California University fires 54 graduate students on strike for higher wages

California University, Santa Cruz, fired fifty-four students when they refused to turn their final fall grades. The students were on strike for higher pay. They sought higher wages in order to afford living expenses. The students said that the rents were skyrocketing and they had no choice.

It is alleged that these students got the motivation from the University of California, Davis, and the University of California, Santa Barbara. The students of these universities had initiated their own cost of living strikes in solidarity.

“It is extremely disappointing that we have to take such a drastic step, but we ultimately cannot retain graduate students as teaching assistants who will not fulfill their responsibilities,” Lori G. Kletzer, the schools’ interim campus provost and executive vice chancellor, expressed in a letter to the students and the staff of the college.

The need and severity of the strike

The number 54 might seem quite large when it comes to students, however, it is small in comparison to the number of students on strike. A total of 233 students have the same demands as these 54 who were fired. The students refused to submit around twelve thousand grades that were due for submission since December.

The grading strike took a larger turn this time when teaching assistants turned down all teaching duties. In addition, research assistants declined all additional work. The strike reached the extent that classes were canceled, and office hours were reduced. One of their demands is that all the graduated workers of UC Santa Cruz who participated in the strike must be restored full employment status. The students desire to pay as high as one thousand four hundred twelve dollars in order to settle their living expenses and debts.

With high rents, the students are forced to spend 50% to 70% of their salary of $2,434 on rents. Some can’t afford it and hence, are forced to live in substandard apartments. The situation demands them to adjust with many roommates if they encounter other expenses.

Scope of the strikes

It is the belief of the strikers that these strikes will not prove sufficient for them to achieve their goal. The University offers them nothing other than verbal sympathy and continuously reminds them about the contract that it agreed on with the Union. The contract was signed in 2018 and included a no-strike clause. The University cites this as a reason to not agree to the demands of the strikers.

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