Graduate Employees Strike at UCSC

By Sarah Mink

Graduate student employees at the University of California, Santa Cruz, affiliated with UAW Local 2865 began a wildcat strike on February 10 for a cost-of-living increase to address skyrocketing housing costs in one of the nation’s most expensive markets. UC president Janet Napolitano threat­ened dismissal if graduate workers withheld fall quarter grades. The university deployed riot police against picketers on their first day, causing injuries and propelling the issue into the national spotlight.

On February 28, the AAUP’s Council released a statement expressing support for the striking graduate employees and for the various solidarity efforts under­taken on other UC campuses. The statement deplored the use of riot police, condemned Napolitano’s threat to fire those on strike, and recognized the unsustainable burden of high housing costs on graduate workers. That same day, UCSC announced it was firing fifty-four striking graduate workers and informed approximately twenty others that they would not be reap­pointed for the spring quarter.

On March 2, a faculty organizing group at UCSC held a press confer­ence and read statements of support from individuals and organizations outside the UC system, including a statement from Henry Reichman, the AAUP’s second vice president and chair of Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Reichman called on Napolitano and the UC administration to cease efforts to fire striking employees and accept the offer to negotiate. He noted that “the AAUP has affirmed the right of graduate student workers to organize and bargain collectively in both public and private institu­tions. We have long recognized that today’s graduate students are tomor­row’s professors. We have therefore welcomed graduate students as members and have defended—and will continue to defend—their academic freedom and other profes­sional rights, including their right to reasonable compensation for their instructional and research employment.”

The wildcat strike spread across the UC system later in March, and in April strikers called for a system­wide unfair labor practice strike in response to the administration’s disciplinary measures.