UCSC Workers Withholding Final Grades During Strike

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After demanding a cost of living increase from the University of California at Santa Cruz in September, the school's unionized graduate student workers are now on strike.

According to a Twitter feed run by the striking workers, some of their student's final semester grades are being withheld as the workers demand higher wages.

That's in the face of a high cost of living and repeated silence from the UCSC administration following union demands for labor negotiations.

More than 300 UC Santa Cruz students voiced their support for striking graduate students. Many of them are teaching assistants who say they simply can’t afford to live in the Bay Area on just $2,000 a month.

"Grad students can’t take living in poverty," said Veronica Hamilton, chair for the Santa Cruz chapter of the UAW 2865. "I pay half my salary in rent, and my fridge is always empty."

In November, the workers sent a letter to UCSC's Chancellor Cynthia Larive demanding wage parity with the University of California at Riverside.

"We deliver this letter to you as underpaid and rent-burdened graduate students at the University of California, Santa Cruz," the Nov. 7 letter said.

"We graduate students write to you demanding a Cost of Living Adjustment. We have only one demand, and it is this: An ongoing payment to every graduate student that would bring us out of rent burden and to wage parity with graduate students at UC Riverside. At current rates, this amounts to $1,412 per month."

This means such a payout for "every graduate student at UC Santa Cruz, regardless of residence, visa category, documentation, or funding and employment status," the letter said.

"UC Santa Cruz cannot fulfill its mission to produce outstanding research and to provide outstanding public education if its graduate students remain underpaid, rent-burdened, and economically precarious," according to the letter. "Actions, as the banners adorning our campus would have it, speak louder than words. We demand a Cost of Living Adjustment now, and we demand it from you. This cannot wait, and we will not wait."

The grad students want a 70% pay increase. That’s an additional $1,400 a month. They say they invited administrators to meet with them this afternoon but they did not show.

The teaching assistants say they will release grades for students requesting them for financial aid and other hardships. It's finals week, so the grad students won’t be teaching but say they will continue to proctor exams.

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