After weeks of picketing in one of the U.S.’s largest higher education strikes, many graduate workers are still left frustrated with labor agreement details.

by Brenton Zola, Prism

University of California graduate student workers have returned to teaching after reaching a new labor agreement with the university, ending a historic, 40-day strike that saw large demonstrations and massive disruptions to classes and finals at the end of last year’s fall quarter.

Headlines across the nation heralded a victory, and United Auto Workers (UAW) union representatives emphasized the wage increases in the new labor agreement reached Dec. 23 included some of the highest ever won by academic workers.

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.

“The dramatic improvements to our salaries and working conditions are the result of tens of thousands of workers striking together in unity,” UCLA doctoral candidate and UAW 2865 president, Rafael Jaime, said in a statement. “These agreements redefine what is possible in terms of how universities support their workers, who are the backbone of their research and education enterprise. They include especially significant improvements for parents and marginalized workers, and will improve the quality of life for every single academic employee at the University of California.”

The agreement will provide workers across the 10-campus system with wage increases, child care support, and new protections against bullying and harassment, among other benefits. Two bargaining units of the UAW approved the proposed changes in separate votes. For the lowest-paid academic student employees, the new contract will raise salaries from about $23,000 to about $34,000 by October 2024, with additional boosts for workers in the Bay Area and Los Angeles where the cost of living is exceptionally high. By Oct. 1, 2024, graduate student researchers will make a minimum of $34,564.50.

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