Student union strike vote ballot boxes.

Student Researchers Hold Strike Vote

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

This week, 48,000 academic workers across the University of California system are holding a vote to authorize a strike over union claims of unfair labor practices. 

“This is an incredibly historic moment, I think, for California to have three giant academic unions all bargaining at the same time and supporting each other,” said Melissa Mendez, a UCSF representative on the Student Researchers United bargaining team and a second year Tetrad graduate student. 

If a strike vote authorization is successful, unions will begin organizing for a potential walkout in mid-November. The vote is a necessary response to the University of California’s actions throughout the bargaining process, according to Mendez.

“The strike is over the UC’s refusal to bargain fairly and we would not be doing so if the UC was bargaining with us in good faith,” she said. “We have filed twenty one, what are called unfair labor practice suits and those cover various potentially unlawful actions that the University of California has committed while bargaining.” 

The issues raised in the suits include the University of California unilaterally changing employee benefits outside of the bargaining process, failing to provide accurate information necessary for bargaining, and surveying bargaining unit members about topics under negotiation in the bargaining process.

The Public Employee Relations Board of California, or PERB, will determine whether the suits have merit and may set up mediated hearings between the unions and the UC. 

When asked for comment, UC Office of the President strategic communications staffer Erika Cervantes said the university is “committed to reaching full agreements as soon as possible.”

Bargaining negotiations between Student Researchers United and the University of California have been in progress for the past ten months. Both sides have tentatively agreed on topics including bullying and harassment protections, non-discrimination, and workload for students.

But the biggest sticking points are economic articles, according to Mendez. 

“That includes something as obvious as wages, direct compensation for workers. But that also includes things like housing and childcare benefits and transit passes,” she said

Cervantes said the university’s goal is to ensure “fair pay, family-friendly benefits, and a supportive and respectful work environment.”

Workers who are eligible to vote include members of the Student Researchers United union (SRU-UAW); the Postdocs and Academic Researchers Union (UAW 5810); and the TAs, Readers and Tutors Union (UAW 2865).

The voting period is from Oct. 26 to Nov. 2. To authorize a strike, two-thirds of participating voters must vote yes.