Academic workers on strike for a better contract spent the night Thursday occupying the hallway outside UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ’s office and marched on her private residence in Berkeley early Friday morning.
About 150 academic workers marched into California Hall at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. Christ was not in the building and all staff except security left the hall. “Campus leaders are monitoring and assessing the situation,” Cal spokesperson Janet Gilmore said.
Students also occupied Stanley Hall, Dwinelle Hall and Wurster Hall and interrupted a meeting at Eshelman Hall, the student union building, on UC Berkeley campus, according to union leaders.
The strikers hoped to disrupt campus and compel Christ to publicly support demands by the two unions that are still negotiating with the UC for better wages and benefits.
Negotiations are ongoing between the UC Office of the President and the labor union bargaining teams across the UC, not on individual campuses. Gilmore noted that Christ is not a party to the negotiations.
“She has been silent on this labor dispute, and her silence has been loud,” said Mia Antezzo, a first-year graduate student at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy who slept in a sleeping bag on the floor of California Hall, where Christ’s office is located, on Thursday night.
On Thursday afternoon, Antezzo posted a photo of Sarah Arverson, vice president of the unions representing postdocs and academic researchers, in a pile of sleeping bags. “Join us for a chat?” Antezzo asked of the chancellor. Antezzo left the office to join the picket line at 9 a.m. Friday morning.
A group of about 50 spent the night in the building and several dozen stayed until 12 p.m., according to union leaders. In the morning, about 100 student workers marched into the Berkeley Hills to Christ’s home. (Christ’s office has not responded to a request for comment about the action.)
Within the last day, strikers have escalated their tactics, occupying buildings across the UC system. Student workers are holding a sit-in in Mrak Hall at UC Davis and at a payroll building at UC Riverside, union leaders said and videos posted on Twitter show.
— Jonathan Rosenblum (@jonathan4212) December 2, 2022
Antezzo, who said she earns $17 an hour grading assignments and holding office hours for a sociology course, stayed overnight to demand accountability from Chancellor Christ. “She can call up the president at anytime and tell him to settle with us for for our contracts.”
— mia ON STRIKE baby (@miawantezzo) December 1, 2022
UC workers have been on strike for three weeks in what labor organizers are calling the largest higher education strike in American history. Academic researcher and postdocs unions reached tentative agreements Monday night, while the student researcher and academic student employee unions, representing 36,000 workers, are still negotiating their contracts.
Wages remain the linchpin issue of the strike. Both of the still-bargaining unions representing academic employees like teachers assistants and graders initially asked for a base annual pay of $54,000 and recently lowered their offer to $43,000.
The UC Office of the President said in an online statement that it believes its offers have been “generous, responsive to union priorities, and recognize the many valuable contributions of these employees” and that the UC is committed to “continuing to negotiate in good faith.”