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UCSB graduate students strike for Cost-of-Living Adjustment

cost of living rally 2
Julia Nguyen / KEYT
UCSB graduate students strike for Cost-of-Living Adjustments.

ISLA VISTA, Calif. - Graduate students at UC Santa Barbara went on strike Thursday afternoon calling for a Cost-of-Living Adjustment to their paychecks.

UCSB students are part of the second UC campus to strike, following the academic student employees at UC Santa Cruz who began striking in early February.

The graduate students say they are burdened by high rents in Santa Barbara County. They are asking for an ongoing stipend of $1,807.51 per month to be given to every graduate student in order to help alleviate that burden.

The students said they plan to picket until their demands are met. You can read more about their cause and what they want at the website ucsb4cola.org.

NewsChannel 3 reached out to UC officials for a statement on the situation. They provided the following:

The University of California values our graduate students and the important work of those who are academic student employees (ASEs). As teaching assistants to faculty, they are essential to UC’s teaching mission. However, that mission is in jeopardy when a small group of teaching assistants represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) refuse to fulfill their teaching obligations to the UC community, including students.

This wildcat strike negatively impacts undergraduates, whose hard-earned grades and progression to the next course level are being inappropriately leveraged. In fact, actions by these ASEs violate their current contract, which was negotiated by UAW leadership and ratified by thousands of ASEs systemwide.

UC’s four-year contract with the UAW, which has been in effect since August 2018, includes fair pay and excellent benefits and addresses numerous issues including child care and campus fee remission. Highlights of the contract, which expires June 2022, include:

- Annual wage increases of 3 percent over four years

- A one-time payment of $100 for every eligible employee

- A child care subsidy of $3,300 per year

- $300 annually for campus fee remission, starting in January 2019 (as a new benefit)

Reopening the contract now would defeat the purpose of a signed agreement and would be unfair to all the other UC unions as well as nearly 90,000 represented employees who do adhere to collective bargaining agreements. The University has honored the contract, and we expect teaching assistants to do the same.

Teaching assistants who choose to withhold grades or refuse to teach will be in violation of that contract; while the contract is systemwide, teaching assistant appointments and disciplinary action are determined by individual campuses. These strikes exacerbate the situation and unfairly impact undergraduate students while doing nothing to further the conversation on how to address the challenges from the rising cost of living, with which all students and employees across UC must contend.

The University is sympathetic to such challenges, particularly housing across California, and the impact of it on all our employees. In fact, UC met recently with the leaders of the UAW to discuss student concerns regarding housing. And President Napolitano invited UC’s Graduate and Professional Council to meet and discuss graduate academic and professional students’ concerns; you can read the President’s statement here.

Affordable housing has been an important priority for the University and we are making strides systemwide. All UC student housing is below market rate, and we’re building more of it. Since the start of President Janet Napolitano's tenure at UC, more than 17,000 beds have been added. The University launched its Student Housing Initiative in 2016 and is on track to exceed its goal of adding 14,000 beds by fall 2020. Furthermore, we are planning an additional 15,000 beds across the system between 2021 and 2025.

The University hopes it can work with ASEs and their union to help address their concerns and put an end to needless disruption. UC believes progress on complex problems such as housing can only be achieved when we work together and engage in meaningful, thoughtful discussion.

Andrew Gordon, Associate Director of Media Relations for the University of California Office of the President

UCSB students have written a letter to faculty presenting their case which can be read on their website here.

California / Community / Lifestyle / Local Politics / Money and Business / Santa Barbara - South County

Jessica Brest

Jessica Brest is a digital journalist and assignment editor at KEYT | KCOY | KKFX.

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