University of California Academic Workers Partly End Strike

SACRAMENTO — Postdoctoral students and academic researchers at the University of California announced on Friday night that they will return to work on Monday, partly ending a weekslong strike but bringing little relief to hundreds of thousands of undergraduates whose campuses have been disrupted in the midst of finals.

The surprise results released Friday of the ratification vote by about 12,000 of the senior-most striking workers cemented a tentative agreement to boost salaries and secure additional benefits, including eight weeks of family leave at full pay for researchers.

But the agreement, announced last week with two of the four bargaining units involved in the walkout, left some 36,000 workers still on strike. Graduate students who help teach classes and assign grades for undergraduates will continue their work stoppage, and campuses are still figuring out how to assess final grades and modify the end of their academic quarters and semesters.

Earlier Friday, the university and negotiators for those bargaining units announced that they would move to private mediation in an attempt to end the walkout, which has canceled classes, closed labs and upended operations at the prestigious public university system since Nov. 14.

The 10-campus University of California system has nearly 300,000 students and serves as the major research engine for a state that is crucial to the nation’s most innovative sectors. The five-year agreements reached last week with the two bargaining units would raise salaries by some 20 percent for most postdoctoral students by next fall and boost pay and benefits for academic researchers.

As the two remaining, and larger, bargaining units agreed to the university’s request for private mediation, nearly 90 percent of the postdoctoral workers and nearly 80 percent of the academic researchers voted to formally ratify their agreements and return to work as the rest of the striking workers worked to resolve an impasse over pay.

Postdoctoral students and academic researchers had said last week they would remain on strike because U.C. had not struck deals with the rest of the employees who remained without a contract. But by ratifying the contracts on Friday, workers obligated themselves to return to work on Monday.

All of the striking workers said that their compensation falls far short of what they need to make ends meet in California, especially given the pressures of inflation and a persistent housing shortage. The university has charged that their demands are untenable financially.

Jade Moore, a postdoctoral student in radiation oncology at the University of California, San Francisco, and a member of the bargaining team, praised the new contract for postdoctoral workers, saying it would set a new standard for postdoctoral students around the country.

“Tens of thousands of U.C. academic workers have put it all on the line to create a stronger, more equitable U.C.,” she said in a statement Friday night.

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