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Strike to Continue Through Winter Break as UC and UAW Enter Private Negotiation

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The United Auto Workers (UAW) have entered private mediation with the University of California beginning today, Dec. 9. The date also marks the final day of ratification for the tentative agreement reached between postdoctoral scholars, academic researchers and the UC. Amongst these developments, UC academic workers are set to continue striking through winter break until fair agreements are reached for remaining units. 

Graduate student researchers (GSRs) and academic student employees (ASEs) have yet to reach tentative agreements with the University after 26 days of striking. On the weekend of Dec. 3, the two units were presented with a comprehensive package proposal from the UC that would increase the total compensation for a half-time employee to a range of $46,757 to $74,798 by Oct. 1, 2024.

However, the UAW is hoping for more. 

“We do believe that the UC can do better,” said Louise McCune, a teaching assistant (TA) and Ph.D. candidate in the UCI English department. “This week, ASEs and student researchers are continuing to escalate to make sure that negotiations can continue to make progress, outwardly addressing our economic precarity.” 

McCune informed the New University that on Dec. 8, the UAW presented counter proposals to the University that signal that the union is seeking further movement on non-residential supplemental tuition (NRST), wages, dependent health care and child care. 

Come winter quarter, the academic workers are prepared to continue withholding their labor and resume picketing if an agreement is not met.

“​​The University is pleased that the UAW has agreed to neutral private mediation so that we may resolve our differences and end the strike that has been impacting our students, faculty, and staff,” said Letitia Silas, executive director of systemwide labor relations in a public statement  from the UC Office of the President (UCOP). 

The New University was directed to this statement by UCOP when asking for comment.

In an effort to call further attention to their bargaining asks, strikers have taken action to escalate picketing by taking their signs from campus to the homes and workplaces of major donors including Henry Samueli and Donald Bren.

Twenty-one strikers took to the water for some “kayaktion,” kayaking from Bayside Drive in Newport Beach to the home of Donald Bren, located on a private gated island, on Dec. 8. The day before, picketers gathered at the private offices of the Irvine Company, which Bren is both owner and chairman of. Bren has not responded to a request for comment.

Photo provided by Maddy Duong / UAW

Maddy Duong, an academic researcher for the UCI School of Medicine, joined the “amphibious strike brigade” yesterday to deliver a letter asking Bren to call UC President Michael Drake. The strikers kayaked to the back of Bren’s property, where they were met with an Irvine company employee who refused to take the letter. Duong and the strikers were on the water for three and a half hours until they left the letter on Bren’s private dock.

“If a major donor like him doesn’t have that phone number, then nobody does,” Duong said. “But, it was great to be able to take the action off campus. A lot of people have been wanting to escalate. I think these wake up calls are really fulfilling that desire and also helping the strike get the attention we want.”

Additionally, McCune joined a group of 40 to 50 strikers for a “wake-up call” at the home of major UC donor and benefactor Henry Samueli on Dec. 5. 

“It was an exciting opportunity to try to pressure someone with a lot of influence to call people in positions of power who, themselves, have authority to help end this strike,” McCune said. 

Samueli has not responded to a request for comment.

While Dec. 9 marks the end of finals and the beginning of winter break for all UCs on the quarter system, including UCI, it will not mark the end of action and picketing for academic workers. Those who remain in the campus area for winter break have the option to picket voluntarily throughout the holidays. 

Dhanika Pineda is the New University’s Editor-in-Chief for the 2022-2023 school year. She can be reached at