University of California workers reach agreement to end strike

THE ANGELS — The University of California reached an agreement Friday with some 36,000 graduate student teaching assistants and other academic workers to increase wages and benefits that could end a month-long strike, the largest of its kind in the nation, in the prestigious state system.

The strike disrupted classes at all 10 campuses in the university system. The agreement still needs to be ratified before the strike officially ends.

Bargaining units said some workers could see increases of up to 66% in the next two years. The contracts would run until May 31, 2025.

“In addition to incredible pay increases, the tentative agreements also include increased benefits for working parents, increased rights for international workers, protections against bullying and harassment, accessibility improvements, workplace protections, and sustainable transportation benefits. ”Tarini Hardikar, a member of the UC Berkeley union bargaining team, said in a press release Friday.

The wage increases and increased benefits could have an impact beyond California. For several decades, colleges and universities have increasingly relied on professors and graduate students to perform teaching and research tasks previously performed by tenured professors, but without the same salary and benefits.

“These agreements will place our graduate student employees among the best supported in public higher education,” said Michael V. Drake, president of the University of California, in a press release Friday. “If approved, these contracts will honor their critical work and allow us to continue to attract the best academic talent from across California and around the world.”

UC’s 32-day strike was being closely watched across the country, in part because it is the largest strike by academic workers in higher education, said William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education. and Professions at Hunter College in New York.

The strike at UC, like the others, is “providing a guide to indicate that strikes are very forceful means to achieve objectives,” he said.

The settlement comes weeks after the UC system reached a similar agreement with postdoctoral staffers and academic researchers who make up about 12,000 of the 48,000 union members who walked off the job and joined the pickets on Nov. 14. . That agreement will increase wages by up to 29%. and provide more family leave, child care subsidies and longer appointments to ensure job security, according to a statement from United Auto Workers Local 5810.

Academic workers had argued that they couldn’t afford to live in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and Berkeley, where housing costs are skyrocketing at today’s wages.

The strike was notable for its size and scale, but also for what it could mean for other universities, said Tim Cain, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Georgia. If graduate employees and researchers ratify the contracts, it could trigger similar changes at universities that compete with UC or where graduate workers are organizing unions.

Union organizing across the country also stems from long-term changes at America’s universities, which increasingly rely on graduate students to teach classes and handle other tasks traditionally performed by tenured professors.

“There is a fundamental change in who does the academic work in higher education,” Cain said. Graduate student salaries have not held up over time, she added, and many face increasingly tough competition for full-time faculty positions.

The strike came at a time of rising labor action across the country, not just in higher education, but also among workers at Starbucks, Amazon and elsewhere, and a flurry of unionization efforts among student employees at graduate from other universities.

This year alone, graduate student employees at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clark University, Fordham University, New Mexico State University, Washington State University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute voted to unionize.


Watson reported from San Diego. Associated Press writers Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco and Collin Binkley in Washington contributed.