SAN FRANCISCO – About 48,000 workers at the 10 University of California schools could go on strike starting Monday.
This includes thousands of employees at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco in the Bay Area.
The UC system has been negotiating with the United Auto Workers union for months, but they have been unable to reach an agreement.
The UAW represents postdoctoral researchers, academic researchers, graduate student researchers, and employed students such as teaching assistants and tutors in UC schools.
The union said it filed more than 20 unfair labor practices against the UC system. They are fight for things like a salary that matches the cost of living, free public transit passes, child care reimbursements and extended family leave.
A strike could affect the cutting-edge research being done at these universities and could even cancel classes at some.
“I do tissue culture, I maintain cell lines, you have to feed them regularly. I froze them because we don’t know when we’re going to come back, when UC will stop breaking the law and come back in good faith,” said Maura McDonagh, a graduate student studying multiple sclerosis at UCSF.
McDonagh was at the lab on Friday, despite the Veterans Day holiday, as she doesn’t know when she will be able to resume her research since she will be on the picket line on Monday.
“We’re not going to let this $46 billion industry run over the people who actually run this place,” McDonagh said.
At UCSF, about 3,000 employees plan to strike, which could shut down many important cancer and neurodegenerative disease projects.
“We’re here because we appreciate it, because we really believe that what we’re doing is going to advance science. Deep down, we’re all scientists, we care about the scientific method and we do things rigorously. And we want to be able to continue to do that, we want to be able to do that without worrying about rent due first, am I eligible for food stamps or not,” McDonagh said.
At UC Berkeley, where they have an undergraduate program, more than 9,000 employees could go on strike.
“Our work as college students, as readers and instructors of graduate students, we are the backbone of much of the teaching and instruction that occurs for many undergraduate students. undergraduate and Cal graduates. So yes, we expect most classes to be canceled,” said Mia Antezzo, a college student employed at UC Berkeley.
A UC Berkeley spokesperson said in a statement, “Campus leaders have provided guidance to deans, presidents, instructors, scholars and others to prepare for a potential strike and to help mitigate the impacts. Department chairs and faculty will work together to ensure the least disruption in the delivery of instruction.
Union members say they are fighting to overcome unfair working conditions. Antezzo said she couldn’t even afford to live in Berkeley.
“I think we deserve a fair contract, and it’s urgent for me because I live under a heavy burden of rent and I don’t get paid enough. So having a fair contract is really important to me,” Antezzo said. .
The UAW helps pay some employees while they are off work, through the union’s strike fund.
“The strike pay will help cover some of my expenses, and we’ll try to keep this going for as long as possible. And the sooner we fire people, hopefully that gets resolved quickly,” he said. said Antezzo.
The UC system responded to each of the union’s requests in an online statementclaiming they have made generous offers including “wage increases, extended paid leave, increased family support and childcare allowances”.
“Throughout the negotiations, UC listened carefully to UAW priorities with an open mind and a genuine willingness to compromise,” the statement continued.
They hope to reach an agreement before Monday.
But employees say the UC offer is not enough.
“Ninety-one percent of graduates are a rent burden, so they’re spending 30% or more on rent, and 61% of post-docs are in the same boat. So already (they) aren’t earning enough and the UC’s proposals so far are effective pay cuts in the face of inflation,” McDonagh said.
McDonagh said there’s a lot of frustration and anger among employees right now, but there’s also hope that this strike can contribute to change.
“I’m stopping all research tasks, and I’m going to be on the picket line and that means I’m not advancing my research,” McDonagh said. “At the end of the day, it’s a bit of a personal sacrifice, but I know that in the long run, however long the strike lasts, it will result in contracts that will benefit 48,000 of us for the 3 next 5 years.”