If ratified, this contract would make us the highest paid graduate student workers at any public university in the country. For a more detailed look at wage increases, see the ASE explainer and GSR explainer, both of which show 2023 and 2024 increases, with 55-80% increases for ASEs and 25-80% increases for GSRs by 2024.
Aaryaman “Sunny” Singhal, UC Berkeley
As someone who has faced severe housing insecurity, worked a base-wage 50% Reader job, and has over $15,000 of debt to a Bay Area landlord, I believe this contract provides meaningful, long-term support for rent-burdened students.
Overall, I see huge, concrete gains for workers in this contract, not just increasing our wages by 50%+ but also increasing paid leave to 8 weeks for all new parents, waiving all campus fees for workers, providing transit benefits at all UC campuses, and enacting industry-leading bullying and harassment protocols.
I’m so proud of what this hard-fought strike has accomplished.
Katalin Berlow, UC Berkeley
I come from a low-income background. I am currently making ~30k for the academic year (23k before top off). By October 2024, with top off I would be making 43k for the academic period which is 55k yearly. Even without thinking about top off, my monthly income would increase from $2,500 to $4,000. This is nothing less than a monumental increase. No one in my immediate family has ever made this much from a single job, and I grew up in California (San Francisco, then Fresno).
This wage increase gives us some urgently needed financial stability to be able to fight for even more in years to come. For me and other students who don’t come from generational wealth, it’s the difference between being able to stay in grad school or not.
Elias Bunting, UC Davis
These wage increases for me represent a far greater sense of financial security. I had been living paycheck to paycheck before this contract. Medical bills used to go on a credit card. Now, I will be able to breathe a little easier knowing my paycheck will be able to cover my expenses as well as unexpected emergencies. It’s a huge relief and I’m so proud of what our strike has accomplished.
Jeannine Pearce, UC Irvine
I am a single mom of an amazing daughter, living on campus paying 1800 a month. This is not affordable – I have to work outside of campus, squeezing in hours where I can, trading in my car for a cheaper one.
I worked with Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy Better World Group and severed as a city council member in Long Beach. Mainly I have spent my time building coalitions to win aggressive public policy to improve the lives of workers – by supporting strikers, sitting at bargaining tables, and hashing out details behind the dais, passing sweeping housing bills, living wages, and childcare policies. I know how hard they are to win and how transformative they can be.
I have NEVER seen contract gains like what we have in front of us. I also have never seen childcare reimbursements in other contracts from public or private. I am not a labor historian, but I have been at the front line of over 20 union contracts, and I am dedicated to building a stronger worker movement. I hope you will join me and others in making history and vote YES.
Jean Torres, UC Irvine
This wage proposal would allow me to begin addressing my credit card, personal loan, and student loan debt I have accumulated prior to entering my first year as a first gen brown latine phd student and help me to rebuild my credit. I have taken out loans and debt for myself, family members, and my education. In the future, I will be able to help my younger brother, parents, and family pet when emergencies arise rather than potentially risk foregoing medical or extraneous emergencies due to a lack of income.
The wage alone is life changing for low-income students like myself who are so used to making <20k salaries before and during grad school where an extra 14-18k is significant. I understand this contract does not address every core need for every person, I agree with my comrades we deserve and are worth so much more.
I stand with all of my comrades who are fighting for a more equitable future. I too strive for equity for all of my marginalized community members. The way I see progress and a path toward equity is by building upon significant cumulative gains that have been achieved as a result of years of arduous organizing efforts. The roadblocks toward equity are no small feat and should not be underestimated. That’s why I personally believe this contract is a significant step forward for all grad students and future organizing efforts because labor movements never stop, they only grow. I am not a monolith or representative for any student, department, or campus- this is only my own heartful personal story and reasoning I am willing to share with others.
Clara Cano, UCLA
“If the contract is ratified my pay will go from $3,125 to $3,430/month in April of 2023 and will be as high as $3,882/month for bioscience grads in October 2024. That would drastically reduce my rent burden, bringing it down from 45% to a bit over 30%.
