Since November, 48,000 workers, including graduate-student teachers, teaching assistants, and researchers united under the United Automobile Workers (UAW), have quit their teaching jobs and gone on strike to demand higher wages to pay for the expensive living cost of California, resulting in the largest and most significant strike in the history of American higher education thus far.
Lectures, on-going research, and grading were disrupted across the campuses, due to the lack of the teaching staff being present. This shows the real impact of the teaching employees on the university; without teaching assistants or instructors, there would be no operating UC.
According to Student Researchers United, “We teach the classes, grade the papers, and perform the cutting edge research that has earned UC its reputation as the best public university in the world … In short, UC works because we do,” they stated as the fight for better work policies and pay continues.
With their current pay and the rising costs of housing in expensive cities, the workers have been stating that they are on the verge of going into debt. In addition to higher pay, the teaching staff has been demanding better working conditions such as assistance with paying for expensive housing, transportation, child care, etc.
As for the ratification of the 3-year contract for improved work conditions and higher wages, the vote between student-teaching employees was 11,386 to 7,097 while the vote between graduate researchers was 10,057 to 4,640.
The 40-day strike ended on December 23, 2022 as representatives of UAW signed two contracts that would raise the wages of the workers, promising to improve the cost of living in California. The agreement approved by the university administrators stated that throughout a two-and-a-half year contract, teaching assistants would receive a raised salary from about $23,000 to $34,000 and that graduate student researchers would get a raised salary from $22,000 to $35,000.
Along with higher pay, teaching employees will receive better transportation and health care as well as improved family leave and child care. Workers can also be guaranteed a higher level of job security to increase their chances of keeping their job and better work conditions to protect against harassment and discrimination.