LOS ANGELES (AP) — The University of California reached an agreement Friday with some 36,000 graduate student teaching assistants and other academic workers for increased pay and benefits that could potentially end a monthlong strike at the prestigious state system.
The strike disrupted classes at all 10 of the university system's campuses and was the largest strike of academic workers in the nation. The agreement still needs to be ratified before the strike officially ends.
The bargaining units said some workers could see raises of up to 66% over the next two years. The contracts would go through May 31, 2025.
The pay hikes and boost in benefits could have an impact beyond California. For several decades, colleges and universities have increasingly relied on faculty and graduate student employees to do teaching and research that had previously been handled by tenured track faculty — but without the same pay and benefits.
"These agreements will place our graduate student employees among the best supported in public higher education," Michael V. Drake, president of the University of California, said in a news release Friday. "If approved, these contracts will honor their critical work and allow us to continue attracting the top academic talent from across California and around the world."
The 32-day UC strike was being closely watched around the country, in part because it is the largest strike of academic workers in higher education, said William A. Herbert, executive director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions at Hunter College in New York.
The strike at UC, like the others, is "providing guidance to indicate that strikes are very forceful means of accomplishing goals," he said.
The agreement comes weeks after the UC system reached a similar deal with postdoctoral employees and academic researchers who make up about 12,000 of the 48,000 union members who walked off the job and onto picket lines Nov. 14. That agreement will hike pay up to 29% and provide increased family leave, childcare subsidies and lengthened appointments to ensure job security, according to a statement from United Auto Workers Local 5810.
The academic workers had argued they couldn't afford to live in cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego and Berkeley, where housing costs are soaring, with the current salaries.
The strike came at a time of increased labor action nationwide, not just in higher education but among workers at Starbucks, Amazon and elsewhere and a groundswell of unionization efforts among graduate student employees at other universities.
Just this year, graduate student employees at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Clark University, Fordham University, New Mexico State University, Washington State University and Worchester Polytechnical Institute all voted in favor of unionization.
Watson reported from San Diego.