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Strike Day 4: Provost Responds to Union Demands Amidst Protestors Connecting UC Support of War Industry with Graduates’ Lack of Basic Needs

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UCI student workers and undergraduates continued to march, chant and create protest art in solidarity with the union’s demands for livable wages throughout the fourth day of the UC-wide United Auto Workers (UAW) academic strike on Thursday, Nov. 17. The strike continues for a fifth day today, Nov. 18.

Graduates held a solidarity block party at 12 p.m. on Ring Road next to the Anteater Learning Pavilion. They welcomed passing undergraduates and staff to talk about their individual experiences, eat free pizza and draw colorful protest messages on the ground, including one that read “Money For Jobs and Education, Not Wars and Occupation.” 

Photo by Helena San Roque / Staff 

Third-year public health policy undergraduate student Ziena is a student board member of Students for Justice in Palestine at UCI (SJP@UCI), who prefers to have her last name withheld, and has shown up in support of the strike since Monday. She is involved with the UC Divest movement, a coalition of 16 organizations with the goal of ending UC’s profit from war. 

“The UC invests a lot of their money in corporations such as Caterpillar, Blackrock, Lockheed Martin, companies that are basically killing people like Palestinians, Armenians and Syrians, as opposed to supporting student’s welfare, ” Ziena said. 

Over 2 billion dollars is invested into Blackrock according to the most recent update from a UCOP report in 2021. In Ziena and SJP@UCI’s points of view, the UC’s priority seems to be in war investment, as opposed to financial support for basic needs, such as housing security, fair wages and healthcare. 

“The UC system is not even giving [teacher’s assistants] proper housing, not even the undergraduates have proper housing,” Ziena said.

According to Ziena, the true fight is “against the bureaucrat-capitalist and imperialist system in the U.S. that is manifested in the UC’s funding of military companies and this investment in war rather than the well-being of graduates and undergraduates.” Ziena believes that the UAW strike and UC Divest Coalition are fighting the same battle. 

The New University reached out to the UC Regents and Chancellor Howard Gillman for comment on this issue and has yet to receive a response. However, an automated response from the UC Regents read that the email correspondence will be included in the next summary of communications with the Regents. 

“We want to use that money, not in wars and occupation, but in jobs and education — that’s a quote I learned from my friend in Anakbayan, which is an anti-imperialist Filipino organization SJP@UCI works with,” Ziena said.

A Reddit post titled “UCI Provost letter about the strike” from u/mustprocrastinate_ commented on UC Provost Michael Brown’s recent letter addressing the current union demands and stated that the union is asking for a range of $54,084 to $97,775 for graduate student researchers — an approximate 120% pay increase, according to Brown. The letter provided a chart of the UC’s proposals, detailing pay increases, benefits, childcare benefits and leaves for postdoctoral scholars, academic researchers, academic student employees and graduate student researchers. Brown provided a link for regular updates about negotiations from the University of California’s website. 

“Friendly reminder when reading the Letter from Provost Brown about UCI’s “faithful” bargaining which paints the union’s requests as unreasonable; this is that guy’s salary from 2021. Currently the average salary for grad students is 23k. So while his letter shames the union for requesting what he claims is a 50% pay increase he is making almost half a MILLION dollars,” the post reads. 

However, another Reddit user named “Carbonkid” who claims to be a UCI chemistry alum from 2011, did not fully agree with the UAW’s demands. 

“I think the [graduate students] think that they should be getting 54k a year and anything less is failure. I dont think their demands are grounded in reality. Yes, they deserve better pay, but 54k is a dream,” the post reads. 

In response to the administration suggesting that the union was asking for too much, UAW strike captain and UCI history Ph.D. student Randy, who prefers to have his last name withheld, disagreed. 

“They haven’t stepped in our shoes, they haven’t lived with the things that we have to live with, and they’re not understanding what the true fight is about. We’re not asking for too much. If anything, I believe that the UC system should be lucky that we aren’t demanding more,” Randy said.

Helena San Roque is a Campus News Staff Writer for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at