Striking academic workers from UC Berkeley, UCSF and UC Davis marched on the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, in Oakland on Monday.
Kieren Rudge, a campus doctoral student, said more than 1,000 strikers partook in the march to UCOP.
“We’re gathered here today because the UC Office of the President is just a few blocks away,” said UAW 5810 Vice President Sarah Arveson at the rally. “We’re here today to bring the strike directly to the boss.”
The march began with strikers organizing on the UC Berkeley campus. A group of bicycle volunteers was dispatched to block cars from turning onto the march route.
Later, pedestrian marchers took BART to the 19th Street station, where they then rallied at Snow Park before marching to the UCOP office at the intersection of 12th Street and Franklin Street. Strikers were joined by Oakland Mayor-elect Sheng Thao and Alameda Labor Council President Keith Brown during the rally at Snow Park.
“Everything went really smoothly,” said Shane Devlin, a bicycle volunteer and striker. “Everything went to plan. We had no incidents. Everyone got to (UC President) Michael Drake’s office and back safely.”
Current negotiations with UCOP are finally reaching the “core issues” of compensation, fair wages and labor practices, according to Rudge. Still, negotiator Tarini Hardikar said the UC is not coming to the bargaining table as often as the unions would like. She added that a number of issues remain unresolved, including wages, childcare, fee remission and parking and transit.
But while the local unions representing academic workers and student researchers remain at the bargaining table as of press time, the two bargaining teams under UAW 5810 — which represents postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers — reached a tentative contract agreement with the university Monday night.
During the rally, Arveson announced that postdoctoral scholars received a proposal from the university that included compensation with a 20% raise within a year, eight weeks of fully paid parental leave and child-care benefits for the first time. According to Arveson, this proposal makes UC postdoctoral median salaries among the highest of all universities in the country. There is a possibility for future agreement for free transit passes, Arveson added.
“Bargaining is a give-and-take process. For the stuff we have reached tentative agreements on, I’m happy with what we have agreed to,” Hardikar said. “We hope this week negotiations pick up pace and UC demonstrates some leadership and comes to the bargaining table in good faith.”
The strike negotiators are demanding $54,000 base salaries for all half-time graduate workers along with 7% yearly increases that they say will help GSIs and GSRs keep up with the rising cost of living in California, according to UAW 2865 elected head steward Connor Jackson.
Jackson said there has not been any response from the university to the latest economic proposal by graduate student and undergraduate student worker unions. He added that graduate and undergraduate students have been waiting 11 days for a response.
Rudge alleged that some departments, principal investigators and professors had attempted to intimidate academic workers into returning to work by threatening not to renew their contracts or to fire them.
“They can’t be forcing people to come back in to work under threat of some penalty of their relationship or ongoing research,” Rudge alleged.
He added that the UCOP and individual campus administrations needed to provide better guidance to professors on what action they should take in response to the strike, and that some faculty had been holding their peers accountable for such retaliatory action.
However, UCOP spokesperson Ryan King said the UCOP has taken several steps to inform the campus community about striking workers’ rights and that they have been “very clear” that employment decisions cannot be based on strike participation.
“UC respects the rights of our employees to participate in lawful strike activity free from intimidation, coercion, and retaliation,” King said in an email. “UC takes reports of prohibited retaliation seriously.”
King added that any employee who believes they have been retaliated against for participating in lawful strike activity should report the action to their union representative or via individual campus whistleblowing hotlines.
In an effort to increase pressure during the third week of striking, Hardikar hand delivered a letter of demands to UCOP on behalf of the strikers during the march.
“We were going to have to pick and choose between every one of these issues before the strike, and now we’re getting it all,” Arveson said at the rally. “We never would have seen these transformative wins without fighting together and all going on strike together. UC has demonstrated a path to winning wages that addresses the cost of living at UC for postdocs and now we want to see that path forward for all academic workers.”