UC Berkeley academic employees rally on Sproul Plaza on Monday, Nov. 14, 2022. Credit: Ximena Natera, Berkeleyside/CatchLight

Two unions representing 36,000 academic workers reached a tentative labor agreement with the University of California on Friday, signaling a potential end to the largest academic strike in U.S. history.

The agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the two unions, would increase salaries and improve child care and health care benefits.

UC Berkeley student researchers’ salaries would rise to $34,600 and academic student employees’ would rise to $36,500 by October 2024, constituting a salary hike of about 50% for the lowest paid workers. 

The proposal would also increase child care reimbursements: members of both unions would receive $2,025 per semester (the same amount the UC offered in its Dec. 7 proposal). Academic student employees previously received $1,650 per semester.  

The proposal would also cover insurance premiums for the children of researchers and academic student employees for the first time.

The tentative agreement comes one week after both parties agreed to facilitate discussions through a third-party mediator: Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg. 

“This is a positive step forward for the University and for our students, and I am grateful for the progress we have made together,” said Michael V. Drake, president of the University of California in a UC Office of the President statement. 

“This really goes a long way towards addressing the high cost of living, and it’s a major step towards building a more equitable UC that is accessible to workers from all backgrounds,” said Rafael Jaime, president of UAW 2865, during a press conference. “We are very, very proud of the work that we were able to achieve through our historic strike.”

Jaime, who represents 19,000 academic student employees across the UC and is a UCLA doctoral candidate, described the tentative agreement as “historic,” citing higher base salaries and improvements on childcare dependent coverage as wins for students. He noted that, for the first time, UC agreed to cover supplemental tuition for up to three years for eligible international and out of state students: “(It) gives us precedent to make many more gains in future negotiations.”

“Our members stood up to show the university that academic workers are vital to UC’s success,” said United Auto Workers President Ray Curry in a press release. “They deserve nothing less than a contract that reflects the important role they play and the reality of working in cities with extremely high costs of living.”

The four-union strike, which began on Nov. 14 and has canceled classes and interfered with research at UC Berkeley, will continue until a contract has been ratified, but for the time being, most picketing at UC Berkeley has been put on pause as finals wrapped up on Friday.

Two other unions representing 1,050 postdocs and 480 academic researchers at UC Berkeley have already returned to work after reaching a deal with the UC on Dec. 9.  

This story has been updated with additional information.

Iris Kwok covers the environment for Berkeleyside through a partnership with Report for America. A former music journalist, her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, KQED, San Francisco Examiner...