COLA organizers set up GoFundMe to support striking efforts

Sunny Shen/Staff

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Pay Us More UCB, a group dedicated to achieving a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, for campus graduate students, started a GoFundMe page Wednesday to raise money in support of COLA strikers.

The decision to create the strike fund was voted on at a general assembly meeting Monday. The funds, which have exceeded $7,700 as of press time, will be put toward improving event accessibility, supplies for community-building events and a “safety net” for strikers who may be facing legal fees or docked pay, according to Frankie Cunningham, a campus chemical engineering graduate student.

“The striking students are risking their graduate student lives by going on strike. The least i can do is to give them some token support,” said campus sociology professor Michael Burawoy, who donated to the fund, in an email. “But it’s more than that. Their strike is an historic event, taken at a historic moment.”

Cal COLA organizers have planned a total wildcat strike, or a strike that is not authorized by their union. Set to begin March 16, participating graduate students will go on a labor stoppage and grading strike, with money raised through the GoFundMe campaign contributing to these striking efforts.

An estimated 200 graduate students have sent campus COLA organizers commitments to participate in the upcoming strike, according to Cunningham. He added that organizers expect this number to grow as more strike-ready departments and individual students join the movement.

“We want the UC to understand that it is our labor that makes the university run, and this labor deserves to be compensated,” Cunningham said in an email. “We will not stop spreading the strike and working to disrupt the institution by withholding our labor until the University agrees to address our demands.”

Now that most campus classes have moved online due to COVID-19, colloquially known as coronavirus, the strikers need to adjust to the new class format, according to Cunningham.

Cunningham added that while COLA organizers support the decision to move to online classes, strikers will now use new tactics such as refusing to hold online classes, produce any online content or update grades, as well as hosting COLA teach-ins, among others.

Along with the upcoming strike, Cal COLA is working with other UC campuses to call for a COLA on a statewide level.

“Cal COLA has become a broad-based student movement at UC Berkeley. We have organizers who are undergraduates, graduate students, lecturers, staff, and even faculty at other institutions,” Cunningham said in the email. “This movement, which started at UC Santa Cruz, has blossomed to become a comprehensive critique of UC privatization.”

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.