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As contract bargaining with the University of California (UC) continues, three unions representing 48,000 academic workers rallied across UC campuses in an intended show of collective power. Union representatives initially hoped for a joint bargaining table, but UC rejected their proposal. “The lines between academic worker titles are blurred, with many of us switching between roles,” said Robert McLaughlin, a PhD student at UCSB. “We all keep UC functioning and face similar struggles like rent burden and toxic workplaces.” 

UC Santa Barbara’s rally took place outside of Cheadle Hall on April 26, where about 50 people gathered in support of the unions UAW 2865, SRU-UAW, and UAW 5810. Speakers articulated proposals and decried UC’s perceived intransigence. “[UC] attempts to divide and ignore us because they know we’re strongest together,” charged Evan Plunkett, a postdoctoral researcher. “Unity and purpose are how … we will win equity in the workplace and affordable housing in the communities where we work.”

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Undergraduate Fellow Alyssa Jain emphasized that the impact UC policies was wide-ranging. “Unfair wages and housing options … disproportionately affect people of color and marginalized communities. They also contribute to climate change by forcing workers to live farther away and commute greater distances.” 

Graduate Teaching Assistant Tannishtha Bhattacharjee took aim at UC’s proposal that principal investigators alone should define “appropriate work hours” for a “task,” calling it an “an abominable proposal in terms of labor rights.” Afterward, union members went inside Cheadle Hall, where they taped messages over the door of the Office of the Chancellor.

The UC Office of the President has maintained that the university system is “committed to ensuring that [academic workers] are compensated fairly.” Nevertheless, union representatives contended that UC’s proposals have not gone far enough. “UC’s offer to increase wages by 4 percent for one year and 3 percent for each subsequent year does not match the rising costs of living,” said McLaughlin. “They’ve also refused to accept concrete timelines for harassment reporting procedures, among other things.” Bargaining for all three UAW branches will continue into May.

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