On December 9th, Graduate Student Workers at UC Santa Cruz launched a wildcat grading strike. The strike was spurred on by the university administration’s callous responses to students’ requests for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) that would bring them out of rent burden. The Administration’s response, which included threats of student conduct discipline for organizing around a COLA, caused the campaign to snowball quickly, garnering support from graduate workers, faculty, and the broader campus community. Because the action is a wildcat strike, which is not officially sanctioned, the students and their organizations are at greater risk for legal action and termination. We understand that the severity of the situation in Santa Cruz led the students to take such a serious risk, and applaud them both for their militancy and for the ambitious demands they are putting on their employer. The working classes will not find victory if they are unable to exercise courage in the face of those risks.
We are following the lead of the DSA Santa Cruz branch which has already endorsed this action and whose members are enthusiastic participants, organizers, and supporters of the strike. Together, DSA members and graduate student workers have struggled for rent control in the largely unregulated Santa Cruz rental market. Together they have fought against tuition hikes, student debt, and university privatization. This COLA strike is the culmination of years of deep organizing and should be applauded as a model for solidarity work between students, labor unions and the community more broadly. This kind of deep organizing work is the only thing that will build a labor movement capable of rising to the challenges of the present.
Santa Cruz, California, is often ranked as one of the least affordable cities in the United States. Graduate student workers make little money – only around 2,000 dollars a month, nine months of the year, which they have to stretch out over the lean summer months during which they don’t get paid at all. Many are forced to take second and third jobs to support themselves. Many hand over more than half of their paychecks each month to their landlords, and for many grads, that landlord is the UC itself. Because of the difficulty finding affordable housing many are effectively homeless, and live out of cars, their offices, or friends couches. This state of affairs is a crisis and is unsustainable.
The University of California, like many public universities caught in the grip of neoliberal governance, increasingly raises the salaries of high level administrators and spends its money on real estate assets, while refusing to pay campus workers living wages. Regular tuition hikes are the norm.
The status quo is unacceptable, and we call for the University to immediately meet the students’ demand for a COLA.
Furthermore, we urge DSA members to get involved and support the strike.
Call/email administration and tell them that you support the strike and that Grad Students deserve a COLA! Contact info:
Chancellor Cynthia Larive
Democratic Socialists of America National Political Committee