University of California workers reach tentative agreement to end strike after 32 days; The contract will now be voted on.

LOS ANGELES — The University of California on Friday struck a deal for higher wages and benefits with about 36,000 graduate student teaching assistants and other academic staff that could potentially end a month-long strike in the respected state system.

The strike disrupted classes on all 10 campuses in the university system and was the largest strike by academic staff in the country. The agreement has yet to be ratified before the strike officially ends.

The bargaining units said some workers could see pay rises of up to 66% over the next two years.

The pay rises and performance gains could have an impact beyond California. For several decades, colleges and universities have increasingly relied on faculty and graduate student staff to conduct teaching and research previously undertaken by tenured faculty—but without the same pay and benefits.

The UC strike is being closely watched across the country, in part because it is the largest strike by academic staff in higher education, said William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Occupations at Hunter College in New York.

The UC strike, like the others, “provides evidence that strikes are very powerful tools to achieve goals,” he said.

The deal comes weeks after the UC system struck a similar deal with postdocs and academic researchers who make up about 12,000 of the 48,000 union members who walked out of work and picketed on Nov. 14. This agreement will increase wages by up to 29%. and are offering more family leave, childcare grants and extended appointments to ensure job security, according to a statement from United Auto Workers Local 5810.

The academics had argued they couldn’t afford to live at current salaries in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and Berkeley, where housing costs are skyrocketing.

The strike came at a time of increased industrial action across the country, not just in higher education but also among workers at Starbucks, Amazon and elsewhere, and a wave of union organizing efforts among student workers at other universities.

Just this year, graduates from MIT, Clark University, Fordham University, Mexico State University, Washington State University and Worchester Polytechnical Institute voted to organize.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. University of California workers reach tentative agreement to end strike after 32 days; The contract will now be voted on.

Laura Coffey

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