Thousands of University of California workers strike for higher pay

“If you go back in labor history, the economy in times like today was often a time of massive strikes,” Dr Voos said. “It’s the peak of the business cycle, low unemployment, high inflation, businesses are worried about the next downturn, layoffs are starting, we’re not in a recession yet. But we are worried about it and companies are cutting back and saying no. »

Three years ago, a ‘wildcat’ strike at the University of California, Santa Cruz – carried out without the support of the union that represents workers across the state – ended in the firing of more than 70 graduate students who had refused to hand in the fall notes while part of the labor action. Most were eventually reinstated. This year, by contrast, unionized graduate students and adjunct professors negotiated contracts at Columbia University and New York University.

Dr Voos warned, however, that the oversupply of graduate students, particularly in the humanities, also puts universities in a strong position in collective bargaining. “Students are vulnerable because they need recommendations from professors, they are afraid for their future, the university job market is not very good at the moment,” she said.

University of California workers, many of whom have been bargaining with the UC system for more than a year, are demanding their wages more than double in some cases, including to meet the cost of housing. UC campuses are found in some of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, not only in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, but also in coastal enclaves such as Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Irvine. Even subsidized campus housing costs in some areas are significantly higher than market rents in much of the country.

On-campus housing has long been a political concern, vexing state lawmakers and inciting legal battles in town. In a union survey, 92% of graduate student workers said housing consumed more than a third of their income. For 40% of them, it was more than half.

Mr Jaime, 33, who teaches an introductory Shakespeare course at UCLA, said he could not afford an apartment in the Westwood neighborhood surrounding the campus. Instead, he lives in downtown Los Angeles, more than 15 miles away, splitting the rent with two roommates. Even so, he said, the $1,600 he pays for rent each month eats up half his salary, not including the costs of commuting to campus by bicycle, light rail and train. bus.

Workers are also demanding more reimbursement for public transit, additional subsidies for child care, expanded health care for dependents and other benefits.

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