The University of California and thousands of graduate student workers have entered private mediation talks in a bid to end a monthlong strike that, at one point, included 48,000 employees across all UC campuses.
The university system announced Friday that after seven requests, the United Auto Workers union agreed to enter private mediation on behalf of its student worker members who have been on strike since Nov. 14. The employees have demanded increased pay and benefits in line with the increased cost of living in California.
“The University is pleased that the UAW has agreed to neutral private mediation so that we may resolve our differences and end the strike that has been impacting our students, faculty, and staff,” Letitia Silas, executive director of University of California system labor relations, said in a press release. “We remain committed to securing a fair and reasonable contract with the union that honors the hard work of our valued graduate student employees. With the help of a neutral mediator, we hope to secure that agreement quickly.”
The mediation marks the latest progress in ending the monthlong strike. On Friday, the university’s 11,000 academic researchers and postdoctoral scholars ratified an agreement with the university system, ending their strike, which also began on Nov. 14. But despite the agreement with the researchers and postdoctoral scholars, the university and the more than 35,000 graduate student workers have yet to reach an agreement.
“Two important units representing over 35,000 academic workers remain without an agreement, and we stand by their decision to seek mediation,” United Auto Workers Region 8 Director Mitchell Smith said last week. “These workers deserve an equitable agreement that reflects their contributions as well as the reality that they work in high-cost communities. We urge the University of California to work with all parties to reach a fair and equitable outcome.”
The university, in announcing the move to private mediation, said the union and the institution had engaged in more than 60 different negotiation sessions. In its latest proposal, the institution said it had offered an average salary increase of 26% over the next three years to its graduate student workers. The offer also reportedly included increases in benefits, including childcare reimbursements.
“The proposals offered by the University to the UAW would place UC graduate student employees squarely among or above the most highly compensated student employees at any public research university in the nation,” the university system said in a press release.