U.S. News

California Santa Cruz dismisses 54 graduate assistants striking for pay raise

By Daniel Uria   |   March 1, 2020 at 3:42 PM

March 1 (UPI) -- The University of California Santa Cruz terminated 54 graduate teaching assistants for failing to meet a university-imposed deadline on a strike for increased wages.

Interim Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer said in a letter to students and staff on Friday that the students who had been withholding fall grade information as part of the strike would not receive spring appointments and those that had already received appointments for the spring quarter would be dismissed.

"Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to find an amenable resolution, 54 teaching assistants have continued to withhold fall grade information. As a result, we have been left with no choice but to take an action that we had truly and deeply hoped to avoid," Kletzer said.

The student activists said that 54 students who already had teaching jobs for the spring quarter were dismissed and 28 others who were part of the strike were notified they would no longer be considered.

About 200 graduate assistants began withholding grades in December as they demanded the university increase their wages by $1,412 in addition to their approximate income of $2,400 to help them pay for rent near the school.

Graduate assistants also began holding protests on campus and stopped teaching, holding office hours and conducting research this month.

The students called for a cancellation of classes on Monday as they plan to respond to the university's decision in a press conference on Monday.

UAW 2865, the union representing the students said they were shocked by the university's "callousness and by the violence that so many protesters experienced as they peacefully made the case for a cost of living increase."

"Instead of firing TAs who are standing up for a decent standard of living for themselves, UC must sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate a cost of living increase," said Kavitha Iyengar, president of the union.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders called the university's decision "disgraceful" and called for UCSC President Janet Napolitano to continue talks with the graduate assistants.

"All workers deserve the right to bargain and strike for better wages and benefits," said Sanders. "To Janet Napolitano and USSC: stop this outrageous union busting and negotiate in good faith."