The largest strike in higher education history is continuing this week with support from UC Santa Barbara community members and faculty and California political leaders.  

The UCSB chapter of the Youth Democratic Socialists of America worked to organize undergraduate student solidarity. Kayla Li / Daily Nexus

Academic employees across all ten University of California campuses are withholding labor, picketing and marching through campus in response to 30 alleged unfair labor practices on the part of the UC, including failing to bargain in good faith with union members under the United Auto Workers (UAW) union.

Picketing at UCSB continued through the third day of the strike, with striking workers and supporters gathering under Storke Tower on the afternoon of Nov. 16 to hear from speakers and inform community members about the strike efforts.

Union members — who are demanding increased wages to alleviate rent burden and support high cost of living — said that the UC Office of the President (UCOP) reached out with bargaining propositions containing “incremental improvements” to UAW 5810 and Student Researchers United (SRU) since the strike began. 

“Our fellow bargaining units … have received some bargaining updates that have been incremental improvements. The TA union has not and we’ve currently been waiting for them for three days to come back and bargain with us,” said Misa Nguyen, a doctoral candidate and teaching assistant in the history department. 

UCOP Spokesperson Ryan King maintained in a statement to the Nexus that the UC has bargained in good faith and “believe[s] that the best path to an agreement is with the aid of a third-party mediator.”

The University of California continues to negotiate in good faith as we do everything possible to mitigate the impacts of any strike on student learning and our research enterprise,” King said.

The UC said it has “enhanced” its offer to UAW in terms of pay increases and paid leave. 

Nguyen said that the strike — which was authorized by an overwhelming 97% yes vote from union members — was prepared to go on for as long as necessary to force the university into good-faith bargaining for their demands, which include significant raises for union members to alleviate rent burden.

“Morale is honestly still super great, which has been really exciting to see. And people are still in for the long run, because we’re not burning out, but we also expect to stay out here for another month if we have to,” she said. 

The three striking unions — UAW 2865, UAW 5810 and SRU — along with the California Labor Federation called for a cancellation of all on-campus events for the duration of the strike.

“The California Labor Federation has sanctioned the strike and is asking all elected officials to respect the strike sanction by canceling speaking engagements and meetings on UC campuses until UC ceases its unlawful behavior and settles fair contracts,” the union statement read.

Viviana Valle, a doctoral student in the feminist studies department, picketed on Wednesday and said she anticipates that the strike movement will only gain momentum.

“I think every day we just get stronger. Every day I’ve been noticing more and more people showing up. I think that’s a matter of spreading the word and more people really understanding what we’re fighting for in an unfair labor practice lawsuit,” she said. “We’re just trying to spread information and [get] more people on to the picket line, which has been working.”

At least 10 different departments at UCSB have issued statements of support and solidarity for legal strike activity, including the political science department, the department of Chicana and Chicano studies, the art department, the global studies department and the history department. 

“In the spirit of our department’s activist ethos, we will cancel sections and alter or revise graded assignments in solidarity with striking teaching assistants for the duration of the strike,” the department of Chicana and Chicano studies said in their statement. 

The global studies department said in their statement that they would be “prepared to consider additional actions” to support their graduate students, including but not limited to communicating with undergraduates about the strike, withholding grades or canceling classes.  

Global studies associate professor Jia-Ching Chen was one of dozens of faculty members that rallied on Monday in support of striking workers. 

“The cost of public education higher education … has run way out of pace from basic working people. This is an issue that affects faculty and students and the community alike,” Chen said. “This is a key moment in which to push many demands that come together around the basic principle of accessibility to higher education.”

Multiple departments encouraged UCSB administrators to apply pressure on UCOP into meeting union demands to keep pace with competitor universities and retain graduate students at UCSB. 

Congressman Salud Carbajal, a UCSB alumnus, issued a statement online in solidarity with striking workers. 

“As a proud Gaucho, I stand in solidarity with the student researchers and academic workers who are taking a stand for better wages, benefits, and working conditions by striking at UC campuses across our state,” Carbajal said in the statement. “Their hard work deserves the respect and fair contract for which they are fighting.”

The UC Student Association (UCSA) President Alex Niles issued a statement to the Nexus on behalf of UCSA, urging undergraduate students to support the strike cohort. 

“Undergrads should act in solidarity, including by showing up to the picket line and not crossing the picket line to go to class,” the statement read. “The strike is in undergrads’ best interest. Their working conditions are our learning conditions. Morally, all UC workers deserve a living wage and it’s disgraceful to the UC that it is not paying one to academic workers.”

Niles said that “TAs are the core of the undergraduate educational experience” who go above and beyond for students “while being underpaid to the point of not having enough money to cover their basic needs.” 

A version of this article appeared on p. 1 of the Nov. 17, 2022, print edition of the Daily Nexus.

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Mark Alfred
Mark Alfred (he/him) is the university news editor for the 2022-23 school year. Contact: markalfred@dailynexus.com or 858-413-7384 (text/Signal).
Holly Rusch
Holly Rusch (she/her) is the Lead News Editor for the 2022-23 school year. Previously, Rusch was the University News Editor and co-Lead News Editor for the 2020-21 school year. She can be reached at news@dailynexus.com or hollyrusch@dailynexus.com.