LOS ANGELES — Chanting “What’s disgusting? Union busting! What’s outrageous? Poverty wages,” hundreds of striking University of California at Los Angeles teaching assistants and other workers and their supporters picketed across the campus here Nov. 17.
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. They are members of the United Auto Workers and do more than half the research and teaching at the 10 state universities.
Several students who joined the striking workers on the picket lines, and others walking to class, told the Militant they support the strike, as do many of their professors.
Though their contracts bar “sympathy strikes,” Katie Rodger, president of the UC-American Federation of Teachers, said they encourage the 6,000 lecturers and librarians to support striking workers whenever they can.
“We are getting support from union construction workers, sheet metal workers and Teamster delivery drivers. They tell us as long as the pickets are going they will respect them,” said Enrique Olivares Pesante, head shop steward for UAW Local 2865, which represents strikers at UCLA.
Strikers at UC Berkeley held a meeting Nov. 16 with construction workers, members of the International Union of Operating Engineers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Laborers’ International Union, who agreed not to work during the strike.
City bus drivers, members of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail Transportation Workers Local 0023, are honoring picket lines at the entrances to the UC Santa Cruz campus. “An attack against one is an attack against all,” union General Chairman James Sandoval told the Militant.
“I am paid $2,100 a month in wages and pay $1,600 a month in rent,” said Asdarsh Chunkath, a striking teaching assistant originally from India. “They say you are working 20 hours a week but you end up working 30-40 hours, prepping for classes, giving feedback to students, grading papers.
“We love teaching but we deserve a living wage,” he said. “People are married and can’t even think about having a family. With this strike we have a sense of hope.”
The union is demanding a base salary of $54,000 for all graduate student workers, as well as child care subsidies, enhanced health care for dependents, longer family leave and public transit passes.