University students call on administration to meet economic demands
UC Davis workers began striking Monday, Nov. 14, calling for an end to UC’s “unlawful behavior,” which they say is preventing agreements on fair contracts. These include living wages to meet the “rent burden, increased childcare subsidies for university parents, sustainable public transport benefits and increased fees for international scholars”. , according to a statement provided by the organizers.
Elected bargaining teams made up of university student workers, postdocs, university researchers and student researchers called the strike after 36,558 university workers voted to strike by a 98% margin.
Represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW), this strike will be the largest strike by university workers in the nation’s history and its first-ever strike by postdoctoral and academic researchers.
In a collective effort to “shut down the University”, at 10 a.m. about 1,000 picketers lined up along Russell Boulevard in College Park and along La Rou and Hutchinson, exceeding expectations so early in the morning.
Dr. Ximena Anleu Gil, Ph.D. candidate in Plant Cell Biology and Development, said that throughout the negotiations, rather than reaching fair agreements, the University has “engaged in a wide variety of illegal tactics. UC’s unlawful conduct prevents us from entering into fair agreements that ensure fairness and decent compensation.
She said the student bargaining team negotiated in good faith to tackle the heavy rent burden faced by university workers. “UC unfortunately didn’t show us that respect,” she said.
Organizers hope the University will end the strike by addressing its unfair labor practices and bargaining in good faith. “Workers are now climbing to check the conduct of the University. Without the University changing course, we cannot win our claims,” Gil said.
“What I hope to see is, honestly, a successful strike and a great contract to come out of it. I mean, we’re going to close the university, and that will have a ripple effect across the United States. I mean, other schools realized they couldn’t just abuse their graduates,” said Emily Weintraut, a Ph.D. student at the Glen Fox Lab (Malting and Brewing Science ).
In an LA Times letter to the editor, titled “UC Defends Contract Offer in Union Negotiations to Avoid Strike,” Michael Brown, UC provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said that UC had proposed multi-year salary increases, with the first-year increase ranging from 4% to 26% depending on the bargaining unit.
Brown wrote that the University continues “to increase the amount of affordable housing on our campuses. “Our system is already offering rents 20-25% below market rates, and some students are getting even bigger discounts.”
He defended UC’s bargaining tacts, saying UC submitted proposals in good faith. He added that the UC Board of Trustees, since 2017, has allocated more than $57 million in funding to address housing needs.
The last day of the fall term is December 9, with final exams scheduled for December 5-9.
The impact this can have on undergraduate students completing their fall term is recognized. “We know that our working conditions are the learning conditions of our students. Right now, the quality of education we can provide is compromised because we are struggling to make ends meet. If UC meets our demands for fair compensation, we will be much better able to focus on our teaching. So we know that a temporary disruption to our students’ education is worth a long-term improvement in everyone’s experience at UC,” Gil said.
“Not all teaching time takes place in a classroom. Sometimes you have to defend yourself. Our students and colleagues are with us. They understand that when you’re treated unfairly, you have to speak up,” she said.
In a letter to faculty dated November 10, co-signed by Susan Cochran, chair of the academic council, and James Steintrager, vice president, questions regarding workers’ rights were directed to the administration and office of the president.
For example, the letter states that the University may “reassign duties to employees or hire temporary workers to assist faculty who are so burdened with covering striking work while the strike is in progress. However, locating and assigning staff or administrators with academic experience and disciplinary expertise to assist with the task of scoring assignments may prove impractical.
Weintraut said her teacher allowed her to talk to her class about the strike. She added, however, that in an undergraduate class she attends, someone got scolded for it. “So there’s definitely a lot of anti-union struggle on the UC side, and I have professors who are afraid of that.”
Diana Sernas, a graduate student in the Department of Integrative Genetics and Genomics, told The Enterprise that UC has more than $40 billion in its budget. At present, all university workers represent approximately 1% of the UC budget. “If they give in to all of our economic demands, we’ll be 3%, so they have the money,” she said.
Gil said when UC pays extremely low wages, it limits who can participate here. “UC should be an engine of social mobility – not a place where only people who enjoy generational wealth can afford to work.”
— Contact Monica Stark at [email protected]
On Monday morning, striking graduate students from UC Davis picket the corner of Russell Boulevard and Howard Way.
Striking UC Davis students picket Monday morning at the corner of La Rue Road and Hutchison Drive.