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After Protests, University of California Agrees To $2,500 Stipend For Grad Students in Santa Cruz

UC San Diego students demand pay increases for grad students who work as teaching assistants. (Credit: UAW Local 2865)
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On Monday, after weeks of high profile protests by UC Santa Cruz graduate students, the University of California agreed to give all graduate students on that campus a one-time stipend of $2,500.

Grad students had been protesting that the high cost of living in their area has made it impossible to carry out their work as teaching assistants and pay their bills.

“This morning’s response proves that when committed hard-working student employees work together, we can win tangible economic relief,” said Kavitha Iyengar, President of UAW Local 2865 in an emailed statement.

United Auto Workers Local 2865 represents 19,000 graduate student teaching assistants across all UC campuses. The union’s contract doesn’t expire until 2022 but union leaders had been trying to get UC to agree to negotiate pay increases before then.

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Actions that included protests by students willing to be arrested were carried out by UCSC union leaders without the permission of the statewide local. That is likely to make the impact of UC’s offer limited to only the students on that campus.

“And while we are glad to hear this news, it is not enough,” Iyengar said.

The stipend isn’t part of the union’s contract and not legally enforceable, she said, and it only benefits Santa Cruz students.

Statewide union leaders said they will continue to push UC to negotiate pay increases that aren’t limited to one campus and one year.

“The one-time stipend granted by UC is a gesture of good faith and will placate Santa Cruz strikers,” said union leader Noah Teller, a grad student at UC Riverside, “but does not give a substantive benefit to all members of the union.”