Student academic workers union to strike across UC on Wednesday and Thursday

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Student academic workers across the UC campuses will go on strike Wednesday and Thursday to protest alleged acts of unfair labor practices by UC administrators.

United Auto Workers Local 2865, the UC student workers union that represents approximately 12,000 student employees, has been in negotiation with the university since July regarding issues such as class sizes, wages, undocumented graduate student compensation and family benefits. Student workers, however, have expressed their frustration with how these problems have been handled, citing a “pattern of the intimidation of workers,” according to a statement released by the union Thursday.

“The strike is exclusively about intimidation practices,” said Robert Cavooris, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student and a union representative. “It is not about the bargaining.”

Examples of the alleged unlawful and intimidation acts over the course of the academic year include UCLA administrators warning to take away work visas for graduate student protesters and a UC Santa Cruz dean threatening to fire future strikers, according to the statement.

The union has taken action with some of these incidents, filing charges with the California Public Employment Relations Board in the fall. Since then, PERB has issued a formal complaint, stating that there was sufficient evidence to further investigate whether the university has committed an unfair labor practice, according to Amanda Armstrong, UC Berkeley graduate student and union recording secretary for the UC Berkeley division.

On Wednesday, student workers will strike over unfair labor practices on specific campuses, and on Thursday, they will strike over such complaints against the entire university.

“I hope that (the UC administration) takes seriously the broad sentiment against intimidation,” Armstrong said. “It is something that resonates with a much longer history of bullying, intimidation and violence.”

The UC Office of the President, however, said it has been both responsive and cooperative in addressing these issues.

“We are disappointed that the union is participating in this strike as we are negotiating with them,” said Shelly Meron, a UC spokesperson. “It hurts other students and their ability to get their education, which is both unfortunate and unnecessary.”

Meron said the university does not have an estimate for how much the strike will cost the university.

Although Armstrong is unsure about how many total graduate students will participate in the protest on the UC Berkeley campus, she is confident that there will be widespread support from both graduate students and some campus community members. The UC Berkeley Faculty Association and the Council of UC Faculty Association both issued statements in support of the union.

“This strike comes at a critical moment for UC, and the terms of the next three year contract may well determine whether UC remains a competitive institution both at the level of its PhD programs and for the undergraduate learning experience for which graduate students are extensively responsible,” said Colleen Lye, a campus associate professor of English, in an email.

Last week, the university reached a contract agreement with another union, which represents UC patient care workers, after nearly two years of bargaining. The union had also called an unfair-labor-practices strike, which was called off upon the parties reaching a tentative agreement.

Contact Becca Benham at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @beccabenhamdc.

Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article incorrectly identified the California Public Employment Relations Board as the Public Employees Relation Board.