University of California academic workers continue strike amid threat of arrests

New Delhi(International Desk): Tens of thousands of academic staff of the University of California are now on their fourth week of striking, demanding higher wages and better benefits amid the threat of arrests.

The strike of 48,000 academic workers at 10 campuses, including graduate workers, academic researchers, postdoctoral scholars and teaching assistants, began on 14 November and is the largest in the history of higher education in the US.

This week workers have taken part in numerous direct actions across the state and 17 striking workers were arrested on trespassing charges during a protest outside the University of California’s administrative office in Sacramento and another 10 in Los Angeles, the union said in a statement.

The academic workers are pushing for pay increases, job security protections, childcare reimbursements, sustainable transit incentives and stronger disability accommodations.

On 29 November, about 12,000 postdoctoral researchers and academic researchers reached a tentative agreement with the University of California which included a 29 percent pay increase, but the strikes continued as a sign of solidarity with other academic groups who are demanding an agreement.

“They are trying to cut off negotiations,” said Michael Dean, a PhD candidate in the history department at UCLA, adding, “We’re preparing to come back with counter proposals of our own. In terms of the strike and the pickets, we’re out here every day and we’re not planning to go away until they offer us fair contract.”

The strike comes as rising inflation and a severe housing shortage makes it difficult for moderate- to low-income earners to pay for even basic necessities. The strikers cannot afford to live where they serve in high-priced cities such as Los Angeles and the Bay Area.