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University of California workers end strike after approving contracts

People participate in a protest outside the UCLA campus in Los Angeles on Nov. 14, 2022.
Damian Dovarganes
People participate in a protest outside the UCLA campus in Los Angeles on Nov. 14, 2022.

LOS ANGELES — Striking graduate students at the University of California approved a bargaining agreement Friday, ending an unprecedented 40-day strike that snarled classes at the prestigious university system.

Union representatives said Friday a majority of striking graduate students and teaching assistants approved two contracts to formally end the work stoppage.

Wages will rise up to 80% for some of the lowest-paid workers, with all workers seeing a boost in pay, union representatives said. The contracts also improve benefits to help workers cover child care expenses and health costs and will help intentional students, they said.

The bargaining units were represented by the United Auto Workers.

"The dramatic improvements to our salaries and working conditions are the result of tens of thousands of workers striking together in unity," Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 2865, said in a statement. "These agreements redefine what is possible in terms of how universities support their workers, who are the backbone of their research and education enterprise."

The university system applauded the new contracts, which it said will take immediate effect and run through May 31, 2025.

"Today's ratification demonstrates yet again the University's strong commitment to providing every one of our hardworking employees with competitive compensation and benefit packages that honor their many contributions to our institution, to our community, and to the state of California," UC said in a statement.

The agreements cover about 36,000 workers, many of whom make as little as $24,000 annually, a paltry salary for living in cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and Berkeley, where the university system has campuses.

The union said the strike, which began in mid-November, was largest ever among academic workers. It was being closely watched by other university campuses around the country.

About 12,000 other striking workers, mainly postdoctoral students and academic researchers, already ratified an agreement that will boost their pay by 29%. They will also get better family leave, child care subsidies and job security.

The strike lasted for a month before a tentative agreement was reached last Friday. Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg served as a mediator after several failed attempts to reach a deal.

By the end of 2024, the minimum pay for teaching assistants will be at least $36,000, with higher pay for students on campuses in particularly expensive cities. Graduate student researchers will make at least $40,000, according to union representatives.

Workers can get childcare subsidies of more than $2,000 a semester.

A group of workers branded as "Strike to Win" urged workers to vote against the tentative agreement, saying it failed to meet demands of a $54,000 base wage, more financial support for international students, $2,000 a month for childcare subsidies and expanded protections for people with disabilities.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The Associated Press
[Copyright 2024 NPR]

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