UC strike
Picketing academic workers at UC San Diego in November. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The unions representing striking UC San Diego and other University of California graduate student workers and researchers on Friday announced final agreement on new contracts, ending a 40-day walkout.

Voting by the groups, members of the United Auto Workers, began earlier this week, after a tentative agreement was announced last Friday.

Results were announced Friday night. The vote for UAW 2865 was 11,386 to 7,097, while the vote for Student Researchers United-UAW was 10,057 to 4,640, the unions said.

The new contracts go into effect immediately and will be in place through May 31, 2025.

“The agreements make historic gains in compensation, childcare subsidies and paid leaves, and include groundbreaking new protections against bullying and discrimination,” the unions said in a statement.

“The dramatic improvements to our salaries and working conditions are the result of tens of thousands of workers striking together in unity,” said Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 2865.

“These agreements redefine what is possible in terms of how universities support their workers, who are the backbone of their research and education enterprise,” he said, adding that both parents and marginalized workers will enjoy improvements that in the end boost “the quality of life for every single academic employee at the University of California.”

Added Tarini Hardikar, a member of the SRU-UAW Bargaining Team at UC Berkeley: “For the first time ever, student researchers now have legal contractual protections at UC.” They include support for victims of harassment and discrimination.

“It will help ensure that UC can support a diverse workforce, which will improve the quality of research and teaching across the system,” Hardikar said.

About 48,000 workers, including 17,000 student researchers, at UCSD, UCLA, UC Irvine, the seven other UC campuses and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory went on strike in mid-November, seeking higher salaries and greater annual raises, free public transit passes, improved child care benefits and greater job security.

A UC statement Friday night said the university “welcomes the ratification of these agreements with our valued graduate student employees.”

“The university believed that the assistance of a third-party mediator would help the parties reach agreement, which is why we are so grateful that the union accepted our invitation to mediation and partnered with us in selecting Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to serve as the mediator,” said Letitia Silas, executive director of UC’s systemwide labor relations.

“As a result of this collaboration, the parties were ultimately able to reach tentative agreements on the contracts as a whole in just a few days following months of negotiations.”

The strike was the nation’s largest since 2019, the largest at any academic institution, and first by postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers, according to the union.

Terms of the 2 1/2-year contracts guarantee that wages will rise significantly for all workers – including up to 80% for some of the lowest paid.

“Other improvements in childcare and dependent coverage mean that more parents will be able to provide health care for their children,” the unions said.

“This is a tremendous victory for not only the members of UAW Local 2865 and SRU-UAW but for all academic workers,” added UAW President Ray Curry. “The entire UAW family celebrates this victory with them.”

According to the UC, the deal would set minimum pay for graduate student researchers at $34,564.50 for half-time work by Oct. 1, 2024. The minimum nine-month salary for teaching assistants would be $34,000 for half- time work by Oct. 1, 2024, although the rate will be $36,500 at UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco and UCLA.

Postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers each overwhelmingly ratified new contracts in voting that concluded Dec. 9.

The groups reached tentative deals with the university Nov. 29 but continued striking in solidarity with other workers as other negotiations continued.

– City News Service

Updated 7:50 p.m. Dec. 23, 2022