Thousands of academic workers across all 10 campuses of the University of California — including UC Santa Barbara — will go on strike starting Monday, November 14, “unless the university stops its unlawful conduct so that meaningful progress can be made at the bargaining table,” according to a statement released Friday by the academic workers’ union.
Represented by three different affiliates of the United Auto Workers union, the academic workers are demanding living wages and childcare subsidies and have accused the UCs of breaking labor laws and bargaining in bad faith.
“After months at the bargaining table and 26 Unfair Labor Practices filed, we have no choice but to move toward a strike,” said Jade Moore, a postdoc and bargaining team member.
On Wednesday, more than 36,500 of the UC’s 48,000 unionized postdoctoral researchers, professional and student researchers, teaching assistants, tutors, and readers voted to authorize a strike. The workers perform the majority of teaching, grading, and research at the UC campuses.
Late Thursday night, the bargaining teams decided to set a date for a strike.
“Too many people are being forced out of UC because they aren’t paid enough to afford the rising cost of housing, on or off campus,” said Mai Do, a bargaining team member of UAW 2865. “I’ve had to take on credit card debt while working at UC just to cover my necessities, because over 60 percent of my salary is spent on rent alone. When workers like me are being paid $27,000 a year, we cannot just wait around for the University to change course and stop their unlawful conduct. We have no choice but to move toward a strike.”
There are 3,100 UAW-represented workers at UCSB, according to a union rep. Of the 26 Unfair Labor Practice charges filed against the UC, one includes a charge filed on behalf of members of UCSB’s Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Department, accusing the university of “unilaterally changing compensation, direct dealing, [and] failing to bargain lawfully.” The university has denied the charge.
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“Our hope is that the University remedies its unfair labor practices so that we can reach fair agreements before November 14,” said Ahmed Akhtar, a bargaining team member of Student Researchers United-UAW. “We will do everything in our power to make that happen. But there are over 35,000 workers who voted in favor of strike authorization and are prepared to strike if necessary in order to hold UC accountable, and ultimately move us forward as a stronger institution.”
Reached for comment on the pending strike, a media rep with the UC’s Office of the President said, in a written response, that should a strike occur: “[O]ur locations will be prepared to ensure continuity of instruction and research in the event of a UAW strike. Ultimately, differences must be resolved at the bargaining table, with both sides being flexible and willing to compromise. The University believes its proposals have been fair, reasonable, and responsive to the union’s priorities, and looks forward to continuing negotiations with the UAW and settling these contracts as quickly as possible.”
As to the alleged unlawful behavior, the UC stated: “[T]he union’s allegations are not true. Throughout the negotiations, UC has listened carefully to the union’s concerns and bargained in good faith, as illustrated by the many tentative agreements reached thus far including on topics underlying the UAW’s allegations. Despite these unfounded claims, UC remains committed to continuing its good faith efforts to reach agreements with UAW as quickly as possible.”
They also claimed, “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 University has listened carefully to UAW priorities with an open mind and a genuine willingness to compromise. Negotiations are progressing, and many tentative agreements have been reached on key issues such as a respectful work environment and health and safety matters. We are committed to continuing to negotiate in good faith and reaching full agreements as soon as possible.”
The UC also provided a fact sheet with information about UC-UAW negotiations and the potential UAW strike.