UC graduate student worker union to hold vote on official statewide strike

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The bargaining team of United Auto Workers, or UAW, Local 2865 voted unanimously for a unionwide unfair labor practice, or ULP, strike authorization vote to take place early April.

According to UAW Local 2865, the union that represents UC graduate student instructors, teaching assistants, readers and tutors, in a press release, the vote will be decided by the entire union and will conclude whether or not UAW Local 2865 will hold a ULP strike. Gerard Ramm, UAW Local 2865’s UC Berkeley unit chair, said the choice of having the vote in early April allows time to engage with as many undergraduate and graduate student workers as possible.

“The main goal now is to engage students to support by talking to workers and making sure they know their rights,” Ramm said. “We want to get the university to come to the bargaining table.” 

According to the UAW Local 2865 press release, the vote is in response to an allegation that the UC system has executed unfair labor practices, including UC President Janet Napolitano’s earlier offer to meet with the UC Graduate and Professional Council. The unfair labor practice charges include bargaining directly with student workers and providing insufficient wages.

The UC Office of the President, or UCOP, was contacted for comment on this vote but did not respond as of press time.

According to UAW Local 2865’s website, graduate student workers on UC campuses are considered rent-burdened with yearly salaries averaged at $21,000.

UAW Local 2865 and other students are fighting for a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, from the university, according to the press release. UCOP spokesperson Andrew Gordon previously told The Daily Californian that the UC administration considers the current contract with UAW Local 2865 to include “fair pay” and “excellent benefits.”

“UC should sit down and bargain with the union for a COLA rather than terminating and denying future employment to our members who are fighting for fair wages for all academic student employees to meet the high cost of housing,” said Kavitha Iyengar, UAW Local 2865 president, in a UAW Local 2865 press release from March 2.

According to a statement from Pay Us More UCB, a student group organizing on campus in support of a COLA, there were about 250 people in the room when the resolution for a unionwide ULP vote passed.

According to the UAW Local 2865 press release, if the vote passes in April, the sanctioned strike’s effect would be statewide. Ramm added that the vote will be a “signal” to the majority of workers to prepare to “take action and demand the university take action.”

“Enough is enough,” Iyengar said in the press release. “We are united and we are moving forward.”

Contact Dina Katgara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dinakatgara.