Nearly 50,000 UC workers go on strike. What does it mean for undergrads?

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Robin Estrin

A UCLA sign welcomes people to campus, which it touts as the No. 1 public university. Photo by Amy Ta/KCRW

Nearly 50,000 academic workers from the University of California’s 10 campuses are on strike. Among them are teaching assistants, researchers, and postdocs. They’re pushing for more than double their salaries, plus subsidies for housing, child care, and transportation — as many find themselves priced out of the cities they work in.

These strikers are part-time workers who sometimes earn $25,000-30,000 per year. Doubling salaries has never happened before in academic negotiations, and the two sides haven’t reached a consensus after negotiating for more than a year. That’s all according to Blake Jones, a Politico reporter who covers education in California.

He adds, “You also hear from union leaders who are saying that [workers are] paying more than 50% of their salary for rent … in some of these especially pricey cities that UC campuses are hosted by. … Many of these … folks who are striking today say that they're living at poverty-level wages, and that the 7% wage increase that the UC is offering is far from sufficient in giving them livable wages.”

The organizers are looking for a minimum of $54,000 a year for all grad students, and $70,000 for postdocs. But the UC said that’s a non-starter. 

“What we've heard from the organizers and bargaining committees is that unless they see a substantial concession on some of these monetary wage issues, that they're not even going to bring a contract back to their members for a ratification vote.”

How does all this affect undergraduate students? Graduate students often teach classes and grade papers. Logan says some students won’t have their papers graded for the foreseeable future, and graduates won’t teach undergrad sessions today. The disruptions are also based on how many people are striking at each campus. 

“This is a really key time for some of these disruptions to be happening. … Finals are just around the corner. … Many students are relying on teachers’ assistants to help them prep for finals, have some of these 9 p.m. study sessions. … And since this strike is open-ended and we don't have an idea of when it could conclude since we haven't seen big concessions from either party, it's unclear whether students are going to get any reprieve.”

Logan says he hasn’t heard full-time professors say they’ll teach these sessions, but some have expressed support for the strike.



  • John Logan - director of labor and employment studies at San Francisco State University