After nearly three weeks of strike, University of California (UC) officials on Nov. 29 struck a tentative deal with postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers that includes some of the highest pay and cost-of-living increases in history, according to union leaders.
About 48,000 academic workers launched the biggest academic strike in U.S. history across all 10 UC campuses on Nov. 14, leaving some classes without instructors and professors without teaching assistants to grade assignments just ahead of end-of-semester exams.
Prior to the strike, United Auto Workers—the union representing the picketers—had been in negotiations with UC leaders for months over pay for postdoctoral scholars, academic researchers, graduate student researchers, and academic student employees—including teaching assistants, readers, and tutors—a UC Office of the President spokesperson told The Epoch Times in a previous interview.
Though the 12,000 postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers’ demands have been met, they say they will not return to work until the contract is ratified and out of solidarity with the 36,000 student workers still on strike.
A deal has not yet been struck regarding compensation for graduate and student workers, according to union officials.
Neal Sweeney, president of United Auto Workers, called on UC officials to reach an agreement with the rest of the student workers in a Nov. 29 statement.
“These agreements represent a new, best-in-class model that will improve quality of life—and the quality of research—for scientists across the U.S.” Sweeney said. “It is now time for UC to make serious proposals to academic student employees and student researchers and to reach fair agreements that recognize the contributions these workers make.”
UC officials said in a Nov. 29 statement they were pleased to reach an agreement.
“Our dedicated colleagues are vital to UC’s research activities, and we are very pleased to have reached agreements that honor their many important contributions,” said Letitia Silas, UC’s executive director of labor relations. “These agreements also uphold our tradition of supporting these employees with compensation and benefits packages that are among the best in the country.”
The two sides have already agreed upon stronger protections against workplace misconduct and abuse.
According to United Auto Workers, the tentative agreement for postdoctoral scholars includes up to a 23 percent salary increase by October 2023, up to $2,500 annual childcare reimbursement with annual $100 childcare increases over the next three years; two-year initial appointments; and a new paid leave program with 100 percent pay for up to eight weeks.
The tentative agreement for academic researchers includes a pay raise of 4.5 percent for the first year, 3.5 percent in the second, third and fourth years and 4 percent in the fifth year; eight weeks of 100 percent paid family leave; increased bereavement leave; and a new system to address workplace conduct and conflict resolution.
The union’s demands for graduate and student workers could prove to be a bit more complicated.
UC Provost Michael Brown said Nov. 14 that two of the group’s demands—tying compensation to housing costs and waiving nonresident tuition for out-of-state and international students—could cost the UC system up to several hundred million dollars per year and be unfair to resident students, since nonresident students would be given a larger compensation package for the same workload.
Once ratified, the contracts will be in effect through Sept. 30, 2027.
City News Service contributed to this report.