“ACADEMIC STUDENT EMPLOYEES AND STUDENT RESEARCHERS RATIFIED OUR NEW CONTRACTS!” says the second most recent post by UAW-2865 on Instagram.
With over 80 comments under the post, almost all expressed disappointment, either in the Union itself or with those who voted yes.
“You don’t vote no unless you think you can win more. Workers accept contracts they might think are bad because they don’t think they are in a position to fight for more,” said UAW 2865 UC Santa Cruz chair Jack Davies. “That’s not what workers on our campus thought, though.”
After five weeks of striking, UAW 2865 and Student Researchers United (SRU-UAW) officially voted to ratify their tentative agreements with the University of California on Dec. 23.
While the UAW-2865 contract had 62 percent UC-wide approval, according to a union-wide email sent at 5:48 p.m., 80 percent of Academic Student Employees (ASEs) at UCSC voted against the ratification. No’s exceeded Yes’s in only three campuses: UCSC, UC Merced, and UC Santa Barbara.
With similar revisions to and concessions in the contract of SRU-UAW, only 19 percent of graduate student researchers (GSRs) at UCSC voted to ratify the SRU-UAW’s tentative agreement, with 81 percent against it. UC-wide, 68 percent of this union voted to ratify the contract changes, while 32 percent voted against it. Only UCSC and UC Merced saw a majority of No’s.
In a Dec. 23 press release, UAW 2865 President Rafael Jaime, attributed the thousands of workers across the UC campuses in giving them what he called a drastic improvement to their current contracts.
“These agreements redefine what is possible in terms of how universities support their workers, who are the backbone of their research and education enterprise,” said Jaime. “[…] [These agreements] will improve the quality of life for every single academic employee at the University of California.”
The UAW divisions at UCSC had a different outlook.
Before the voting period began, UCSC UAW voters launched a social media campaign encouraging members of the Union to vote no.
“No to tiers, no to rent burden, no to [Non-residential Supplemental Tuition], no to an inaccessible campus, no to inadequate support for parent workers,” said @PayUsMoreUCSC, an account run by a collective of UCSC strikers, in an Instagram post before the vote. “Our strike is historic, this settlement isn’t.”
The decision to ratify left campaign proponents and many of the “No” voters in shock.
With the final vote coming out two days before Christmas, union members were scattered throughout the country, and even the world, when the decision came out. Distance made it difficult to come together and find a course of action for those who believed there to be more to fight for in terms of the contract.
How UC Santa Cruz Voted
(for a full table of votes from UAW-2865 and SRU-UAW, scroll to the bottom of this page)
UAW-2865 SRU-UAW 844 Votes Against (80 percent) 586 votes against (81 percent)
Highlights of the new three-year UAW 2865 contract include a 7.5 percent increase in pay for TAs, along with a five to eight percent raise for ASEs paid hourly, including undergraduate tutors and readers. Minimum nine-month salaries will be adjusted to $34,000 by fall 2024, while ASEs at UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Francisco will receive $36,500.
The SRU-UAW contract includes 10 percent increases for the first year of the contract, with 6.4 percent increases for the next two years. Moreover, the contract will also implement a new six-point salary scale for GSRs, the lowest tier of which will receive $34,564.50 yearly for a 50 percent time appointment as of fall 2024.
Both contracts also include a $1,350 child care subsidy per quarter (including summers), yearly paid leave increased to 8 weeks, and full coverage of campus fees for ASEs and GSRs with 25 or greater time appointments, up from $100 per quarter. Notably, the new contract does not include a cost of living adjustment (COLA), or remission of Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition (NRST), both major union demands.
With the strike continuing past the end of fall quarter, many instructors were left without graders and students without grades. In response to this, the university announced a new grading policy for unfinished grades in which students who still hadn’t received a grade for their classes from last quarter would have their grades changed to a pass (P). This can be changed to a letter grade before the end of Dec. 2023, after which it will permanently remain a P grade.
Despite the strike being sanctioned by the union, which protects the withholding of labor, TAs are still experiencing pushback from frustrated students and teachers due to the unfinished grading.
“The [student] grumbling is right, it’s just where you’re pointing it. The grumbling is the point. It’s a form of solidarity,” said Rory Willats, a graduate student in the Film and Digital Media Department.
Much is still unclear about what this means for the future of the cost of living adjustment (COLA) movement. Whether or not there will be a wildcat in the future remains to be determined.
Even Davies does not know what is in store for the upcoming months.
“The deeper meaning of this sequence of this strike and struggle will be determined by what happens next.”
UAW-2865 Votes by Campus:
Campus # Yes # No % Yes Total Votes UC Berkeley 3,212 1,462 69% 4,674 UC Davis 1,470 751 66% 2,221 UC Irvine 1,065 505 68% 1,570 UC Los Angeles 1,892 1,089 64% 2,981 UC Merced 105 288 27% 393 UC Riverside 704 407 63% 1,111 UC San Diego 2,154 799 73% 2,953 UC San Francisco 69 30 70% 99 UC Santa Barbara 505 922 35% 1,427 UC Santa Cruz 210 844 20% 1,054
SRU-UAW Votes by Campus:
Campus # Yes # No % Yes Total Votes UC Berkeley 2,166 843 72% 3,009 Berkeley Lab 176 29 86% 205 UC Davis 1,464 511 74% 1,975 UC Irvine 948 358 73% 1,306 UC Los Angeles 1,540 735 68% 2,275 UC Merced 68 207 25% 275 UC Riverside 620 236 72% 856 UC San Diego 1,967 443 82% 2,410 UC San Francisco 378 242 61% 620 UC Santa Barbara 595 450 57% 1,045 UC Santa Cruz 135 586 19% 721