• Graduate Students at UC Davis voice support of peers fired at UC Santa Cruz for striking. Photo Credit: Twitter handle @payusmoreucsb
  • Demonstration at UC Santa Cruz.
  • Graduate student strike in California started early Wednesday morning. Protestors prepare to convene at noon. Photo credit: COLA Agitation Committee
  • Striking students protest at UC Irvine during Howard Gillman's talk. Photo credit: Jonathan Friedman
  • Graduate Students at UC Davis voice support of peers fired at UC Santa Cruz for striking. Photo Credit: Twitter handle @payusmoreucsb

University of California graduate students plan statewide protest

2 mins read

After the firing of dozens of graduate students at UC Santa Cruz, University of California students throughout the state will march in a growing campaign for an increase in living wages.

On Thursday, UC graduate students will participate in a statewide strike to support peers that were terminated in their efforts to get increased money while working at school. What demonstrators are calling a “blackout,” they plan to march on all nine campuses belonging to the University of California at noon.

The protest follows 54 graduate students dismissed from their teaching assistantships at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Their firing was administration’s response for them refusing to turn in final fall grades as part of an ongoing strike for higher wages. Another 28 were told that they were out of consideration for spring appointment for funding. 

There has been ongoing requests by graduate students for UC administrators to increase their jobs on campus to accommodate the rapidly rising costs throughout the state. In the fall of 2019, UC Santa Cruz graduate students started to increase demands. Currently, a teaching assistantships garners $2,434 a month.

By December, they went through with their threat of work stoppage. While those who are part of the strike are represented by United Auto Workers Local 2865, in 2018, the union negotiated a contract that included a no-strike clause. This places them as “wildcat strikers,” who are not fully protected under their union. Nonetheless, with the firing, 500 graduate students agreed to not serve as a substitute for the assistantships from fired workers.

Growing solidarity

Shortly after UC Santa Cruz began protests, UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis began their own protests for similar requests. UC Santa Barbara students announced their support and are striking for higher wages too. They want $1,800 more in living. Adding to their solidarity, graduate student instructors at UC Davis pledged to withhold winter quarterly grades, following in the footsteps of their peers at UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara. Four weeks since UC Santa Cruz’s strike, they remain at odds with their schools’ administration.

Other graduate students in other parts of the state and country express their support. Students at the University of Southern California announced they would strike too in solidarity, though they are a private school not in the UC system. Added, The Ohio State University’s English Graduate Student Organization penned a letter of support along with students at Northwestern and Rutgers University.

Even faculty and staff have expressed support for students. “Many UC faculty have already pledged non-retaliation. They & others can also show support by joining this day of action,” posted Ananya Roy, Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare, and Geography and The Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy at the UCLA. As well, hundreds of UC faculty sent a letter of support for graduate students to the UC president, Janet Napolitano. In it, they wrote: “ . . . [we] strongly oppose any retaliation against those on strike, call for the reinstatement of fired strikers, and recognize how essential graduate students are both to the undergraduate teaching mission of the University of California and to its research mission.”

Demonstrations started in the early morning on Thursday and will convene at noon.

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