The Executive Board of the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation, American Federation of Teachers 3544, which represents over 1,400 graduate employees at the University of Oregon, writes in support of the graduate employees of the University of California-Santa Cruz currently on strike. We urge the University of California-Santa Cruz administration to negotiate with UCSC graduate employees and to agree to wage provisions that value their important contributions to the university as educators and researchers.
The struggle that UCSC graduate employees are facing – wages that come nowhere close to dealing with the cost of living – will resonate with graduate employees all over the country. This is one of the major issues that graduate employees contend with time and again, demonstrating the need for further graduate employee union organizing and for a fundamental transformation of undemocratic university systems.
GTFF, one of the country’s oldest graduate employee unions, concluded year-long negotiations with University of Oregon’s administration in November 2019 and only reached an agreement after more than 1,000 graduate employees voted to authorize a strike. GTFF members collectively withstood the University of Oregon (UO) administration’s attempt to impose drastic cuts to our health care. UO admin repeatedly offered wage proposals that did not keep up with rising costs, denied consideration of housing issues, and engaged in discriminatory bargaining maneuvers with regard to international graduate employees.
As GTFF members, we stood firm through our union to retain affordable health insurance and secure wage increases and crucial provisions related to paid training, childcare subsidies, paid parental leave, and protections for international graduate employees from ICE. In the same way, UCSC graduate workers are striving for a cost-of-living-adjustment that actually accounts for exorbitant housing and living costs in Santa Cruz, which is one of the most expensive cities in the country. UCSC graduate employees are standing up not only for themselves, but also for other graduate employees and working people who are devalued in their jobs and denied stability in their lives.
Striking UCSC grad workers have received support at the department level and from faculty members and undergraduate students, demonstrating that university administration is isolated in its efforts to further an inequitable model. UCSC administration has refused to engage with union representatives and has sought to undermine graduate workers with threats to discipline strikers for alleged student conduct violations and by attempting to get faculty members to perform scab labor. UCSC, however, has more than enough resources and institutional power to simply agree to a fair standard of living for its graduate workers. By providing UCSC graduate workers with what they need, university administrators can demonstrate that they value graduate workers and their important role in university education. After all, graduate employee working conditions are student learning conditions, and graduate employees make significant contributions to the university’s research mission. GTFF is proud to extend support to our fellow graduate employees at UCSC as they continue their struggle for a fair wage and a dignified standard of living!
GTFF Executive Board