Bargaining Update #6: UC Admin to Student-Workers: “Let’s be honest: you are not underpaid for the work you do.”

Santa Cruz – May 31, 2018–This is what the UC admin thinks of our work — a direct quotation from UC Office of the President Chief Negotiator at today’s bargaining session at UC-Santa Cruz. For months, union members have testified about low wages, high rents, and skyrocketing costs of living. Ignoring these stories, UC admin offered us a mere 2% per year wage increase for the next four years, which, given 3.4% annual inflation in California, is a real wage decrease.

– Every worker who said they are sleeping in their car.
– Every worker who has been sexually harassed.
– Every worker who is food insecure.
– Every worker who needs to visit a sick family member but can’t.
– Every worker who rations their mental health care.

…UC Admin has failed you.

The UC admin’s wage proposal was part of a package, with little to no movement on core issues.

Here are the lowlights:

  • Wages: 2% each year for four years for all ASEs.
  • Non-discrimination: The UC admin reasserted their desire to pause our grievance process while they investigate, whenever a grievance involves sexual harassment, denying survivors an avenue for justice. While admin made concessions on alternative resolution and interim measures, they continue to want to place these at the sole discretion of the Title IX office, potentially overriding the wishes of the survivor. UC admin has ignored our proposals to expand lactation stations and all-gender restroom access, as well as ignoring demands for expanded definitions of protected groups and problematic behavior, and even rejecting accommodations for religious observance.
  • Union Access and Rights: The UC admin has proposed that our union’s portion of orientations be a required part of new ASE orientations, but they have made no movement on any of our union’s core demands, including guaranteed access to departmental orientations to ensure student-workers are aware of our rights and protections under our union contract.
  • Duration: A four-year agreement that expires on June 30th, 2022.
  • No improvements to fee remission, childcare reimbursements, classifications, health and safety, and health benefits.

We presented our proposals for a wage increase, a housing stipend, expanded health benefits, and stronger protections against harassment and discrimination. These proposals, drafted collaboratively by members in working groups across the state, are cornerstones of our “UC For All” campaign.


  • Wages: We have proposed that the UC increase our wages to be competitive with peer institutions and account for the skyrocketing cost of living. Specifically, our proposal requires the UC to increase our wages by the greater of a Peer Institution Adjustment and a Fixed Cost of Living Adjustment. The Peer Institution adjustment is designed to bring our wages to the highest minimum gross monthly pay/stipend of UC’s peer institutions. According to the UC Graduate Student Support Survey, UC’s top peer institutions in 2017 were Cornell University, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of Chicago, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, University of Southern California, University of Washington-Seattle, and Yale University. We have done our own analysis of UC’s minimum gross monthly pay/stipend compared to peer institutions and have found that ASEs at UC are paid at the bottom relative to UC’s peer institutions. The Fixed Living Cost Adjustment is designed to ensure that ASEs are not rent-burdened (according to the Federal Government, individuals who pay 30% or more of their income in rent are rent-burdened). Our proposal would bring ASE wages up to an amount such that ASEs are, on average, not paying 30% or more of their income on rent and utilities.
  • Housing: We proposed a brand new article protecting worker access to affordable housing. For on-campus housing, we proposed rent caps benchmarked to our wages, and minimum amounts of on-campus housing one year after contract start. For off-campus housing, we proposed a monthly rental assistance payment based on the gap between on and off campus rents — in order to properly incentivize the UC to build affordable housing. Our proposal also includes measures to ensure student worker input on all changes to on-campus housing.
  • Non-Discrimination: In addition to the many dimensions on which our proposals are superior to admin’s noted above, we have also now proposed protections for student workers who face issues with immigration and work authorization problems, including ensuring that UC clerical errors do not endanger immigration status and barring the UC from engaging in any collaboration with immigration authorities beyond the minimum required by law. We have also moved to expand all special measures for cases of sexual harassment to include harassment and discrimination of any kind.
  • Union Access and Rights: We have demanded that UC fully comply with California labor law requiring full access to new employee orientations and on-boarding, as well as several measures to improve and streamline enforcement of the contract, including paid grievance officers, on-campus Union offices, and joint management trainings.
  • Health Benefits: We have demanded remission of premiums for full medical, dental, and vision coverage for all student workers and their dependents. We also have proposed that UC eliminate substantial discrepancies between benefits across campuses and raise all campuses to at least the highest current coverage. Lastly, we have proposed full mental health and reproductive care, as well as an elimination of co-pays for all basic services at UC facilities.

Our union was supported by Professors of Sociology Dr. Miriam Greenberg and Dr. Steven McKay, who lead the No Place Like Home project on the Santa Cruz housing crisis. Their research demonstrates that 76% of surveyed graduate students at Santa Cruz are rent-burdened, paying more than 30% of their wages on rent. A union-led rally of 100+ members told management that these poverty wages are unacceptable.

Benjamin Gruey, a graduate student in Applied Mathematics, shared his thoughts and the support of his faculty mentor: “The failure of the UC administration to increase wages as needed across the UC system comes from ignoring and deflecting reality, rather than working within the world we have today. Crippling a department by making them warn away their highly-qualified candidates due to financial concerns is a tragedy on every level of this university.”

Juan Carlos Dávila, a UC Student-Workers Union Head Steward at UC-Santa Cruz, shared: “This wage increase is very disrespectful for the labor we put into this university. This is a good university, and it is our work that makes it good.”

We are a member-led union. The strength of our new contract depends on the strength of our membership. Become a department steward, join your campus Organizing Committee or Anti-Oppression Committee, or join a working group. Now is the time to build the power to win our demands!

Join us on June 6 and 7 at UC-Riverside for the next round of bargaining!

In solidarity,

The UC Student-Workers Union, the UAW Local 2865, Bargaining Team

Margaret Mary Downey (Berkeley)
Garrett Shishido Strain (Berkeley)
Emily Breuninger (Davis)
Ashlyn Jaeger (Davis)
Kurt Horner (Irvine)
Francisco Ilabaca (Irvine)
Jonathan Koch (Los Angeles)
Alli Carlisle (Los Angeles)
Daniel Rios (Merced)
Christina Acosta (Merced)
Eden Ragsdale (Riverside)
David Chávez (Riverside)
Raúl Herrera (San Diego)
Davide Carpano (San Diego)
Meg Unden (Santa Barbara)
Hannah Kagan-Moore (Santa Barbara)
Ana McTaggart (Santa Cruz)
Kyle Galindez (Santa Cruz)