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Classes halted as UC workers protest low wages

Thousands of student workers traded class time for the picket line in ongoing strike for better wages.

By Ava Rosate, Staff Writer

UCLA student workers flood the Powell Library during a rally on Tuesday after the picket line dispersed for the day. (Ava Rosate/Valley Star)

All 10 University of California schools halted classes in response to a 48,000-person strike that began on Monday and is expected to continue through the week.

The picketers, consisting of students, student workers, teacher assistants and professors, are protesting low wages and poor worker benefits. The United Auto Workers represent all 48,000 academic workers in four fields: postdoctoral scholars, academic researchers, academic student employees and graduate student researchers.

“UCLA is the number one public school in the nation, because of us,” Michael Dean, a Ph.D graduate and academic researcher said during the rally outside of the Powell Library. “We are the ones who do all their research, who find funding for programs, who write the grants. Our compensation should reflect that.”

On the second day of the strike at UCLA, one thousand undergraduates and graduates across seven different picket lines flooded the campus with signs and bullhorns, chanting messages over the course of eight hours.

The inflation rate in California stood at 8.2 percent in September. The cost of living hike, combined with the average rent in Los Angeles being over $36,000 each year, and topped with a $23,000 annual pay, could make attending or working for a UC school difficult.

Hugo Soto-Martinez was elected as 13th district city councilmember while he was speaking at the UCLA rally. (Ava Rosate/Valley Star)

“We are asking for the rent burden to end, and for basic benefits such as paid childcare,” said a teaching assistant in the physics department, Morgaine Mandigo-Stoba. “I get paid less than $2,500 a month. Rent on campus is almost $23,000 a year, which averages out to $2,500 a month. This is outrageous.”

According to the United Auto Workers, 31 unfair labor practices have been filed as of Tuesday. The charges range from counts of union intimidation to surveying bargaining members.

The UC office of the President issued a statement to CBS8 that said the school system is negotiating with United Auto Workers and is seeking a new multi year contract “with fair pay, quality health and family-friendly benefits and a supportive and respectful work environment.

The strike is expected to last throughout the week, or until a bargain is reached. According to an email sent out to all students and faculty on Monday, representatives from each UC campus were traveling to UC Irvine to begin bargaining on Tuesday. Per a second email sent out Tuesday morning, the bargain meeting was canceled due to their inability to find a conference room.

Bruins toting signs and bullhorns descend the stairs from Powell Library to the lower end of campus, meeting with the other picket lines on the way. (Ava Rosate/Valley Star)

“We will be out here tomorrow and everyday at 8 a.m. until our demands are met,” said Michael Dean, a seventh year academic researcher for UCLA. “We need to stay out for a day longer than they expect us to be. One day longer, one day stronger.”

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