, many of whom are graduate students, claim that rent costs more than half of their monthly salary. One such graduate student researcher, Desmond Fonseca, told ABC7, "Our primary demand is to get living wages, to have living situations that match the cost of living, that match the vital work that we do to not only sustain the university but make the University of California the prestigious institution that it is.” 


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Union officials have described the strike as the largest ever by academic workers in the US. "UC has left us no choice but to escalate our campaigns," said Neal Sweeney, president of UAW 5810, which represents more than 11,000 postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers.

In advance of the strike, students claimed that some of their classes have already been canceled. According to ABC7, in a statement regarding the negotiations, the University of California stated, in part, "Our primary goal in these negotiations is achieving multiyear agreements that recognize these employees' important and highly valued contributions to the University's teaching and research mission with fair pay, quality health and family-friendly benefits, and a supportive and respectful work environment."

"The University has provided fair responses to UAW on priority issues of concern to all four bargaining units, including in areas of fair pay, a respectful work environment, and housing,” the statement added. 

Earlier this month, according to San Francisco Chronicle, in a social media post, the UC Student-Workers Union said 98% of its workers voted to go on strike in mid-November. The University of California has been also accused by the United Auto Workers of engaging in unfair practices, including failing to respond to information requests, attempting to evade the established bargaining process, and tearing down union signs in the lead-up to the strike vote, according to a number of complaints made to the California Public Employment Relations Board.

A poll, which was conducted earlier this month saw 97% of the 36,558 votes cast in support of approving the right to strike. The vote, according to the union, was the biggest of its kind among academic employees nationwide.