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Davis, California

Thursday, May 16, 2024

UC Davis Graduate Students vote in favor of strike authorization vote

Workers rallied at the quad demanding better treatment from UC Davis

By CHRIS PONCE — city@theaggie.org


On Oct. 13, UC Davis workers rallied together at the quad, calling for a strike authorization vote as part of the Union of Postdocs and Academic Researchers’ (UAW) October Mass Membership Meeting. The UAW’s Davis chapter list of demands include decreasing rent burden, a higher minimum salary, better childcare and more. According to a Tweet by the UAW, over 600 workers gathered for the cause.      

According to a Google spreadsheet created by The UAW, issues that are on the negotiation table include but are not limited to: appointments, benefits, childcare, compensation, housing, layoffs, leaves of absences, management and academic rights, no strikes, parking and transit, President’s Postdoctoral Fellowships, reasonable accommodations, relocation reimbursements, work authorizations, duration and international scholar and immigrant support.

Graduate student employees and organizers took to the megaphone to explain why they are voting yes on a strike. Sarah Gooding, a Ph.D student with the UC Davis Neuroscience Graduate Student Association (NGSA) spoke about her and her partner’s experiences as expecting parents and graduate students.

“The cost of infant child care in Davis is over $2,000 a month,” Gooding said. “It costs $432 a month minimum to add a child to our UC SHIP Health plan. That’s [my partner’s] stipend — it’s gone now. That leaves mine to cover rent, our utilities, food, vehicle cost, everything else you need to take care of a family of three. How many of you feel really good about supporting a family of three on your monthly stipend?”

The crowd of concerned workers booed as a response to this question. One person in attendance even shouted that they can barely support themself with the stipend. Gooding criticized UC Davis for their lack of family care. 

“They can not call themselves champions of gender equity or diversity in academia while they continue to champion policies that are fundamentally incompatible with being a parent,” Gooding said.

Multiple speakers followed, sharing their stories of feeling unsupported by UC Davis. Wen Guan, a Ph.D student and teaching assistant in the sociology department, talked about her experience as an international student at Davis.

“As an international student, just like all of the other ones, we crossed the oceans and continents, come to this country, this school for better education and better life,” Guan said. “We never ask [for] money from this country. Now our first demands is stop taking more money out of our pockets.”          

Before the authorization vote, organizers passed the megaphone to people in attendance, each of whom shared why they are voting yes on authorization. 

One person said, “I’m voting yes because half of my paycheck goes to rent.”
Another added, “All we’re asking for is to be able to afford our rent, to be able to buy groceries, to be able to not have a heart attack when we’re putting gas in our cars.”

Yet another shared that “because of rent burden, a good 60% of my stipend goes to my rent. I’m an older nontraditional student who takes care of her elderly parents. So we need a living wage.”

The organizers announced it was time to take the authorization vote. They asked all who wanted to vote ‘yes’ to raise their hands and say ‘aye.’ When asked if anyone opposed, the crowd laughed and raised no objections. Instead, the workers in attendance began to chant the word strike. 

More workers in attendance shared their reasons for approving the strike after the vote. Mackenzie Mcfarland said she and others did not get paid until November, despite living in Davis since September.

Joseph Wood, a fourth-year Ph.D candidate in material science, talked about why he voted on authorization and why undergraduate students should pay attention to issues concerning their TAs.

“Well obviously rent sucks, losing almost half of my paycheck to rent sucks,” Wood said. “But also, a really close friend of mine basically got bullied out of her lab by her P.I, no repercussions. By the time it will affect you, it’s too late to not care.”


Written by: Chris Ponce — city@theaggie.org