The union representing University of California teaching assistants, readers and graders plans to strike during finals week.
The UC Student-Worker Union, United Auto Workers Local 2865, alleges that management has intimidated workers through threats to future employment, disciplinary action and arrests of students picketing lawfully.
“Ever since we took on serious issues of quality of education and access to education for marginalized groups, the UCs responded with increasing threats and intimidation,” said union member Jeb Purucker, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student, in a news release.
At UCSC, pickets were arrested during an April strike and brought up on student conduct charges, the union says. Among the other examples of unfair practices it says workers have faced: UC San Diego docking student workers for more time than they took off to strike.
At UC Davis, graduate students have said they’ve received department-level polls about whether they plan to strike — a practice the students say could have a chilling effect on labor actions.
UC and its student workers remain in negotiations over a new contract. The details of negotiations remain under wraps now that a third-party mediator has been brought in to try to guide the sides to a resolution.
Spokesperson Shelly Meron said UC was “disappointed” in the union’s strike call, in particular its “disruptive” finals week timing. Undergraduates and faculty are “trying to end the year on a good note, and they don’t deserve to get caught up in a labor dispute,” she said.
Among the issues the union is at odds with UC about are its demands of teaching positions for undocumented graduate students and gender-neutral bathrooms. UC has said it will work with the union to address both issues, provided hiring undocumented students won’t jeopardize government funding.
Other issues the union has raised during contract talks include class size, pay and benefits.
Appointments for TAs average 42 percent time. A 50 percent appointment pays TAs $17,000 annually. According to a report issued by the union, UC graduate students receive stipends amounting to $5,000 less than at peer institutions when cost of living is included.