Ten thousand student researchers across the University of California voted with a 97.5% majority on Nov. 19 to authorize a strike if the UC continues their refusal to acknowledge their union between Student Researchers United-United Auto Workers.
On May 24, a supermajority of student researchers across the UC filed with California’s Public Employment Relations Board to form Student Researchers United-United Auto Workers (SRU-UAW), and a Nov. 22 email from the union stated that SRU-UAW now represents over 17,000 student researchers.
According to UC Office of the President spokesperson Ryan King, the university would be willing to acknowledge SRU-UAW as a union but takes issue with the fact that presently, SRU-UAW includes student researchers with no employment relationship with the university — like those who receive academic credit for their research.
The UC’s refusal to acknowledge the union means that student researchers remain unable to enter into collective bargaining — a process in which employees are able to directly negotiate terms of employment with their employers — on key issues like workplace conditions and protections, SRU-UAW’s website stated.
Rebecca Martin, an organizer with SRU-UAW and a first-year electrical and computer engineering doctoral student, said that the union is currently in a state of determining “strike-readiness.”
“There’s a lot of people across campuses that need to coordinate and we need to get ready for a strike, we need to figure out what we want the strike to look like, and we need to figure out how long we intend to strike for, so we’re still very much in the planning stage,” Martin said.
Despite the UC’s refusal to acknowledge the union, Martin said that the union has made “incredible gains” in negotiating with the institution. A primary issue the union faced was the exclusion of trainees and fellows from the bargaining contract, and Martin says the university is now considering their inclusion.
Martin says that though the vote has been authorized, there is a chance the union may not strike. However, the planning stage is still underway.
“We don’t have a hard date yet, nor do we want to project one because part of this is keeping the UC vigilant for action. We don’t want them to think we’re done,” Martin said.
“I think it’s really important to just drive home how much we don’t want to strike. I love my research, and I am so excited at the prospect of my day-to-day work … we would rather just not be a problem, and we just want to do our work,” she continued.SRU-UAW has been gaining support across the UC and beyond — on Oct. 28, students and supporters across the UC protested the lack of recognition, and 26 members of the California Congress and 49 California assembly members have also urged the UC to acknowledge the union.