University of California workers win union contract
By Sheri Williams
Academic workers with the United Auto Workers at the University of California won a new labor agreement recently, after the longest strike in academic history.
The deal, reached after 40 days of striking, will increase wages for more than 36,000 graduate student workers and 12,000 other academic employees across the 10-campus system. Those union members work across a variety of roles including tutors, researchers and teaching assistants.
Under the new contract, the lowest paid workers—some making little more than $20,000 a year—will receive raises of more than 50 percent over the next two and a half years to bring their pay up to $34,000 by October 2024.
Some workers will receive raises of more than 60 percent.
Workers at campuses with high housing costs, including in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, would receive greater cost of living raises, and all workers will also see better childcare and health benefits.
“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. I am so proud of what we were able to accomplish with this contract,” said Tarini Hardikar, a member of the SRU-UAW Bargaining Team at UC Berkeley, in a statement.
The new contracts cover union members with UAW 2865 and SRU-UAW. Both locals voted in December to ratify the contracts, and will return to work after the winter break.
“The dramatic improvements to our salaries and working conditions are the result of tens of thousands of workers striking together in unity,” Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 2865, said in a statement. “These agreements redefine what is possible in terms of how universities support their workers, who are the backbone of their research and education enterprise.”
Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg served as a mediator between the strikers and UC negotiators after they failed to reach a deal.
“Together, they reached a principled solution to end the difficult impasse. Even more important, leadership and members together with the University deserve enormous credit for what they did to transform graduate education in the world’s most dynamic university system,” Steinberg said in a statement. “The union fought hard to ensure that the university’s graduate students make a living wage at every campus community. They and the University achieved a new national standard for members.”
The strike is being credited with sparking unionizing movements at other universities.