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

University of California academic student employees and graduate student researchers have approved two-and-a-half year contracts, putting an end to the largest academic strike in U.S. history and securing a minimum salary of about $34,000 and more child care and health care benefits. 

About 61% of the academic student employees union and about 68% of the graduate student researchers union, which together represent roughly 36,000 workers —  teaching assistants, associate instructors, teaching fellows, researchers — voted to ratify the contracts. (Some graduate students could vote in both elections.) 

“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 last Saturday. “We are very, very proud of the work that we were able to achieve through our historic strike.”

Earlier this week, dissent brewed over the contracts and some members of the bargaining teams launched a “No” campaign, citing the lack of cost-of-living-adjustments — one of the union’s original demands. While the campaign was unsuccessful, the margins in the strike vote were significantly lower than they were for the postdocs and academic researchers unions, which also went on strike in mid-November. They voted 90% and 80%, respectively, in favor of their contracts.

Under the terms of the two new contracts, the union has agreed to drop all unfair labor practice charges and grievances against the UC. 

What happens to fall grades?

At UC Berkeley, grade submission deadlines were extended through Dec. 31, giving faculty an extra 10 days to calculate and enter grades, said UC Berkeley spokesperson Patrick Holmes. 

Faculty, who are ultimately responsible for submitting final grades for courses (even in classes led by graduate student instructors), have been asked to enter as many grades they can before the deadline, prioritizing those who need letter grades to graduate, qualify for financial aid or veterans benefits, or apply to certain majors or higher degree programs, as well as student athletes.

Per their contracts, academic workers will resume work Tuesday (Monday is a work holiday). But normal contract terms still apply, and members will “not be expected to work on holidays nor beyond their appointment term, so UC will have to address that accordingly,” said Kai Yui Samuel Chan, a bargaining team member for UAW 2865 and UC Berkeley political science doctoral candidate. 

Because of winter break, there are only three workdays left before the extended Dec. 31 deadline to submit grades — a tall order when some courses at UC Berkeley exceed 1,000 students.

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...