Workers are reinvigorating their unions across the country.

by Edmund Kord, Democratic Left

For the U.S. labor movement, 2022 may have been the year when it all turned around. This is perhaps most true for the United Auto Workers (UAW), where, in December, 48,000 striking academic workers at the University of California (UC) won a landmark agreement and insurgent reformers running for international union leadership ousted much of the union’s entrenched leadership.

The UC strike was not only the largest strike of the year but the largest strike ever by academic workers. For more than five weeks, graduate student instructors and researchers, postdoctoral researchers, and academic researchers in four separate bargaining units struck in coordination across all ten campuses of the UC — plus Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a federal government research facility. DSA members lent crucial aid, with 15 local chapters organizing strike support and DSA raising more than $26,500 for the union’s strike fund.

University of California, Davis students and workers participate in a protest for fair pay and working conditions as part of a wider UC-wide strike.

Before the strike, the minimum starting salary for a graduate student instructor or researcher at UC was under $24,000, forcing 92% of graduate student employees to pay over 30% of their income to rent. Low pay and grueling schedules are endemic across academia, but living costs are especially high in California. All 48,000 striking workers reached settlements that, among other things, secured substantial pay increases of 20% to 80% by 2024.

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