Santa Cruz – Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Monterey), whose district includes UC Santa Cruz, was joined by ten of his colleagues today in sending a letter to University of California President Janet Napolitano encouraging “the University to reopen the collective bargaining agreement and begin negotiating with UAW Local 2865 so that common ground can be reached on compensation for Academic Student Employees.” You can read the full letter here. 

“We are grateful to have the support of Assemblymember Stone as we demand that UC bargain with us,” said Kavitha Iyengar, President of UAW Local 2865 and a graduate worker at UC Berkeley’s School of Law. “And we are hugely thankful to Senators Durazo, Allen and Leyva, and Assemblymembers Gonzalez, Bonta, Rodriguez, Muratsuchi, Aguiar-Curry, Kalra and Wicks for lending their voices to this effort. Workers spending upwards of 60% of their income on rent is not sustainable. And at this point, graduate workers at every single UC campus are rent burdened, according to data released by the federal government. We are asking UC to sit down and bargain a Cost of Living Adjustment with us so that we can reach a contractual, equitable solution that supports the workers who contribute so much to UC’s educational and research mission. UC simply wouldn’t run without us. And it’s time for the University to step up.”  

In the face of a changing economy and a growing statewide housing crisis, the Union has repeatedly demanded that UC come to the table to discuss the terms of employment for Academic Student Employees and bargain for a much-needed COLA. And while UC administrators deliberately bypass the union and ignore their obligation to bargain with the chosen representative of the workers, frustration has mounted. 

A wildcat strike focused on securing a COLA has spread from Santa Cruz to other campuses. And while the wildcat strike has not been sanctioned by the union, there is widespread empathy with their cause. Graduate Student workers at UC earn just $2,400 a month for nine months of the year, before taxes. All the while, UC has continued to unilaterally raise rents on campus. 

This week, based on the University’s unlawful conduct, the union’s Bargaining Team unanimously voted to move forward with an Unfair Labor Practice strike authorization vote, which all union members will have the opportunity to participate in. 

Nationally, academic workers unions have been under attack as the Supreme Court codified the Janus decision and Donald Trump’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board look to weaken academic workers’ rights. But on the ground, union membership levels are rising, and a wave of activism is sweeping universities across the country. The UAW now represents more than 75,000 academic workers, and unions have been formed at Harvard, Columbia, Boston College and others.