Fired UC Santa Cruz wildcat strikers counter reinstatement offer

Ireland Wagner/Staff

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UC Santa Cruz GSIs who were fired after a continued wildcat strike for a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, were offered reinstatement Monday.

The actions at UC Santa Cruz, or UCSC, inspired strikes across the UC system, including at UC Berkeley, where a full work stoppage is still in effect. The reinstatements for the spring quarter at UCSC and the opportunity to find appointments in future quarters hinge on instructors inputting withheld grades and agreeing not to participate in future unauthorized strike action, according to a United Auto Workers, or UAW, Local 2865 press release. UAW Local 2865 represents UC tutors, readers, GSIs and TAs.

On the Pay Us More UCSC website, UCSC GSIs leveled a counteroffer to the reinstatements in a letter posted Tuesday that addresses UCSC administration. This counteroffer lists various conditions for resuming their positions, including a guarantee of full reinstatement for all of those who fired and compensation for those who cannot find spring quarter appointments.

“The agreement as it stands, which we have refused, would make all future wildcat labor action toward a COLA (or any other demand) virtually impossible for current graduate students at UCSC, and sets a very dangerous precedent for killing the COLA movement on other campuses,” said UCSC graduate students Kiley McLaughlin and Ghoncheh Azadeh in a joint statement.

McLaughlin is one of the fired wildcat strikers,  and the statement said fired strikers will likely not be returning as instructors this quarter, given they believe the UCSC administration will not accept the terms of the counter-offer.

McLaughlin and Azadeh also noted the impact of COVID-19, colloquially known as the coronavirus, on graduate student workers and striking efforts, saying the pandemic has “dampened morale,” and strikers are rethinking their strategy in the context of the transition to online learning. They added that the pandemic has only enhanced the “urgency of our demands for a living wage.”

UCSC spokesperson Scott Hernandez‑Jason said in an email that the campus has “no plans” to reinstate instructors still withholding fall quarter grades but added that UCSC has allocated financial support measures and offered two temporary housing assistance programs to support GSIs.

“We are committed to working with our students and the community on a sustainable housing solution to resolve the issues underlying this strike,” Hernandez-Jason said in the email.

Maria Young contributed to this article.

Contact Amanda Bradford at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @amandabrad_uc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Ghoncheh Azadeh was fired. In fact, Azadeh was not fired.