Academic workers at UC Berkeley rally on Sproul Plaza on Nov. 14, 2022, kicking off one of the largest strikes in the country. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Postdoctoral fellows and academic researchers across the University of California went back to work Monday morning after a four-week strike, while 36,000 UC student instructors and researchers remain on strike though an agreement may be getting closer.

Two unions representing 12,000 postdocs and academic researchers — including 1,500 at UC Berkeley — signed an agreement Friday that would raise salary floors, improve benefits and provide more job security.

By October 2023, salaries for most postdocs will 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. That means base pay will go up from about $55,000 to $70,000 or higher by the end of the five-year contract. 

Academic researchers will 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.

The agreements were approved by 90% of postdocs and 80% of academic researchers.

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

The agreement ensures more protections against abusive conduct in the workplace and longer appointments, raising the one-year minimum appointment to two for postdocs and making fewer exceptions to the one-year appointment for researchers. Postdocs also won a $2,500 per year child care subsidy, the first time that a child care subsidy was included in their contract.

Unions representing student employees still negotiating with UC

Two unions representing student employees are still negotiating with the UC, though the two parties are getting closer on an agreement over salaries, the strike’s key issue.

The initial proposals between both parties were tens of thousands of dollars apart. Now, they are within several thousand dollars.

On Thursday, the unions lowered their base pay ask to $32,000 for the student employees and $34,000 for student researchers by 2023. In its most recent proposal, the UC offered to raise pay for student employees to $29,000 and $33,500 for student researchers by 2024 — the following year. 

On Friday, the unions agreed to voluntary third-party mediation to avoid an impasse. At the recommendation of California Gov. Gavin Newsom, both parties agreed to have Darrell Steinberg, the Mayor of Sacramento, serve as a mediator. 
In October, Steinberg was chosen to mediate negotiations between Kaiser and striking mental health care workers. He was previously the president of the California state senate and a former member of the United Auto Workers union.

Avatar photo

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,...