RA Campaign Background Information and Resources

TAKE THE PLEDGE! – tinyurl.com/RAPledge2017

Check our campaign headquarters at: uaw2865.org/ra

Find answers to all your questions on our FAQ page.

Read our mission statement: Uniting GSRs and GSIs at all UCs

October 16, 2017

After a dynamic, multi-year struggle led by student-workers, UC Research Assistants won the legal right to join our union and collectively determine their working conditions!   Just before midnight on Sunday, October 15, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 201 into law. This bill, authored by State Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), extends collective bargaining rights to Research Assistants (RAs) in California public higher education systems, establishing parity with thousands of RAs and Teaching Assistants across the country who already enjoy this right.  Please  contact us if you are interested in becoming involved in our campaign to bring UC Research Assistants into our Local.

Congratulations and thank you to all of the student-workers who lobbied in Sacramento, signed petitions, filled out surveys, and organized to get this bill passed. Many thanks also to our sister locals, UAW 5810 (UC Postdocs) and UAW 4123 (CSU Student-Workers), who collaborated in this effort, as well as to our bill’s sponsor, Senator Nancy Skinner. As a graduate student, Senator Skinner was one of the activists responsible for the creation of UAW 2865 in the first place!

The passage of this bill is a turning point in a long journey. The UC has fought against RA collective bargaining rights for 35 years. Five years ago, Governor Brown vetoed similar legislation, caving to the UC administration’s fierce opposition to labor rights. This time, however, Governor Brown did the right thing, affirming that Research Assistants are employees who deserve the same protections against overwork, discrimination, harassment, etc., as every other employee.

While this phase of the campaign is over, the fight is just beginning. Now the real work of organizing our colleagues who work as Research Assistants/GSRs begins. If you would like to get involved, or you know RAs/GSRs on your campus who would be interested in our campaign, please contact us. Please also be in touch if you receive communication from the UC administration or your supervisors about this legislation.


The UAW 2865 RA Committee

Since 1999, the pay gap between GSIs and GSRs has continued to grow.

GSI and GSR Pay Graph












Below are links to academic journal and news articles, all highlighting the importance of obtaining equal rights for all RAs, GSRs, and GSIs across the University of California.

Academic Journal Articles:

ILR Review article by Rogers, Eaton, and Voos, which demonstrates that Unionization does not harm faculty-student relations and academic freedom, but instead may have a number of positive effects, including higher levels of personal and professional support, and better pay.

eLIFE article by Cain, et al, which describes how UAW 5810 (the union of Postdoctoral Scholars at the University of California) has led to improved terms and conditions for postdocs.

Labor Studies Journal article by Kaplan, et al, which evaluated medical residents’ attitudes toward unionization and measured issues a residency union might pursue. Survey participants identified collective bargaining issues like health and malpractice insurance as well as free parking, and 82 percent would consider joining a union.

Labor Studies Journal article by Lafer, which tracks the movement of graduate student teacher unionization in response to trends toward corporatization of higher education, the 2001 NLRB ruling in favor of organization, and the Bush-era fight against that (similar to the political situation occurring today).

Journal of Higher Education article by Rhoads and Rhoades, which interviewed people for four case studies to find the ways Graduate Employee Unions operated to challenge the corporatization of U.S. Research Institutions.

Journal of Labor Research article by Singh, Zinni, and MacLennan, which traces the origins and evolution of graduate student unions in the United States, discusses the relevant statutory and case law, analyzes pertinent collective bargaining and strike issues, and suggests avenues for future research.

Sociological Perspectives article by Dixon, Tope, and Dyke, which analyzes the factors leading to graduate employee union organizing campaigns between 1996 and 2001, and how shifts in the nature of academic labor markets, local resources and opportunities for activism, and increased links between organized labor and college campuses influence the timing and location of organizing campaigns.

Journal of Higher Education article by Lee, et al, which identifies cultural barriers confronting graduate student unionization, with significance for universities as graduate student unionization increases in magnitude throughout the United States.


News Articles:

2017 The Daily Californian article about a Research Assistant who alleges being sexually assaulted and harassed by Philosophy professor John Searle, and when she reported his sexual misconduct to UC Berkeley employees, the process failed. After reporting, she suffered a 50% pay cut without cause.

2013 Journal of Higher Education article reporting on a study comparing grad students with and without collective bargaining for their teaching work, which finds that those with unions have better pay, and that they are just as close to their professors as those on other campuses.

2016 The Chicago Maroon article which outlines the American Association of University Professors’ statement in support of the right of graduate students to unionize.

2016 The Maneater article which outlines the 84 percent in-favor vote for unionization at Missouri University and the University of Missouri System.


They study genetics and teach immunology. And they want to join the auto workers union

2016 Stat article which describes why students at Harvard, including at Boston’s Longwood Medical Area, want to join a Union.

2015 Jacobin article which describes how few forces are better positioned to fight the corporate university than graduate student workers.

2015 The Atlantic article which explains, with the cost of advanced degrees on the rise, Master’s and Ph.D. candidates who work for their universities are organizing for better compensation.

2015 Al Jazeera America article which outline the nationwide press by graduate students for the right to form a Union, including asking the US labor board to overrule a 2004 precedent barring graduate worker unions.

2015 Truthout op-ed which questions why The New York Times article on student unionization did not include any student-worker perspectives.

Grad Students to the Barricades

2012 Dissent article which explains the history of the fight for graduate student unions.

2012 Inside Higher Education article which asks whether graduate student interests can only be represented by their own unions, and the difference between a student and an employee.

2012 testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce, which argues that there is no reason why workers (including teachers and researchers) should be denied the right to participate in collective bargaining.

1999 Solidarity article which outlines the path to unionization victory for UAW 2865, the UC Student-Worker Union.


UC Berkeley Labor Center