Union academic workers and supporters march and picket at the UCLA campus amid a statewide strike by nearly 48,000 University of California unionized workers in Los Angeles on Nov. 15, 2022. The strikers are calling for improved wages and benefits at the 10 UC public university campuses across the state. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UC Leaders Say Union’s Demands Could Have ‘Overwhelming’ Fiscal Impacts
University of California (UC) leaders said the demands of the 48,000 researchers and student employees who launched a strike across all 10 UC campuses earlier this week could cost the university up to several hundred million dollars per year.
United Auto Workers had been in negotiations with UC leaders for months over four academic units: postdoctoral scholars, academic researchers, graduate student researchers, and academic student employees—including teaching assistants, readers, and tutors, according to UC President’s Office spokesperson in a previous interview.
The union’s goal is to more than double these academic employees’ base salary from $24,000 to $54,000 a year—with an annual salary of $70,000 for postdoctoral students—in light of the increased cost of living and housing in California.Researchers and student employees protest at the University of California–San Diego’s Geisel Library in San Diego, Calif., on Nov. 14, 2022. (Courtesy of Philip Zhu)
Additionally, the union is demanding the UC system waive out-of-state tuition fees for non-resident students, and an increase in health benefits and family leave.
UC Provost Michael Brown said housing costs are a “significant challenge” to California students and that the university would “work diligently” to support students in a Nov. 14 letter to UC leaders and stakeholders.
However, Brown said that two of the group’s demands—tying compensation to housing costs and waiving non-resident tuition for out-of-state and international students—could have “overwhelming financial impacts” on the UC system.Union academic workers and supporters march and picket at the UCLA campus amid a statewide strike by nearly 48,000 University of California unionized workers in Los Angeles on Nov. 15, 2022. The strikers are calling for improved wages and benefits at the 10 UC public university campuses across the state. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Because the UC is a state-funded institution, the tuition for state residents is partially subsidized by taxpayers, and that funding does not exist for non-residents, according to Brown.
If non-residents are allowed to pay resident tuition, it would be unfair, Brown said, as non-resident student employees would receive a larger compensation package than resident student employees for doing the same work.
The two sides have already agreed upon stronger protections against workplace misconduct and abuse. Going forward, the UC is requesting a neutral third party to facilitate further negotiations.
The UC is currently offering a 7 percent salary scale increase for the first year and 3 percent in each subsequent year for teaching assistants and tutors, as well as 8 percent increases for postdoctoral scholars for the first year, 5 percent in the second year, and 3 percent in following years.
It is also proposing child-care subsidies and increased paid pregnancy and family leave of varying levels for different positions.Researchers and student employees protest at the University of California–Irvine in Irvine, Calif., on Nov. 15, 2022. (Courtesy of Alice Sun)
Union leaders called the strike the largest one by academic workers in U.S. history.
The strike has the potential to leave some university classes without instructors, and professors without teaching assistants to grade assignments. It could also halt a significant portion of the research that occurs across UC campuses.