On Friday, academic workers at the University of California ratified contracts that will offer wage hikes of up to 80 percent, which ended the largest education strike in the history of the United States.
The United Auto Workers, representing the striking workers, announced just before the holiday weekend that its members had ratified agreements covering approximately 36,000 employees over two and a half years. The contracts covered graduate student researchers and student employees in academic support roles such as teachers’ assistants, tutors, and graders.
After negotiations came to a stalemate, those workers and 12,000 others went on strike on November 14, which caused disruptions in the classroom during the final months of the autumn term. The employees claimed that they required a higher salary than what was being offered by the institution to be able to afford to live in some of the most expensive cities in the country. Through a voting process that ended on Friday, union members ratified an agreement that had been struck between university authorities and union representatives the previous week.
Rafael Jaime, the President of UAW 2865, which is the organization that represents academic student employees, said that everyone is quite happy about it. “We were aware that this was a significant contract, and we couldn’t be happier that it was finally approved. We will begin to enforce our newly acquired rights in the agreement as soon as we return to work, and we will also continue to create strength inside our union.
The implementation of experience-based pay structures for the first time, the standardization of pay across campuses, the raising of minimum starting salaries, and the provision of additional bumps for workers in the highest-cost areas will all contribute to the range of raises that will be provided, which will range from 55% to 80%.
As a result of the agreements, the minimum starting salary for graduate student researchers would increase to approximately $35,000, and the minimum starting salary for teaching assistants will increase to $34,000 by October 2024. At the University of California campuses in Berkeley, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the minimum wage for teaching assistants will soon be raised to $36,500.
“I believe the goal of our effort has always been to make the University of California more accessible to people coming from a variety of different backgrounds,” “I believe that we have enabled the UC to offer opportunities for a great number of new workers by negotiating these new contracts,” Jaime stated.
According to the news release sent by the UAW, the deal also improves benefits for employees who have children, adds new prohibitions against bullying and discrimination, and gives fresh paid leaves. All of these provisions were included. According to the union, the vote among academic student employees was 11,386 to 7,097, while the ballot among graduate researchers was 10,057 to 4,640. Both of these results are presented in the table below.
The decisive results came after infighting among representatives at the various universities, with UAW chairs at schools like UC Merced, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Cruz launching a campaign to convince union members to vote against the contract. The results of the vote came as a result of this infighting.
The negotiation team for UAW 2865, representing 19,000 employees, including teaching assistants and tutors, voted 11-8 in favor of the plan. The proposal received the support of the bargaining team. The representatives of SRU-UAW, which consists of 17,000 graduate student researchers, voted in support of the proposition by a margin of 13 to 7.
Opponents of the contract stated that the salary increases were still insufficient to match the cost of living in the most expensive cities. They objected to the two-year ramp-up time included in the agreement. At the beginning of the strike, negotiators for the UAW offered to double some pay; however, they later scaled back their request.
Following the approval of a new labor agreement on December 9 by over 12,000 postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers, they began their return to work earlier this month. Their starting salary will increase to $70,000 due to this arrangement, making it one of the highest in the country.
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