Over 10,000 student researchers across the University of California voted overwhelmingly on Nov. 19 to authorize a strike, should the UC continue to refuse to acknowledge their union, Student Researchers United-UAW.
The strike vote “does not necessarily mean we will go on strike, just that a strike can be called if circumstances justify,” the Student Researches United-UAW (SRU-UAW) website read, noting that a strike committee made up of two representatives from each campus and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory would decide and call the actual dates of a strike.
On May 24, a supermajority of student researchers within the UC filed with California’s Public Employment Relations Board to form SRU-UAW, a union that now represents over 17,000 student researchers, according to a Nov. 22 email sent by SRU-UAW.
However, the UC has thus far refused to recognize the union as a bargaining unit, meaning student researchers are unable to enter into collective bargaining around key issues like workplace protections and working conditions, according to SRU-UAW’s website.
“UC has stalled and delayed the process, brought in ‘union avoidance’ attorneys and filed baseless objections and requests for extensions,” the email read.
UC Office of the President Spokesperson Ryan King said in a statement to The Daily Californian that the UC has no objection to recognizing SRU-UAW as a bargaining unit but takes issue with the inclusion of student researchers with no employment relationship with the university — like those who receive academic credit for their research.
“We are committed to coming to a resolution with the union and are currently engaged in ongoing, good-faith discussions with the UAW and the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) regarding the composition of this new bargaining unit,” King said to The Daily Californian.
On Oct. 26, 29 members of the California Congress also voiced their support, and on Oct. 31, supporters across the UC rallied in support of recognition for the union.
On Nov. 18, only one day before the strike authorization vote passed with a 97.5% majority, 49 California assembly members wrote a letter to UC President Michael V. Drake voicing support for the formation of the union.
“Student researchers play a crucial role in advancing the University of California’s research mission,” the email stated. “[Student researchers] are responsible for conducting experiments, writing grants, mentoring students and colleagues, and much more.”