UC student-workers strike enters second week: ‘Our needs are not being met’

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RIVERSIDE, California (KABC) — The strike involving thousands of University of California student researchers, teaching assistants and postdoctoral researchers has entered its second week with no end in sight.

“I think UC is hopeful that this will come to an end soon,” said Hannah Freund, a fourth-year Ph.D. student at UC Riverside. “But we will stay here as long as it takes to get what we need to live comfortably and not be burdened with rent.”

Freund was one of about 250 people who protested Tuesday afternoon on the UC Riverside campus. In all, nearly 48,000 people are on strike on UC campuses across the state.

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The strike began on November 14, when student workers demanded better wages and benefits.

“We are constantly working,” Freund said. “And our needs are not met.”

According to UC Riverside, academic student employees start with a base salary of nearly $25,000 per year. Freund said teaching assistants are demanding their salary more than double to $54,000 a year.

“Inflation is on the rise and the cost of living is rising rapidly in Riverside,” Freund said. “An apartment I lived in my freshman year a few years ago was maybe $1,200 or $1,300 a month for a bedroom. That same place is now $1,800, $1,900 a month.”

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But in a statement on the UC Riverside website, university officials point out that the base salary of nearly $25,000 is not for full-time work.

“At UC, employment of academic students is strictly part-time to support students through their graduation or doctorate. In fact, UC policy prohibits them from working more than 20 hours a week to ensure they have the time and energy they need for their studies and other academic activities.”

But Freund said it would be impossible for them to meet their obligations on a 20-hour week.

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“In reality, it’s far from it. We’re constantly working,” Freund said.

In a letter written last week, Dr. Michael T. Brown, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs: “We negotiated over the weekend and will continue to do so.

“We recognize the remaining fundamental differences and have suggested to the UAW that the university and the union engage an outside mediator to move forward. We hope the union accepts our invitation.”

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