UC Berkeley academic employees rally on Sproul Plaza on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. Thousands of of students across University of California campuses walked off from work in one of the largest strikes in the country. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Fifteen days into the University of California worker strike, the university has reached tentative agreements with unions representing 12,000 academic researchers and postdocs. Two unions representing 36,000 grad student workers and academic student employees are still negotiating their contracts.

The agreements, which still need to be ratified by members of the two unions, would raise salaries, the linchpin issue for the strike, and improve benefits like parental leave.

By October 2023, salaries for most postdocs would increase about 20%, followed by an annual increase of 7.2% from 2024 to 2027, according to a statement from the United Auto Workers union.

Academic researchers would see salaries increase 4.5% in the first year, 3.5% in the second, third and fourth years, and 4% in the fifth year, amounting to an approximately 29% increase over the next five years.

Both postdocs and academic researchers also would get eight weeks of fully paid parental leave and stronger protections against abusive conduct in the workplace. The UC also committed to implementing transit passes within three years.

There are 1,050 postdocs and 480 academic researchers at UC Berkeley.

These contracts will “change how academia functions, as far as how it treats its workers,” said Stacey Frederick, an academic researcher at UC Berkeley who is on the bargaining team that signed onto the tentative agreement late Monday night.

Frederick, who runs a statewide wildfire information and communication program, said the few thousand dollars will make the high cost of living in the Bay Area that much more affordable.

When her partner lost their job during the pandemic, Frederick needed rental assistance, which put into perspective the salary she was earning as a UC Berkeley researcher. She now lives in Richmond and is excited about receiving transit passes, which she hopes will make it easier for her and her colleagues to commute to campus using public transit.

The unions will vote whether to ratify their contracts in the coming days. In the meantime, the postdocs and academic researchers will remain on strike in solidarity with grad student workers and academic employees, who are still in negotiations.

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Ally Markovich, who covers the school beat for Berkeleyside, is a former high school English teacher. Her work has appeared in The Oaklandside, The New York Times, Huffington Post and Washington Post,...