Dec 09 2021

UC Agrees to Recognize to Student Researchers’ Union after Workers Vote to Authorize a Strike

Workers in the largest new union of 2021 look forward to bargaining a contract 
that makes UC a more inclusive and equitable place to work.

Berkeley, CA – After months of delay, the University of California on Wednesday agreed to recognize Student Researchers United/UAW, the union of over 17,000 Student Researchers (SRs) at UC. The decision comes just two weeks after SRs voted to authorize a strike (of the 10,890 SRs who cast a ballot, 10,622 voted yes), and a month after 49 state legislators and 30 members of Congress urged University President Michael Drake to respect the democratic rights of UC’s employees. Last May, a supermajority of Student Researchers filed cards to form their union with California’s Public Employment Relations Board, which subsequently verified the unit.

“Today, after months of delay, the University did the right thing,” said Aarthi Sekar, a Student Researcher in the Integrative Genetics and Genomics Graduate Group at UC Davis. “We want to do our work in an environment that is fair and equitable, where we are protected from the frequent discrimination and harassment we face, and where we are able to contribute on our merits. Today we are one step closer to that goal. We look forward to working with UC to bargain a fair contract that improves working conditions for the people whose labor has made UC one of the most respected research institutions in the world.”

Student Researchers play a crucial role in advancing the University of California’s research mission, driving innovation and discoveries in areas such as biotechnology, computer science, agriculture, and green energy. SRs are responsible for designing and conducting experiments, writing grants, and much more. The research SRs produce spurs job creation, new advances in business and technology, and improves quality of life for people across the globe.

“The UAW is proud to welcome UC Student Researchers into our union family,” said Cindy Estrada, UAW Vice President and head of the UAW Stellantis, Women’s, and Higher Education Organizing Departments. “They have shown what is possible when workers stand together and refuse to be divided. We look forward to supporting them as they bargain a strong first contract.”

“SRU-UAW is notable for several reasons: it represents the largest new bargaining unit of 2021, it is the largest unit of student employees in U.S. history, and it was organized during the pandemic, when traditional means of organizing were shut down,” said Ray Curry, President of the UAW. “It took an enormous amount of courage and grit for these workers to make this happen, and we are thrilled to welcome them and support them as they move forward.”

“The contributions UC Student Researchers make are foundational to the university’s mission and to its R1 status in the research community,” said Mitchell Smith, Director of UAW Region 8. “And for too long, they have done so without a union in their corner. We congratulate them on this important victory and look forward to supporting their efforts to negotiate a strong first contract.”

“This decision is a credit to the thousands of Student Researchers who, during COVID, organized for the right to negotiate with UC as equals,” said Jess Banks, a Student Researcher in the Mathematics department at UC Berkeley. “Our goal now is to bargain a contract that reduces the gender inequity in academia, secures important protections for international workers, and raises compensation so that all student researchers can afford to live where we work.”

Under the recognition agreement, all categories of Student Researchers – Researchers, Fellows, and Trainees – will be included in the union. You can read the full agreement on the Student Researchers United/UAW website here.







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