The University of California agreed to officially recognize Student Researchers United — a union representing over 17,000 student researchers across the UC — on Dec. 8.
The acknowledgement comes after a bevy of legislative backing for the union, including 49 members of the California State Assembly and 30 members of California’s congressional delegation.
The decision also comes two weeks after Student Researchers United-United Auto Workers (SRU-UAW) voted with a 97% majority to authorize a strike, should the university continue to refuse to acknowledge their union.
UC Office of the President Spokesperson Ryan King originally said that the UC has no objection to recognizing SRU-UAW as a bargaining unit but took issue with the inclusion of student researchers who have no employment relationship with the university — such as those who receive academic credit for their research.
Now, the “UC formally agrees to recognize trainees and fellows as employees, thus acknowledging their right to unionize and their inclusion in the SRU-UAW bargaining unit,” Greg Ottino, an SRU-UAW organizer and UC Berkeley graduate student, said in the union’s official statement on the acknowledgement.
King said in a statement to The Daily Californian that while the recognition agreement defines who is a graduate student employee, the union and the university will resolve further conflicts around the definition as they arise.
“Now that the university has given up its delay tactics, we can begin the real work of bargaining a strong contract to improve the conditions for student researchers in the UC system,” Kevin Smith, an organizer with SRU-UAW and UCSB graduate student, said in an email to the Nexus.
“This is a tremendous achievement, which was made possible by thousands of student researchers across the state who collected authorization cards, coordinated rallies, and organized a successful strike authorization vote,” his statement continued.
The SRU-UAW website states that the union will work to secure fair workplace rights and conditions, improving equity and ensuring timely and correct pay with an enforceable contract.
“SRU-UAW is notable for several reasons: it represents the largest new bargaining unit of 2021, it is the largest unit of student employees in U.S. history, and it was organized during the pandemic, when traditional means of organizing were shut down,” Ray Curry, president of the UAW, said in a Dec. 9 SRU-UAW email.
“It took an enormous amount of courage and grit for these workers to make this happen, and we are thrilled to welcome them and support them as they move forward.”