Higher Education UC-Santa Cruz Fires 54 Graduate Assistants in Ongoing Labor Dispute

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Kelli Mann

The University of California, Santa Cruz, fired 54 teaching assistants on Friday after they reached drastic measures in the months-long strike. The striking TAs demanded a raise in wages of about 1,412 dollars that would help to cover rent and the cost of living near the school.

Within the ongoing strike for higher wages, the TAs first started withholding the fall semester grades back in December. The 54 graduate students who were officially given termination letters on Friday are just a fraction of the 233 graduate TAs and student instructors who have refused to submit nearly 12,000 grades from the fall quarter since December. 

The withholding of these grades was a part of the wildcat strike which was not authorized by the union intended to represent the graduate student employees. According to the University, this strike has violated the current bargaining agreement. Earlier this month, the students striking help protests on campus and many stopped teaching, holding office hours and conducting research. 

Janet Napolitano, UCSC’s president, alongside other university officials have openly expressed their disapproval of the actions of the students. On February 14th, Napolitano sent a letter out to the university community stating that she won’t fold to the student’s demands because it would “undercut the foundation of an agreement negotiated in good faith” by the union. 

In the letter, Napolitano also said, “We are sympathetic to the high cost of housing in Santa Cruz and the pressure this puts on TAs, but a wildcat strike is not the way to get relief.” 

In a post on the student activists’ website, a call for the cancellation of classes on Monday to have everyone join in picketing for a press conference at 9 am in response to “this grave administration escalation.” 

President of UAW Local 2865, Kavitha Iyengar said in a statement, “We are shocked by UC’s callousness, and by the violence that so many protesters  experienced as they peacefully made the case for a cost of living increase. Instead of firing TAs who are standing up for a decent standard of living for themselves, UC must sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate a cost of living increase.” 

Last week, an unfair labor practice charge was filed against the union by the university, claiming the union is failing to stop this wildcat strike even though it is required to do by the collective bargaining agreement. 

The school’s interim campus provost and executive vice chancellor, Lori G. Kletzer, said that the students’ financial and housing challenges have been recognized by the university and officials are already working in ways to support them. Some of those efforts include an annual 2,500 dollar housing supplement and the formation of two temporary housing assistance programs alongside a working group to create a strategic plan for graduate program support.