UC Student-Workers Union occupies dean of campus Graduate Division’s office, demands higher wages

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About 40 members and supporters of the UC Student-Workers Union, or United Auto Workers Local 2865, convened in the campus Graduate Division of Sproul Hall to protest against low wages in light of ongoing contract negotiations between the union and UC administration.

During the protest, about 20 people occupied Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division Fiona Doyle’s office and read to her the union’s demands, which include greater protections for sexual assault victims and immigrant workers, police demilitarization and child care subsidies. Union members lined up against the walls, wearing matching red shirts.

The UAW Local 2865 protest took place from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m, while a student employee protest took place simultaneously on UCLA’s campus.

“We’re here to try to push the administration to recognize our demands,” said Layne Frechette, a member of the union and former campus graduate student instructor. “We’re grad students — we teach, we research, we produce a lot of the stuff that makes the university the place it is.”

The union said in a press release that peer institutions pay upward of $3,397 more per academic student employee per year. Frechette said he has personally felt the consequences of these comparatively low wages, having had to pay more than half of his income in rent as a GSI.

The union’s demands regarding immigrant protections consist of financial support for workers who have their Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival or Temporary Protected Status revoked during the time that they work as a GSI, reader or tutor at the university, according to UAW Local 2865 campus chair Maggie Downey. Downey called this “a very real possibility” for which there should be “very real protections.”

The union is also requesting that more “robust policies” be established concerning sexual violence and assault, according to Downey.

“Our goal is to reach a multiyear agreement that recognizes the significant contributions of academic student employees by providing fair pay, family-friendly benefits, a safe workplace and good working conditions,” said UC spokesperson Danielle Smith in an email.

The current contract will expire Aug. 24 after an extension beyond its original June 30 expiry date, and negotiations for the new contract are scheduled to take place Aug. 9 and 10, according to Smith.

At 4:50 p.m., the protest participants formed a circle and began chanting “Whose university? Our university!” and “No justice, no peace!” as they started to exit the building.

“I’m disappointed that we weren’t heard here today by Fiona Doyle, but I’m not surprised,” Downey said as part of her closing statement to the crowd. “But I’m really heartened by everyone being here today.”

Cade Johnson is a schools and communities reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @cadejohnson98.