The University of California and Student Researchers United, a union of over 17,000 graduate student researchers across UC campuses, reached a recognition agreement Thursday after months of demonstrations. SRU, a United Auto Workers Union, had authorized a strike, late November.
The recognition bridged the University and students’ definition of employees — a point of contention as Student Researchers United petitioned.
“The UAW is proud to welcome UC Student Researchers into our union family,” Cindy Estrada, UAW vice president and head of the UAW Stellantis, Women’s, and Higher Education Organizing Departments, said in a news release. “They have shown what is possible when workers stand together and refuse to be divided. We look forward to supporting them as they bargain a strong first contract.”
UC originally sought to exclude fellows and trainees, roughly one-third of the unit, when it received the petition in September. The Public Employees Relations Board ruled UC’s response an effective denial.
“From the outset, UC fully supported our GSRs’ right to be represented by a union, and we and the UAW were in agreement that the vast majority of GSRs belong in the new bargaining unit,” Ryan King, associate director of media relations, said in a statement. “However, there was a group of graduate students that required closer examination and discussion. The core issue was defining who is a student employee.”
UC recognizes fellows and trainees in the new agreement and uses the California Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act to exclude those with a “managerial, supervisory and/or confidential” role.
In late October, Rep. Katie Porter rallied a majority of California’s delegation and signed a letter to UC President Michael Drake, urging support of the student researchers union. The letter was also signed by U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, who’s a UCSB graduate.
Graduate student researchers at UCSB protested on campus in a series of SRU-wide demonstrations. Speakers expressed a desire for employment security, protection from harassment and other workplace protections.
Contract negotiations are ongoing.
“The University appreciates UAW’s partnership as we worked through the process. We look forward to beginning good-faith negotiations on a multi-year collective bargaining agreement in the months ahead,” Mr. King said.
UC’s non-tenured lecturers union reached an agreement with the University in late November, calling off a strike planned for hours later.
The post-doctoral-scholars union and Student Researchers United both reached a majority in their strike-authorization votes that week. Postdocs are still hoping for lawful bargaining.