UC Collective Agreement Vote Reveals Sharp Disparities Between Campuses

LOS ANGELES — As leaders and supporters of the University of California’s graduate student union celebrated Saturday the ratification of a new labor agreement that ended a historic strike, the vote also revealed a sharp divide between campuses.

Overall, about 68% of graduate student researchers voted in favor of the agreement to secure the first UC contract, and about 61% of teaching assistants and other student academic workers voted in favor of the agreement .

However, teaching assistants and other academic workers at the University of California campuses in Merced, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara overwhelmingly rejected the proposed contract, while other campuses in the University of California system voted in favor. threw

Graduate researchers at Santa Cruz and Merced Universities also voted against the agreement. At UC Santa Cruz, only about 20% of workers voted in favor of the deal. At Merced, it was about a quarter of the workforce.

Student workers opposed to ratification said they believed the battle was just beginning and were looking for next steps.

“This is an ongoing battle,” said Mark Woodall, Ph.D., UC Merced. Representing United Auto Workers 2865 Campus Unit Chair: “This has in a way really lifted people who were very disappointed with the results.”

The agreement secured significant increases in wages, child care subsidies, and included protections against bullying and discrimination.

“These deals will improve the quality of life for those involved in education, create stronger universities in the long term, and ensure that these institutions accept people from outside their hometowns. A food science student at the University of California, Davis, at a press conference.

For opponents, however, the wage increases provided under the contract were insufficient to address the burdensome housing costs workers often had to grapple with to live near the UC campuses.

They also strongly opposed clauses in the agreement that would provide higher wages to student staff at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of California, Los Angeles than at other campuses.

For university student employees, for example, the deal will increase the minimum wage for nine months of part-time work from about $23,250 to about $34,000 by October 2024. At UC Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and UCLA, the rate is $36,500.

Proponents believed that high salaries acknowledged the high cost of living in these communities and the fact that schools tended to offer high salaries to compete for top talent.

Opponents saw it enshrining an unfair wage system designed to benefit the “prestigious campuses” of the university system.

“We are university employees and having two tiers to get more is not something the union should stand for,” said a student at UC Merced.

Union officials said they felt the strikes and broader efforts to secure contracts had led to stronger unions with more engaged workers. They said they had more participation in the ratification ballot than in any previous ballot.

Political divisions are “a healthy part of democratic institutions,” said Michael Dean, a Ph.D. He is a UCLA historical candidate and a member of the negotiating committee. “But we actually got more with this contract than any other group of unionized higher education workers ever got with any contract.”

He added that when the time came to renegotiate in a few years, the union would be well positioned to continue pushing for further improvements.

Opponents of the deal also said they felt well-positioned to continue pushing for change. He said he was successful in mobilizing statewide.

Madrigal Johnson and others said they plan to continue organizing at the campus level to improve wages and benefits. They also plan to push for a change in union leadership.

“There will be another deal negotiated in the next few years,” Woodall said. “With internal office and campus elections, there is currently a very strong movement among workers dissatisfied with campus leadership.” UC Collective Agreement Vote Reveals Sharp Disparities Between Campuses

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