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Graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, called a grade strike this week, seeking a $1,412-a-month cost of living increase. The graduate workers say that this adjustment would help them afford housing in one of the most expensive rental markets in the U.S. and bring them to wage parity with their peers at the university system’s Riverside campus. Currently Santa Cruz grad assistants earn $2,434 before taxes, nine months per year. Many say they spend half or more of their salaries on rent, leaving little left for anything else. These grads are affiliated with the United Auto Workers but say that this strike is not authorized by their union. Participants say teaching assistants will refuse to submit grades until their demands are met and that research assistants will refuse to do additional work. About 200 grad students rallied on campus Monday.

The university said in a statement that its graduate students, “like many in our community, face severe housing challenges. We take their needs seriously and are committed to working together to address the challenges of high rent burdens. Graduate students are integral to the mission of the university.” Since being presented with a request for more financial support last month, the university said, “Campus leaders have been analyzing different models and will share more information for further discussion.” In the interim, “We are disappointed to see graduate students go on an illegal strike that may adversely impact our undergraduate students. The way to come to a solution is to address this by having open discussions -- not through an illegal strike.” Classes are going on as scheduled. Grades are due Dec. 18.