Graduate employees at University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) voted by a landslide margin for a wildcat grade strike on Dec. 8, 2019. The strikers refuse to submit final grades unless the administration gives them a cost of living adjustment (COLA). UCSC GEs demand a COLA of $1,412 per month so they can afford to pay rent, according to their strike website.
Currently, many GEs pay over 50% of their wages towards rent, the union says on their rent burden page. A USA Today analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics report in the summer of 2019 found Santa Cruz the least affordable city for teachers. The union compiled data to present to University of California President Janet Napolitano that found the average salary for GEs at UCSC was $20K and the cost of living is over $30K. In comparison, UCSC Chancellor Cynthia K. Larive receives a $425,000/year salary, outlined in the press release upon her hire, where. They say this is comparably low for positions in similar markets.
UCSC GEs officially gave notice of their demand of a COLA to the chancellor on Nov. 7, 2019. As of the final grade submission deadline on December 18, the administration had not met the workers’ demands and GEs did not submit grades.
The UCSC administration had still not met GE demands by Feb. 10, prompting GEs to go on a full wildcat strike. The strike put a halt to classes, lectures, sections, labs, and office hours.
UCSC administrators have refused to bargain with GEs or provide a living wage. The administration has responded to the GEs’ peaceful resistance with police force, bringing in police from other counties. A total of 17 strike supporters were arrested on February 12, according to UCSC spokesman Scott Hernandez-Jason.
Workers have faced violence and threats of being fired. In an email to graduate employees on Feb. 14, the administration threatened not to renew contracts for GEs who had not submitted grades, threatening not just the GEs’ livelihoods but their ability to continue their education, as teaching appointments are tied to tuition reductions.