Chants rang out across University of California campuses when picket lines formed at around 8 a.m.
Nearly 50,000 UC employees walked off the job, including UC Riverside workers, which could eventually impact the education system.
The United Auto Workers Union represents the striking employees and it is accusing the university system of not negotiating in good faith.
UC workers are saying they need significantly higher pay to be able to afford living in the places they teach and overall better working conditions, claiming some employees make as little as $24,000 a year.
The workers include teaching assistants, graduate student researchers, instructors and others who provide support to the state’s universities and colleges.
Along with higher salaries and better annual raises, employees are also demanding for free public transportation passes, improved child care benefits and greater job security.
They say talks began more than a year ago, affecting 48,000 workers, including 17,000 student researchers.
“We’re asking for fair wages,” UC Riverside Demonstrator Dylan Enright said. “They’re giving us pennies and yet they continue to raise the budgets for high admin. They’re not willing to protect us from bullying in the workplace. They’re not willing to protect us from harassment in the workplace. We deserve these protections. We work hard enough. We’re the backbone of the UC. We teach their classes. We do their research.”
While they voted to authorize a strike in October, bargaining teams met just this past Saturday night, saying they will hold the strike “Unless UC ceases its unlawful conduct in order to reach fair contracts before then.”
In contrast, the university system denies the allegations of not negotiating in good faith, saying its 10 campuses will remain open during the strike.
The UC President’s Office has since released a statement, saying in part:
“Our primary goal in these negotiations is achieving multi year agreements that recognize these employees’ important and highly valued contributions to the university’s teaching and research mission with fair pay, quality health and family-friendly benefits, and a supportive and respectful work environment.”
The statement continued to say they are committed to continuing negotiations and reaching an agreement as soon as possible.