Tentative Agreements Emerge Between Academic Workers and University of California

If approved, the agreements would end the weekslong strike that included 48,000 academic workers across 10 UC campuses.
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Updated on September 29, 2023
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  • Academic workers on strike have reached tentative agreements with the University of California.
  • The new contracts include salary raises and other benefits such as childcare reimbursements and anti-bullying and harassment protections.
  • If approved, these agreements would end the weekslong strike across the university's 10 campuses.

After weeks of striking, academic workers have reached a tentative agreement with the University of California (UC), potentially ending the longest academic strike in U.S. history.

The academic workers include some 48,000 researchers, postdocs, and academic student employees across the UC system's 10 campuses. They are represented by the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW).

The academic student employee and student researcher bargaining teams reached a deal with UC on Dec. 16. Previously, postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers ratified their new contract on Dec. 9.

"We have engaged in an extensive democratic process up to this point, including open bargaining sessions and widely-attended bargaining caucuses," said Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 2865, in a UAW emailed release.

"The progress we've made has been due to mass participation of membership, and it's the membership who will decide on contract ratification."

The ratification vote started Dec. 19 and will remain open through Dec. 23. Workers will remain on strike until the agreements are ratified. If approved, the contracts will last through May 31, 2025.

On Dec. 9, academic workers and UC agreed to have Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg serve as a mediator to help resolve "outstanding disputes."

"I want to congratulate and thank the University of California and the UAW for today's historic agreement. Together, the parties reached a principled solution to end a difficult impasse," Steinberg said in a statement. "...This agreement represents a fundamental transformation for graduate level higher education. With this breakthrough, the University of California will continue to attract the best and brightest minds to our state."

What's Included in the Agreement

The terms of the tentative agreements include salary raises and other benefits.

Starting Oct. 1, 2024, the minimum salary for graduate student researchers will be $34,564.50. For academic student employees such as teaching assistants, the new nine-month salary will be $34,000 at most campuses and $36,500 for students at Berkeley, UC San Francisco, and UCLA, according to UC.

Both units will see childcare reimbursements of $1,350 per quarter or $2,025 per semester, plus $1,350 for summer. The contracts also protect preexisting tuition waivers for international students and include protections against harmful work environments.

The agreements also include many new provisions, including first-ever protections from discrimination and harassment at work for graduate student workers and contractual protections to improve accessibility for graduate student workers and academic student employees, according to UAW.

Voting to Ratify the Contracts

The agreements were passed 11-8 for academic student employees and 13-7 with one abstention for student researchers. While the new contracts have support from the majority of the bargaining unit and UC, some union members are unsure if they will vote to ratify the new contracts.

Bargaining team members who voted against the tentative agreements wrote in a statement that they voted based on their belief that “the UC's mediated proposals fail to deliver on the major demands of the strike."

"Based on the firm commitments we observe on our campuses towards a long-haul strike, we think that there is still more to be won, and that we still have the capacity to win it," the statement says. "This is the question of the ratification vote: Is now the time to stop and settle for what we have, or is now the time to recommit to the strike and leverage our power for more?"

In a separate release, bargaining team members who voted to approve the agreements wrote that the new contracts "are the sum total of our strike's power" and that they will "dramatically improve the lives and working conditions of student-workers at the University of California."

"We believe that we have extracted from UC the most significant concessions that our power right now can win. The responsible, strategic, and democratic choice is to lock in our transformative gains and send these agreements to membership for consideration," the statement read.

"Should members vote to ratify, we need to continue building a strong union that can enforce our hard-won benefits and protections and prepare for another round of bargaining in just two years."