Photo by Maddie McEwen (She/They)
“What do we want?!”
“When do we want it?!”
“What happens if we don’t get it?!”
“Shut it down!”
Chants such as this one have echoed across campus since Nov. 14, the first official day of the UAW strike. The turnout was amazing, with graduate students, undergraduate students, and even some faculty showing up for the largest strike in University of California and U.S. history, as around 48,000 teaching assistants, graduate researchers and resident assistants walked off their jobs. This came after a historic strike vote, in which 98% of the union voted to strike.
UAW 2865, UAW 3810, and the SRU (Student Researcher’s Union) are asking for fairer contracts that meet, at minimum, the basic needs of graduate students who are asking for wage raises that account for inflation (otherwise known as the Cost-Of-Living-Adjustment, or “COLA”). In addition, some TAs and other academic workers have not been paid for their work since the Fall 2022 quarter started, further stoking the fire between the UAW, SRU, and the UC. These groups are currently bargaining for contracts that appease all parties.
Prior to the strike, the UC proposed a contract in which graduate student workers would receive an initial 8% wage increase and a 3% increase in their raises one year after the initial increase. These rates, according to the UAW and SRU, would force workers to suffer under the pressure of ever-rising inflation that most people in the United States have been feeling in their pockets. It also would not account for the preposterous amount of money graduate students have to pay in rent in order to live reasonably close to their respective universities. At UCLA, most graduate students, and some undergraduate students alike, pay upwards of around $5,000 a month to live in Westwood, where UCLA is located. As a result, most, if not all, academic workers are rent-burdened.
Conversely, the unions are asking for the UC to give them raises that match inflation. Currently, academic workers are paid an average of about $23,000 a year, which is below the defined low-income measure from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Los Angeles. They are asking for a 14% raise as well as annual adjustments which match the cost of living, a.k.a. COLA. Additionally, they are asking for childcare benefits for those who are parents and transportation benefits such as free transit passes and subsidies for workers that commute.
The UAW and SRU have asked undergraduate students and faculty to show their solidarity by joining or not crossing the picket line, which includes not attending classes in-person or on Zoom until workers reach a fair contract with the UC. Thus far, the UC administration has not engaged in good faith with the unions.
For example, the UC has been adamant about breaking up the strike and union-busting. On Monday (Nov. 7), the UC was found guilty of 6 out of 26 labor violations by the Department of Labor. The remaining 20 are pending review as of the publication of this article. The following Friday (Nov. 11), UCLA sent out a campus-wide email asking undergraduate students to report TAs who cancelled their classes. UC Davis also joined in by asking for a list of cancelled classes and discussions. The UAW and SRU have pushed back against these messages, requesting that undergraduate students instead mislead these “rat lines” with fake classes.
Additionally, on Nov. 15, the UC backed out of negotiations with the UAW and SRU because they allegedly could not “find a space” to hold it. On Friday (Nov. 18), UC President Drake threatened to dock pay for those that participated in the strike.
Negotiations took place on Wednesday Nov. 16. The UAW and SRU came to an agreement with the UC on dues deduction. However, the UAW and SRU have yet to accept a contract with the UC, stating that the UC still hasn’t given them what they asked for in regard to cost-of-living adjustments for their wages.
Undergraduate student organizations such as the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC) and the Afrikan Student Union have released statements of solidarity and have asked their own members to support the strike by not crossing the picket line. Similarly, UCLA departments including Chican@ Studies have put forth their own statements of solidarity and stated they will not cooperate with the university if asked whether any of their TAs have participated in the strike.
At the time of publication, the strike continues. Pickets are located outside of Bunche Hall, Broad Art Center, Engineering VI, the university’s front entrance near the Gonda (Goldschmeid) Center, and near the inverted fountain. Pickets are expected to remain as the UC continues to escalate tensions between themselves and the union.
Author: Judah C (They/Them)
Artist: Maddie McEwen (She/They)
Copy Editors: Charis (She/Her), Min Kim (They/Them), Bella (She/They)