UCSC faculty, students rally with academic workers as UC strike stretches on with little progress

Striking academic workers hold a rally on the UC Santa Cruz campus Friday.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Hundreds of humanities students, undergraduates and faculty marched with STEM graduate student researchers Friday, shutting down traffic on High Street near the UC Santa Cruz campus. Nearly 48,000 academic workers began striking across the UC system Monday for higher wages and better benefits.

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Hundreds of UC Santa Cruz faculty and undergraduate students joined with striking academic workers Friday in one of the largest shows of force in the job action, which has lasted all week with little sign of progress.

This protest on the UCSC campus continues as part of a systemwide strike held by all 10 of the University of California campuses, involving some 48,000 teaching assistants, readers, tutors, researchers, graduate and postdoctoral students. The academic workers are demanding increased wages as well as other benefits like child care.

Science, technology, engineering and math graduate student researchers kicked off protests Friday morning on Science Hill. Marching down to the base of campus, these students were joined by humanities students, undergraduates and faculty as part of a picket line and noon rally — ultimately shutting down traffic on High Street, in front of the entrance to the campus.

Signs reading “UAW on strike unfair labor practices” saturated the area as students blocked off the four-way intersection shouting echo chants like “Whose streets? Our streets. Whose university? Our university.”

Rebecca Gross, a literature Ph.D. candidate at UCSC and head steward of the United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865, described the scene “as the best energy we’ve seen the whole time.”

“The longer that we stay on strike,” she added, “the more power we have.”

Grace Yun, a literature Ph.D. candidate, described the strikers as “tenacious” and reiterated that students are “willing to take as long as the UC is going to take to come to the bargaining table.”

Santa Cruz County is one of the least affordable counties in the country. Graduate students say they often spend as much as 50-60% of their wages on rent alone and that raising wages to $54,000 would allow students to live and work in this area. The students are also calling for a cost of living adjustment, which would raise wages to match inflation. “It’s not just a wage increase,” Gross said, “it’s a political agenda to end rent burden.”

Citing what they call unfair labor practices by the University of California system throughout the bargaining process...

The effects of the strike were being felt across the university Friday. One student described the campus as a “ghost town.”

According to students Lookout spoke to, the number of classes that have been canceled this week has varied by department and individual faculty members. Faculty support has been “mixed bag,” Yun said. “It depends on who’s your lecturer” said Kara Jaramillo, a Ph.D. candidate in the earth and planetary science department.

UCSC sociology department chair Miriam Greenberg, who attended Friday’s rally, said “faculty won’t take up struck labor, the work that the students are doing can’t be done by faculty.”

Both Jaramillo and Yun felt there could have been a more unified showing of faculty support. “I’m not just fighting for myself,” Jaramillo said.

On why she’s protesting, Yun said, “I’m here for all the future students ... it’s not just about the $54,000, but it’s about making sure students who want to pursue higher education have adequate housing and are treated properly.”


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