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University of California student academic workers continue strike for higher wages

BERKELEY — Striking University of California academic student workers have entered the second week of their open-ended work stoppage, holding picket lines and protest signs aplenty across all 10 campuses.

Believed to be one of the largest higher-education strikes in U.S. history, more than 48,000 graduate instructors, teacher’s assistants, student researchers and sympathetic senior faculty walked off the job Nov. 14, demanding higher living wages, better child care benefits, increased access to transit and greater job security.

Without a deal in sight, hundreds of classes and lectures have been pushed online while negotiations are ongoing between administrators and representatives from the students’ union, United Auto Workers.

In a rare glimpse of solidarity between rivals, the Stanford University marching band spelled out “UAW” in line formations while performing at California Memorial Stadium during the two universities’ football “Big Game” on Saturday.

Union organizers are holding steadfast that the strike will not end until UC’s contract proposals adequately address California’s staggering cost of living for its intellectual workforce, which is largely in charge of teaching classes, drafting research papers and grading final exams.

Proposals have included improvements to health benefits, annual child care stipends and paid time off, but the biggest stalemate remains over wages.

Union officials say some UC part-time teacher assistants make as little as $24,000 annually, and they are holding steadfast with the insistence that UC establish a baseline salary of $54,000. UAW reps argue that more than 90% of its workers are rent-burdened — paying 30% to 50% of their income on housing costs.

However, UC has proposed increasing first-year pay by 3% to 10% for each of its different academic worker positions, but it has pushed for 3% annual raises, rather than any increase tied to inflation rates.

UC has said its proposal “would be among the top of the pay scale among the top public research universities, and more comparable to private universities such as Harvard, MIT and USC.”

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