Thousands of Graduate Student Researchers (GSRs) have received full back pay and retroactive benefits dating to the start of the year. Many GSRs have received up to $10,000 of back pay, and in total, around $600,000 has been transferred to academic workers. This is a huge victory in a long and hard-fought union grievance over UC’s practice of underpaying GSRs.
Until the formation of our union, GSRs on every UC campus were appointed at arbitrary percentages in two salary ranges: between 20% and 24.99% FTE, and between 40% and 49.99% FTE. This allowed administrators to circumvent the nominal GSR salary scale and underpay thousands of workers. Our 2022-2025 GSR union contract ended this system on paper, but ending it in practice in the face of UC’s inertia took months of determined organizing.
“It’s really exciting to see our organizing win hundreds of thousands of dollars of owed wages for academic workers at UC,” said Iris Rosenblum-Sellers, a GSI in the Math department and one of the main grievance handlers. “We have a contract that sets the rates people get paid at — the UC doesn’t just get to choose.”
In addition to UC Berkeley, academic workers have filed union grievances and organized protests over GSR under-appointment on most other campuses in the UC system. This bigger statewide campaign includes the three UCSD workers who were arrested last month and charged with felonies for allegedly chalking a building with slogans such as “Living Wage Now”.
“We hope that the administration at the other campuses will see the writing on the wall soon and actually implement our contracts,” said Rosenblum-Sellers. “Even here at Berkeley, we have workers in the same lab, doing the same work, some of whom just got the backpay they were owed, and others who didn’t, just because their funding comes from a different campus. If it’s not okay at Berkeley, it’s not okay at Lawrence Berkeley Lab and it’s not okay at San Diego.”