University of California officials have proposed mediation to solve a contract dispute between 48,000 unionized academic workers and the university.
The proposal came late Monday following a day in which the tens of thousands of workers went on strike among all 10 UC campuses.
More than 10,000 workers at the UC campuses in the greater Bay Area went on strike, a union source said.
The strike at UC Berkeley began at 8 a.m. And included workers from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Nearly 10,000 workers at those two institutions walked off the job.
About 2,700 workers at UC Santa Cruz and roughly another 2,700 at the University of California at San Francisco also walked off the job.
The workers, which include post-doctoral students, researchers, fellows, graduate student instructors and others, are alleging unfair labor practices by the university.
“People are really hyped up,” said Samuel Chan, a graduate student instructor in political science at UC Berkeley and a member of the bargaining team.
It may be the largest strike at any academic institution ever. Four units of the United Auto Workers union represent the striking workers.
Chan said he estimates at UC Berkeley over 1,000 workers were on the picket lines, which numbered eight Monday morning. Workers will be on strike until they get a fair contract, he said.
Workers are demanding higher wages, as well as cost of living adjustments, free public transit passes, and reimbursements for child care, among other changes.
Many workers earn less than $24,000 a year, said Rafael Jaime, president of UAW Local 2865.
Far apart on negotiations
In the Bay Area, workers are especially concerned about the high cost of housing.
Union leaders bargained throughout the weekend and made progress, but the two sides are still far apart, Jaime said.
UAW Local 2865 represents 19,000 of the 48,000 striking workers, who do a majority of the teaching at UC. The workers also grade papers and do research, which helps the university receive $8 billion each year for teaching and research, union officials said.
Thirty-six state legislators sent letters to UC President Michael Drake urging him to prevent the strike.
The union chapters striking Monday have filed at least 26 unfair labor practice complaints against the university, union officials said.
Union leaders filed the complaints because they allege the university has refused to provide information the union needs to bargain, among other illegal tactics.
The strike comes as students start thinking about upcoming finals, which at UC Berkeley start on Dec. 12.
UC officials said they have bargained in good faith, which union bargaining team member Evan Holloway denied. Holloway, a post-doctoral clinical psychologist at UCSF, said six complaints filed against the university by the union have come back in favor of the union.
Some are still outstanding, he said.
Holloway alleged UC had to cancel a bargaining session Monday because university officials could not determine what room to use for the negotiations.
“They haven’t taken our demands seriously,” Holloway said.
The university said it believes the offers it has made to the four units are “fair, reasonable, and responsive to the union’s concerns.”
UC officials said late Monday that the wage offers made to the workers are nearly in line with the pay offered by private institutions such as Harvard, the University of Southern California and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
More than 36,000 academic union workers voted to authorize a strike or not, and 97.53 percent voted in favor.