DAVIS, Calif. — Nearly 48,000 University of California teaching assistants and graduate student researchers are on strike Monday in what could be the largest academic strike in the U.S.
They are demanding better pay and improved treatment at the workplace. They are also asking for free public transit for employees, more housing relief, and childcare reimbursements.
"We want cost of living adjustments,” said UC Davis Teaching Assistant and Grad Student Researcher, Emily Weintraut. “Inflation has been horrendous this past year and we just want respect. We want to be paid for the work that we do. We're just asking to be 3% of the UC's budget even though we provide most of the research labor and about half of the teaching labor. At a research university, you would think it would be a bit more than 3% of their budget and they don't even want that."
Dozens of employees like Weintraut began picketing near Russell Boulevard and Howard Way on the UC Davis campus Monday morning.
“We’re standing up for ourselves and just trying to get them to negotiate [in] good faith and try to get a good contract,” she said.
Even those without a stake in the bargaining process are participating in the strike like senior custodian Vimal Karan, who hopes the support for his department’s contract is returned when negotiations begin next year.
"UC's not paying too much,” Karan said. “They’re saying everybody is topped out, but they’re not. If you look at all the wages around the country and the state, we are under the wage limit."
UC’s Office of the President responded to the planned strikes, insisting the university is willing to compromise in negotiations.
“Our primary goal in these negotiations is achieving multiyear agreements that recognize these employees’ important and highly valued contribution,” the statement read. “The University has provided fair responses to UAW on priority issues of concern to all four bargaining units, including in areas of fair pay, a respectful work environment, and housing."
Union workers accuse the university of acting in bad faith during the months of bargaining, even alleging unfair labor practices. The university maintains the negotiations are progressing and tentative agreements have already been made.
The unions vow to continue striking until an agreement is reached.