A rally at Sproul Plaza on campus at U.C. Berkeley last week.Credit…Jim Wilson/The New York Times
SAN DIEGO — Hundreds of academic workers chanting “Shut it down” and “We’ve got the power” marched through U.C. San Diego’s seaside campus on Monday as one of the nation’s largest strikes in years entered its second week.
The walkout, which began on Nov. 14, involves bargaining units representing nearly 48,000 teaching assistants, researchers and other employees across the University of California’s 10 campuses who are asking for wage increases and better benefits. No end date for the strike has been set, though officials from the United Automobile Workers, which represents the academic workers, and the university say they have come closer to reaching agreements over the past several days.
The labor action, which comes amid a wave of union activity across the country, could become a turning point nationwide for graduate student workers, whom America’s universities have long relied on, for relatively low pay.
In California in particular, the exceptionally high cost of living has brought these widespread issues to a head. As my colleague Shawn Hubler reported, the U.C. campuses are in some of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, not just in the Bay Area and Los Angeles, but coastal enclaves such as Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz and Irvine.
At U.C. San Diego, in the pricey La Jolla neighborhood, strikers on Monday afternoon wove en masse among the campus’s eucalyptus trees. One protester carried his toddler on his shoulders. Some of the signs demonstrators hoisted into the air read: “The rent is too damn high.” “Education begins when exploitation ends.” “You can’t eat prestige.”
Anoop Praturu, a third-year doctoral student in biophysics, marched with the crowd and played his guitar in time with the chants. He told me that when his apartment flooded in the spring, he couldn’t easily find another because he didn’t make enough money to qualify for most rentals near campus.
For two months, Praturu, 25, alternated between crashing on friends’ couches and sleeping in his car. He eventually found a place to live, and now pays $1,200 per month to rent a bedroom in an apartment 15 miles from campus. After rent, food and gasoline, there isn’t much left of his $2,300 monthly paycheck.
“Often times, I have less than nothing left, and I’m accruing debt just to be here,” he said, adding: “I can’t in good conscience tell someone to come here for their Ph.D. The cost of living is untenable.”
The U.C. said in a statement that its primary goal is to “recognize these employees’ important and highly valued contributions” with fair pay and benefits, as well as a supportive and respectful work environment. University officials are also calling for private mediation to help secure a contract.
The proposals offered by the university “would place our graduate students and academic employees at the top of the pay scale across major public universities and on par with top private universities,” the statement reads. “Though we have reached many tentative agreements with the union, we remain apart on key issues related to tying wages and pay increases to housing costs and tuition remission for nonresident international students.”
More on California
- Jaywalking Law: California has had one of the strictest jaywalking laws in the nation. Starting Jan. 1, that will no longer be the case.
- Remaking a River: Taming the Los Angeles River helped Los Angeles emerge as a global megalopolis, but it also left a gaping scar across the territory. Imagining the river’s future poses new challenges.
- A Piece of Black History Destroyed: Lincoln Heights — a historically Black community in a predominantly white, rural county in Northern California — endured for decades. Then came the Mill fire.
- Employee Strike: In one of the nation’s biggest strikes in recent years, teaching assistants, researchers and other workers across the University of California system walked off the job to demand higher pay.
Over the past eight days, the strike has led to canceled lectures and office hours and has slowed research operations. The impacts have been especially disruptive as finals are approaching for many.
Olivia Gunther, a postdoctoral scholar at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said that in the past few days, university officials had seemed increasingly willing to “meet us somewhere in the middle,” though there are still several issues to be resolved. Gunther is on the bargaining committee for her unit.
“We don’t know when the strike is going to be over. It’s still open-ended,” she told me Monday evening. At the very least, it appeared likely to continue on Tuesday.
For the 44 million households who rent a home or apartment in the U.S., inflation keeps pushing costs higher and higher. Anger is rising too.
In California’s housing fight, it’s Gov. Gavin Newsom vs. NIMBY.
The Californians are coming. So is their housing crisis.
The rest of the news
Colorado shooting: The suspect in the shooting that killed five people at an L.G.B.T.Q.-friendly nightclub in Colorado Springs is a grandson of a California assemblyman, Randy Voepel. An aide said Voepel hadn’t seen his grandson for about a decade.
Discrimination: Rob Bonta, the state attorney general, wants to target racial discrimination in health care, including an investigation of software programs used by hospitals to treat patients, The Los Angeles Times reports.
Sheriff academy crash: The driver of an S.U.V. that crashed into Los Angeles County law enforcement recruits on a training run last week fell asleep at the wheel while driving to work, The Associated Press reports.
High school coach sentenced: A former Southern California high school football coach who secretly photographed students in a girls locker room was sentenced to more than nine years in prison, The Associated Press reports.
Fentanyl pills: A Southern California man was arrested on suspicion of running two illegal drug labs that used high-speed pill presses to create bulk amounts of tablets containing fentanyl and methamphetamine, The Associated Press reports.
David Valadao: The Republican won re-election to Congress from his Central Valley district in a race that was decided on Monday, managing to survive politically after voting to impeach former President Donald J. Trump, a move that cost some of his Republican colleagues their seats.
Diablo Canyon: California’s last operating nuclear power plant received a $1.1 billion federal grant on Monday, as the state seeks to extend the plant’s working life to meet electricity demand at a time of intensifying climate events.
Waymo: Waymo, the autonomous car company owned by Alphabet, is now permitted to give fully self-driven rides in San Francisco, SFist reports.
Twitter: Twitter has fired even more sales staff members as staff cuts approach 66 percent, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
What we’re eating
A golden and glorious mash-up of potato gratin and Hasselback potatoes.
Where we’re traveling
Today’s tip comes from Deni Caster, who recommends a historic neighborhood in Fremont in the Bay Area:
Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.
Did you recently buy or rent a home in California? We want to hear from you.
The New York Times’s weekly real estate column, The Hunt, features everyday people who just moved and want to share their stories. If that’s you, get in touch with us at [email protected].
And before you go, some good news
There’s a new giraffe at the Safari West conservation breeding facility north of Santa Rosa.
Baby Grace measured 5 feet, 9 inches and weighed 127 pounds when she was born last month. She has already been running around, chasing cranes and guinea fowl, according to the wildlife preserve.
“We are really pleased with the new arrival,” the Safari West founder, Peter Lang, said. “Birth is always a true-to-life miracle.”
Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.
Briana Scalia and Matthew Brownstein contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].