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‘It is affecting our education’: UC Davis students worry about ongoing strike

Nearly 50,000 academic workers in the University of California system are on strike this week, including at UC Davis.

DAVIS, Calif. — Nearly 50,000 University of California academic workers are still on strike. Spanning five days now, it's one of the largest work stoppages at an academic institution ever.

The strike is affecting 11 UC campuses, including UC Davis.

“I feel like it is for a good cause,” said freshman Riya Klair, of Gilroy.

Some students agree with what is going on but wish it was different.

“I support them. I support their actions. And I feel like they should be compensated for the work that they do,” said Klair. “But, I mean, it is affecting our education as a whole. Like, we can't get help as much anymore. It's difficult to reach out to professors because they're trying to handle everything. Like, for example, my bio lab: my professor had to teach instead of TAs, so they have to fill in those slots.”

She hopes for a resolution to this strike — and soon.

“I wish they get what they're asking for,” said Klaire. “And I feel like things should go back to normal as soon as possible.”

UC Davis teaching assistant and graduate student researcher Emily Weintraut agrees.

“I would absolutely love for it to be resolved next week,” she said.

She was one of hundreds of striking higher education workers — and those standing in solidarity — who gathered on Hutchison Intramural Field Friday afternoon, sending a message to the administration.

“We're just trying to get something that matches the cost of living for wages so that people aren't rent burdened, people aren't living in their cars, people can afford housing,” said Weintraut. “I mean, this is a public institution, it's supposed to be for the people by the people, but it's putting their people in worse conditions than they were when they started.”

While people are making the most of this strike — with those on strike banding together to provide food and line up entertainment — they’d rather be back on the job.

“I'm feeling empowered,” said Diana Sernas, UC Davis teaching assistant and graduate student researcher.

She’s also on the bargaining team for UAW 2865. She said she has seen progress this week but adds it only came after her union authorized a strike, following months of fruitless bargaining.

“Seeing the strikes come to life behind me and across the campuses, across 11 campuses. That is truly historic,” said Sernas. “That speaks to the power of the people.”

She said improving working conditions and pay for higher education workers is a matter of equity. It’s hard to live off their current pay without financial support from, say, family, Serna said — and many don’t have that privilege, opting to pursue their academic goals over having a decent standard of living.

“And for folks like me, who don't come from generational wealth, I am first generation… I identify as a Chicana. We know what it means to fight for what we deserve, fight for a better future,” said Sernas.

The University of California did not have someone to interview Friday, but a spokesperson did email a statement.

It says, in part:

"The University of California continues to negotiate in good faith as we do everything possible to mitigate the impacts of any strike on student learning and our research enterprise. Negotiations continued today and over the course of the week and holiday weekend. The current University proposal would set the standard for graduate academic employee support among public research universities. It is important to note that our graduate student employees work strictly on a part-time basis while earning their graduate or doctoral degree and that compensation is just one of the many ways in which they are supported as students during their time with the University.”

There’s not an end date in immediate sight.

Here’s how we got here:

Student workers at UC Santa Cruz went on a wildcat strike back in 2019 and 2020. That means they struck without the support of their union.. According the LA Times. The union is the UAW - the United Auto Workers union. The 48,000 workers on strike are represented by the UAW 2865, UAW 5810 and Student Researchers United UAW.

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