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What You Need to Know about the UC Academic Worker Strike

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

Starting on Monday, November 14, approximately 48,000 unionized academic workers from all 10 University of California campuses began the nation’s largest strike of the year. These academic workers include postdoctoral students, graduate teaching assistants, and student researchers. According to the labor union UC Academic Workers 2865, the Strike Authorization Votes were cast from October 26th to November 2nd, with 36,558 votes cast, 98% voted Yes to go forward with the strike.

The UAW Student Worker Union is fighting for a UC system in which workers are able to earn enough money without having to take on multiple jobs in order to afford their housing, education, and other essential necessities. A recent study conducted by UWA found that 92% of Graduate Workers and 61% of Postdoctoral students are rent-burdened, with 40% of Graduate Workers report spending over half of their income on housing. The UWA Bargaining Highlights includes bargaining from higher compensation to greater support and resources for international scholars and ARs with disabilities. The bargaining has been happening since spring of 2021, but the UC’s have taken what the UAW describes as “unlawful actions,” such as refusing to provide relevant information regarding bargaining topics, as well as bypassing the bargaining process and announcing changes outside of bargaining. 

In response, The University of California released a statement to the current strike, saying their treatment is “generous, responsive to union priorities, and recognizes the many valuable contributions of these employees.” On November 14, UC’s Office of President further reinforced the UC’s idea of fairness on ABC10 News: “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.” Clearly, the UC’s idea of fairness is skewed, since they’ve shown their inability to value the essential work that academic workers do. It should be concerning that academic workers are not able to live near their college campus without having to neglect their own health and well-being. If academic workers cannot afford to continue with their education and do not have the needed resources to show up on-campus to work, then it is hard to imagine how the administration is showing fair treatment towards a group of people who are essential in shaping our campus.

In response to this treatment, the unionized academic workers have gone on strike and will continue until there is an agreement met. What this means is that academic workers who choose to participate will stop doing work related to teaching and researching, and that they instead might be in the picket line. UAW states that through academic workers withholding their labor, the UC’s will be forced to correct their “unlawful behavior or cease to function.” This strike is predicted to last until finals week, which means that there might be a delay in grading and change in class schedules for the rest of the quarter/semester. This could also mean that professors might relocate their class to the picket line to show their support. Regardless of whether professors/teaching assistants choose to go on strike, it is important for undergraduate students to show their support in any way possible. This ranges from joining the picket line if you can, or spreading the word to other students who might be interested in joining and showing solidarity. It is essential to show your support in any way possible!

Most importantly, it’s vital that undergraduate students show patience and support for academic workers, specifically teaching assistants in their class, since this disruption is a response to UC’s devaluing their workers’ hard and necessary work that keeps the campus going. Undergraduate students are also harmed and disrespected by the administration when their education is affected by the administration’s lack of support for current graduate students. Graduate students assisting and/or leading a class often make the biggest difference in undergraduate students’ success and understanding in a class, so why are they not being valued by the administration? They are a crucial part of our learning community and the university cannot function without them. Not only are they expanding fields important in shaping a better future for everyone, but they are becoming the future innovators of this world. They also shape our experiences as undergraduate students, as they are our mentors and instructors who provide us with the support we need to succeed. 

If academic workers do not have financial stability and are seen as disposable by the administration despite holding such a pivotal position at the university, then the only appropriate response is to go out and demand for change. Without academic workers, everyone is affected at the UC’s, including undergraduate students and professors. Standing with them will place pressure on the administration to provide fair treatment to academic workers who shape our education, community, and campus life. 

Lizzie is currently a third year English and Psychology double major at University of California, Davis. Her interests include reading and writing romance novels, obsessing over period pieces (mostly Jane Austen), and trying to find all the easter eggs in Taylor Swift's music videos. After graduation, Lizzie is interested in pursuing her MA in Journalism.