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UAW Members Pass Resolution, Call for Union-Wide Strike Authorization Vote

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The UC Student-Workers Union UAW 2865 held their monthly meeting in Aldrich Park, concluding with a unanimously passed resolution in favor of a Strike Authorization Vote, on Thursday, Oct. 13.

Hundreds of student researchers, TAs, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students gathered to discuss issues regarding pay and working conditions. Multiple UAW groups were present at the meeting, including UAW 2865, UAW 5810 and SRU-UAW

The meeting’s agenda entailed opening statements from two UAW board members, Jackie Ku and Mia Carmen Villegas, featured speakers and small group discussions. Attendees were split into groups based on their fields of study and discussed more information regarding the strike. 

The main proposals being presented by the UAW to the UCs are an increased minimum salary, free public transit passes, $2,000 a month in childcare reimbursements, year-long guaranteed job security, reimbursement of all visa fees for International Scholars, and accessible technology for disabled workers. 

“There is no mechanism for the UC [system] to be held accountable other than our union,” fourth year education PhD candidate Lina Brodsky said. “The only way we can hold them responsible is to show up with all our coworkers and vote to authorize a strike. We aren’t just instigating change for the employees that come after us — we’re doing something that will ripple across the state and country.” 

If the UC administration fails to reach an agreement with the UAW, undergraduate students at UC campuses can expect TAs to leave their posts in protest of the unfair and allegedly illegal practices of the UC system. There are 48,000 student employees, postdocs, TAs and academic researchers across the UC system.

A hand-made poster reading “Undergrad Solidarity” is spotted in the crowd. Photo by Simon Jeau / Staff

“Right now we’re at a crossroads,” computer science PhD student Harry Bedekgey said. “The UC has tried every trick in the book to stall out the [bargaining] process. These stalling practices are illegal. We’ve been paying attention and we have filed charges, called unfair labor practice charges, against these tactics. And still, they stall and obstruct.”

Jackie Ku, a UCI political science PhD student, TA and unit chair of the UAW Irvine chapter, spoke about some of the injustices he faced at the hands of the UC.

“It is Oct. 13, [and] I haven’t been paid since July,” Ku said. “I’m not going to be paid until the first of November. I am accruing massive credit card debt right now — debt in order to pay my rent, bills and do the research that I need in order to continue to be a UC student. All of this is intimately tied to the fact that the UC is unwilling to offer a fair wage — a fair contract — which would allow [student workers] very basic needs. It should not be the case that any graduate student who is leading instruction [or research] at the university should be left without pay for three and a half months.”

Irvine unit chair Jackie Ku addresses the crowd of student workers. Photo by Simon Jeau / Staff

Fifth year PhD student Jose Urdaneta spoke about struggling financially as well. 

“I had a surgery a number of years ago, and we’re very tight on money all the time,” Urdaneta said. “So every time an incident happens, we’re pretty much resorting to either [my partner’s or my] savings. Instead of increasing our wealth, we are always resorting to our savings, putting ourselves to the brink and using credit cards to pay for things.” 

Fifth year PhD student Jose Urdaneta sits with his one-year-old daughter, Cora. Photo by Simon Jeau / Staff

The financial struggles that Ku and Urdaneta spoke of are in large part due to the burden of increasingly high rent prices. Prices are set by the UC, which receives revenue from its numerous graduate housing communities. 

UAW President Rafael Jaime, a graduate student of the English department at UCLA, spoke to the New University about rent burden and its implications for the thousands of graduate students across the UC system. 

“Most of us just do not get paid enough to live and work in the same place,” Jaime said. “In many cases, the university knows exactly how much we are paid and takes back at least half [of that income] through rent. All of us are committed to doing our research. We’re committed to teaching, and right now, the university [is] not fulfilling [its] promise to be an agent of economic and social progress in California.”

Ku added to Jaime’s sentiments, stating that 90% of academic student employees across the state are rent burdened and 70% of grad students  pay over 40% of personal income towards rent.

“When you contrast that to [increasing housing costs], we as academic workers, as people who provide services for the university — to claim the status that it does — are being left out to dry,” Ku said.

Student Researchers United (SRU), one of the groups present at the meeting, has a bargaining team that has been speaking with UC officials to improve workplace conditions for student employees.

“Earlier this month, we reached critical agreements on the dual articles of anti-bullying and non-discrimination, making sure our workers have a clear and swift course of action and support in the case of an abusive advisor,” Bedekgey said. “These are the first protections graduate students will see at the UC, and much stronger protections than the Postdocs and TAs have seen in the past. When we reached this agreement at the bargaining table, I watched as the UC Office of the President praised it as ‘groundbreaking,’ ‘precedent-setting,’ ‘clear’ [and] ‘actionable.’ All I could think about was how earlier this year, they refused to even bargain over the topic of respectful work environments.”

The bargaining team will continue to try and work out a solution with the UC. In the meantime, a date for a potential strike has yet to be determined. A strike is not guaranteed. 

“Right now, we are at this unprecedented moment where all of the unions are bargaining together,” Bendekgey said. “We can stand together and force the UC to drop its objections, meet us at the table, bargain in good faith and do what is necessary to build a UC that works for all of us.”

Photo by Simon Jeau / Staff

Simon Jeau is a Campus News intern for the fall 2022 quarter. He can be reached at sjeau@uci.edu.


Andie San Luis is a Campus News intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at asanlui1@uci.edu.