UCSB academic workers strike | Credit: Ingrid Bostrom (file)

Following months of tug-of-war between the University of California and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union bargaining team representing the 48,000 UC academic workers on strike statewide, the rope is being handed off to a private mediator. “This joint move to mediation is designed to assist the two parties in overcoming recent negotiation gridlock,” university officials announced on Friday.

The announcement came on the day that this year’s fall term ended for many UC schools, including UC Santa Barbara. With finals coming to a close, and the holiday break and winter quarter fast approaching, the move to mediation may quicken the progress toward a resolution before most UC students are back in class for spring. 

“The University is pleased that the UAW has agreed to neutral private mediation so that we may resolve our differences and end the strike that has been impacting our students, faculty, and staff,” said Letitia Silas, UC executive director of systemwide labor relations. “We remain committed to securing a fair and reasonable contract with the union that honors the hard work of our valued graduate student employees. With the help of a neutral mediator, we hope to secure that agreement quickly.”

The UAW bargaining team was initially resistant to the university’s proposal to enter mediation for bargaining between parties. According to university representatives, the UC made “seven formal requests” to engage a private mediator before the UAW agreed on December 9. 

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“At a bargaining session on Thursday afternoon, University of California negotiators told the UAW bargaining team that they would no longer be making new proposals in bargaining, and reiterated their request for voluntary mediation to resolve outstanding issues,” union officials said. On Friday, the UAW bargaining team voted to proceed with voluntary mediation.

Both parties must agree to the chosen mediator, and the union has the opportunity to decide at any time that mediation is not working, if they do not like the mediator. 

Since spring of 2022, the university and the union have held more than 60 bargaining sessions, including nearly daily formal and informal sessions since the strike began on November 14. UC representatives called their most recent proposal “generous.” However, student workers seem to disagree.

“Throughout the bargaining process, UC’s negotiators have consistently been unprepared and unserious, and have broken the law repeatedly. We feel that in order to make progress, it is time for somebody else to step in,” said Tarini Hardikar, a Bargaining Team member from UC Berkeley. “We look forward to working with a professional mediator to resolve the issues still on the table. Until then, we remain on strike.”

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