Graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz, shut down campus Thursday as part of their ongoing strike for a cost of living adjustment, and all other system campuses saw their own one-day protests. Santa Cruz graduate assistants went on a grade strike in December, then a full labor strike this month. Tensions mounted last week when the university fired or disqualified 80-some grads from spring assistantships for continuing to withhold undergraduate grades.
Graduate assistants blocked all entrances to the Santa Cruz campus before dawn, forcing the university to cancel classes, except those offered online. Many faculty and undergraduate supporters joined the picket lines on that campus and across the UC system starting midmorning. As of last week, graduate assistants at the Santa Barbara campus are also on a labor strike for a COLA, and assistants at the Davis campus are on a grade strike. Systemwide, graduate instructors make about $2,400 pre-tax, per month, for nine months out of the year. Strikers say that they need between $1,400 and $1,800 extra per month to be able to secure housing in California’s expensive rental markets and have anything left over for utilities and food.
The United Auto Workers, with which UC’s graduate workers are affiliated, has urged the university to reopen their contract to bargain for a COLA. This week it authorized a systemwide strike vote for April on the grounds that the university has committed unfair labor practices. The university has filed a similar claim against graduate workers.
The system said in a statement that it "values all our graduate students, including academic student employees (ASEs) who are essential to UC’s teaching mission, supporting the university as teaching assistants, readers and tutors. However, that mission is in jeopardy when ASEs refuse to fulfill their teaching obligations." The system noted that these assistants are striking in violation of their union contract, negotiated in 2018, and said it's "unfortunate that the UAW has resorted to announcing a strike authorization vote as the university continues pursuing opportunities to engage productively with graduate students on housing affordability and other issues."