Ratification vote set after UC and graduate student workers reach deal in five-week strike

UC San Diego academic workers strike in front of Geisel Library in November, calling for higher wages and more.
(Adriana Heldiz / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

If approved by union members, the agreement will resolve the nation’s largest-ever strike of academic workers, affecting the entire 10-campus University of California system, including UC San Diego in La Jolla.


A ratification vote will be held Monday through Friday, Dec. 19-23, for a tentative labor deal between the University of California and union leaders representing 36,000 striking graduate student workers and researchers.

The agreement would boost the workers’ pay and improve benefits, potentially ending their five-week work stoppage.

If approved by members, the agreement reached Dec. 16 will resolve what had been the nation’s largest-ever strike of academic workers — a total of 48,000 teaching assistants, tutors, researchers and postdoctoral scholars across the 10-campus UC system, including UC San Diego in La Jolla. The strike roiled finals and grading as students recently ended the fall term.

The agreement would go through May 2025 and give graduate student teaching assistants, tutors, researchers and other members of two United Auto Workers bargaining units an increase in minimum pay to about $34,000 from the current $24,000. The unions had demanded raising their pay to $54,000, but union leadership agreed to take the offer to members for ratification.

“These tentative agreements include major pay increases and expanded benefits, which will improve the quality of life for all members of the bargaining unit,” UAW President Ray Curry said in a statement. “Our members stood up to show the university that academic workers are vital to UC’s success. 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.”

Union and university officials credited Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg for helping to mediate the dispute.

“This is a positive step forward for the university and for our students, and I am grateful for the progress we have made together,” UC President Michael Drake said in a statement. “Our academic student employees and graduate student researchers are central to our academic enterprise and make incredible contributions to the university’s mission of research and education. These agreements will place our graduate student employees among the best-supported in public higher education.”

Union officials, who had initially resisted efforts to engage in mediation, agreed to do so earlier this month.

The 48,000 workers at the UC campuses and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory went on strike in mid-November, seeking higher salaries and greater annual raises, free public transit passes and improved child-care benefits and job security.

Postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers reached tentative labor deals with the university Nov. 29 but continued striking in solidarity with the other workers while those negotiations continued.

The postdoctoral scholars and academic researchers overwhelmingly ratified their new contracts in voting that ended Dec. 16.

The contract for postdoctoral scholars boosts their minimum pay to $70,000 with adjustments over five years, among the highest in the nation.

For academic researchers, the agreement includes an average 29 percent salary increase over the five-year contract.

The deals also offer increased support for child care and dependent health care, along with transit subsidies and more protection against harassment and bullying — provisions also offered to graduate student workers.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.