Graduate student workers’ concerns deserve to be heard by UC Santa Cruz administration

Graduate student workers’ concerns deserve to be heard by UC Santa Cruz administration

Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE FILE

UC Santa Cruz, University of California Office of the President must negotiate with, not arrest, protestors

In light of the 17 recent arrests of UCSC graduate student protestors, the Editorial Board feels its pertinent to announce its solidarity with the strike. 

This strike, which follows months of negotiations between administrators and graduate students, concerns a cost of living adjustment of $1,412 per month. Many of these instructors say that they cannot afford to live in Santa Cruz, and they argue that this increase to their monthly salary would allow them to do so. 

The UCSC administration has refused to negotiate, saying that to do so would be illegal, as the protest was not authorized by the United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865, the union representing student workers throughout the UC system.

Their contract dictates pay across the UC, meaning that “a graduate student teaching assistant in Santa Cruz or Berkeley is paid about the same as graduate students in Riverside or Merced, which have much lower housing costs,” according to The New York Times. This year, Santa Cruz, a city without rent control, ranked number one as the least affordable city in the U.S. for teachers. The median gross rent in Santa Cruz County is $1,685 — $311 more than the median gross rent in Riverside County — according to the American Community Survey

It is unjustifiable to expect graduate instructors in Santa Cruz to afford their cost of living on a salary of $2,400 a month — the same salary that supports graduates at UCs located in drastically more affordable cities. Whether or not the strike was sanctioned by the broader union, the university has a duty to ensure a living wage to its employees, and current wages do not meet that standard.

These graduate students study and contribute research to the institution while working as part-time instructors, yet they are barely compensated enough to afford housing. This should be an immediate concern of the UCSC administration.  

Rather than negotiating, however, the administration is considering disciplining protestors, and has condemned them for endangering undergraduate students. “I am extremely disappointed that some graduate students chose to do so [protest] in a way that was unsanctioned by their union and is harmful to our undergraduate students,” said UCSC Chancellor Cynthia Larive in a statement to the campus community, according to The New York Times. 

But by paying its student workers unsustainable salaries, the administration puts them at risk for homelessness. This is an issue for which these graduate students are willing to put themselves on the line, as demonstrated through the 17 recent arrests during a protest last Wednesday. 

If the UC Santa Cruz administration has no authority to raise salaries due to the graduate students’ labor contract being system-wide, then the entire contract should be renegotiated. 

The Board urges the UCSC administration to meet with protestors and negotiate a fair contract. We encourage the University of California Office of the President (UCOP) to come up with a way to make future labor contracts with the UAW 2865 campus-specific. Graduate students should not have to strike in order to afford housing. The UCSC administration and UCOP must dialogue with graduate student workers and ensure that their concerns are heard rather than arresting and punishing them.  

Written by: The Editorial Board


3 Comments on this Post

  1. ….OR UCSC could pay grad students a fair living wage/ COLA so they can afford to live in the city they were hired to work in.

    • USCS: “We’re not going to pay you enough to live here.”
      Grad students: “I accept and I blame you.”
      No. Doesn’t work like that.

  2. Step 1. Don’t agree to attend a school if the pay is too low to afford rent.
    There is no step 2.

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