SAN DIEGO — University of California campuses across the state are dealing with the nation's largest academic worker strike that has shut down classes, labs, and research.
Nearly 48,000 graduate students are on strike Monday, including about 2,000 at UC San Diego.
UAW is taking part in the strike. The union represents teaching assistants, grad student researchers, and tutors.
Grad students are demanding higher pay to allow them to keep up with California's rising housing costs.
"As we all know, there's a housing crisis in California, and we are not immune to that," said Muhammad Yousuf, a member of UAW 265.
Yousef said many grad students aren't being paid a livable wage.
"I, as a TA, am making around $23,000 a year before taxes, and my rent, for example, is $1,500 a month, so close to 80% of my salary is going towards rent," Yousuf said.
Grad students are demanding their pay be bumped to $54,000 a year. Other demands include childcare subsidies and lower tuition costs for international scholars.
"Without the university changing course, we can't win our demands, so we're doing what we feel needs to be done," said Zach Goldberg, a Ph.D. student at UCSD.
Goldberg said grad students are relied on for most of the research and teaching on UC campuses.
"Now it's time to show the UC what our labor does for them and this university to force them to meet our demands, hopefully," Goldberg said.
CBS 8 received a statement from the UC System Associate Director of Media Relations at the UC Office of the President.
"The University of California is currently in contract negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW) regarding four separate academic bargaining units: Postdoctoral Scholars, Academic Researchers, Academic Student Employees (teaching assistants/readers/tutors), and Graduate Student Researchers.
Our primary goal in these negotiations is achieving multiyear agreements that recognize these employees' essential and highly valued contributions to the University's teaching and research mission with fair pay, quality health and family-friendly benefits, and a supportive and respectful work environment."
The University has provided adequate responses to UAW on priority issues of concern to all four bargaining units, including fair pay, a respectful work environment, and housing.
"We have listened carefully to UAW priorities with an open mind and a genuine willingness to compromise. As a result, negotiations are progressing, and many tentative agreements have been reached on key issues such as a respectful work environment and health and safety matters. We are committed to negotiating in good faith and reaching full agreements as soon as possible," the University released.
Some instructors are canceling classes to show support for the students striking. However, campuses are scheduled to remain open.
The unions plan to continue striking until their demands are met.
Strikes are planned at all 10 UC campuses.
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