I have held multiple leadership roles in diversity, equity, and inclusive spaces and know that for scholars from underrepresented groups, such as myself, financial stressors make UC a lot less accessible and equitable. These new contracts would go a long way in changing that.
For me, this contract means much more than the wage increase we stand to gain. I have also witnessed bullying in the workplace. The protections that we would gain from the contract dramatically broadens our ability to fight abusive conduct.
Underrepresented scholars often face racism and discrimination in the workplace and we urgently need these new protections. Please join me in voting yes, so we can secure important quality of life improvements for all student researchers, especially the most marginalized!”
Gwenevere Frank, UCSD
“I want to take a moment to share why exactly it is I’m so enthused about this current offer, even if it is far from resolving all our issues.
Housing insecurity destroyed my mental health, within about a few months of starting my PhD I was spending the majority of my time in tears in my car in various parking lots across campus, just waiting for time to pass until I could go to sleep again and not have to exist with the anxiety. I had the email drafted and was about to drop out after my first quarter. Luckily I waited and SSRI’s provided the leg up I needed to stay, but surviving grad school shouldn’t be dependent on finding the right drug combination. And the wages proposed in the current article would mean I could finally live in a place I feel safe.
I was also recently groped by a UCSD staff member on campus, and the current mechanisms of recourse available to workers like myself to pursue justice through the university are quite frankly unacceptable and fail to protect victims in the way they need to. The ratification of the proposed contract would also give me another viable route to seek recourse and protection to make campus a safe place for me to live and work again.
Some folks may know I also recently began the adventure of transitioning genders. This journey has raised the personal stakes of contract negotiation for me significantly. If I can’t afford to stay in gradschool and lose my insurance, every part of that journey of embodying who I really am is up in the air. I’m scheduled to have the bone beneath my face reshaped in the fall, and in a very literal way this contract being enough to keep me from being pushed out of grad school due to housing costs is going to be physically transformative for my life.
There’s also a lot of talk about making parenthood possible. I pay about ten percent of my salary for cryopreservation of genetic material. I’m currently paying about as much as I budget for groceries every month just for the “privilege” to have the option to be a parent in the future. The proposed raise is enough to keep me from having to permanently choose between my career and a family before I’ve even had a chance to consider if I want to have children.
I implore the bargaining team to push forward with this TA, it is, in a great many of the senses of the word, life changing for me.”
Why are Academic Workers fighting against rent burden?
The chart below shows the average rents paid by campus based on the results of a UAW membership survey conducted in 2022. Our findings were later confimed by UC’s internal survey, which can be found here. California’s exorbitant housing crisis takes a large toll on UC’s Academic Workers. You can find a full breakdown of average housing cost by campus and job title here.
|Campus||Average Monthly Housing Cost – Grad Workers||Average Monthly Housing Cost – Postdocs & Academic Researchers|
Note: Per the HUD definition of rent burden, average monthly housing cost includes water, power, and gas.
UC Housing is part of the problem
UC touts its graduate housing as an affordable alternative to the expensive private market. Unfortunately, few workers actually save money by renting from UC. The chart below shows the average rents currently paid by graduate workers compared to the average rents in UC campus housing. At no campus is the discount offered by UC housing significant. In fact, at some campuses UC housing is more expensive than the private rental market.
UC operates a larger portfolio of graduate housing than it operates for workers in other job titles. Therefore, the chart below only shows rents in graduate housing. UC also operates a for-profit real estate division in campus communities, capitalizing off the crisis of high rents that they created- read about it in the Santa Cruz Sentinel here and here.
|Campus||Average Monthly Housing Cost – Grad Workers||Average Rent in UC Housing|
UC gives workers two bad choices
UC’s low wages force workers to pick between two bad options: pay an egregious amount of money in rent each month and live near campus, or spend hours commuting from a cheaper apartment that still eats up an unsustainable amount of money. The situation is untenable.