On the Picket Line

California teaching instructors strike for higher wages, benefits

By Betsey Stone
and Beverly Bernardo
November 28, 2022

BERKELEY, Calif. — Nearly 48,000 University of California researchers, teaching assistants, graders and others went on strike Nov. 14 in a fight for higher wages, benefits and better working conditions. The workers, members of the United Auto Workers, do more than half the research and teaching at the state’s 10 University of California campuses, yet account for only a tiny percent of the system’s budget.

Thousands rallied in the plaza at the university’s campus here, the first day of the strike as speakers described their fight for respect and a livable income. “They told us we couldn’t unionize, but we have,” Tanzil Chowdhury, a research assistant and member of the bargaining committee, told the crowd.

“There is no way teaching instructors can make it on the $2,000 to $2,400 we’re paid a month,” Bethany Smith, a graduate student instructor in physics at the Berkeley campus, told the Militant.

The union is demanding child care reimbursements, full health care and paid family leave. A large number of workers are in their late 20s and early 30s and find it difficult to begin or support a family.

Union members voted to go on strike after a year of fruitless negotiations with the university administration.