About 48,000 academic workers at University of California campuses walked off the job on Monday to ask for better pay and benefits in the largest strike of the year.
“We are overworked and underpaid, and we are fed up,” said Jamie Mondello, a 27-year-old psychology graduate student worker at UCLA and member of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865 and Student Researchers United, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times. “Our proposals bring everyone into a livable wage. We’re, as a whole, just asking to be treated with dignity. We really keep the UC running.”
Those who joined the strike include those who perform much of the teaching and research at the institution. Among the things they are asking is a $54,000 minimum pay for student researchers. This would amount to more than double the workers’ average current pay of about $24,000 annually, according to the Los Angeles Times.
“In order to eliminate average rent burden of SRs across the UC system, the University shall increase the 50% FTE SR base pay rate to at least $4,507 per month ($54,084 annually),” according to UAW Local 2865.
However, UC has proposed 6%, 3%, 3%, 3% wage increases over the next 4 years. “In a year of 8.5% inflation, this amounts to an effective wage cut, exacerbating SRs’ rent burden,” according to the union.
The university has also offered a 7% increase in the first year and 3% increases for the next three for academic student employees, but the union felts it’s not enough.
But the university’s current proposal “would set the standard for graduate academic employee support among public research universities,” said Ryan King, a UC spokesperson, in a statement Monday afternoon, according to the report.
He also noted that graduate students work part-time while pursuing their degree and that their pay is “just one of the many ways in which they are supported as students.” The workers are also demanding child-care subsidies, enhanced healthcare for dependents, longer family leave, public transit passes and lower tuition costs for international scholars.