UCSD Graduate Students Demonstrate in Support of Systemwide Cost of Living Adjustment

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Photo of UC San Diego Graduate Students demonstrating in support of a systemwide Cost of Living Adjustment.
Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

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The UC Student Workers Union, United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865, held a systemwide demonstration on Monday, demanding that the UC system re-enter negotiations for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). 

This demonstration was held in solidarity with the ongoing wildcat strike occurring at UC Santa Cruz (UCSC), which started when graduates students withheld Fall Quarter 2019 grades as part of a strike in December 2019. Police arrested at least 17 demonstrators at UCSC, which led to calls from the UC Student Association (UCSA), the UC Graduate-Professional Council (UCGPC), and UC Student Regent Hayley Weddle to demilitarize the UC Police Department.

“If the UC [system] wants to be an employer of choice, it needs to respond humanely and professionally to labor actions,” UCSA and UCGPC said in a joint statement. “Physical intimidation or unnecessary uses of force are antithetical to our values. We call for an immediate end to this excessive police presence, followed by de-escalation and disciplinary measures against officers who used force against student protestors.”

UAW represents over 18,000 Academic Student Employees (ASEs), including graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants (TAs), tutors, and readers across the UC system. This is not the first UAW demonstration at UC San Diego regarding housing. In 2019, UAW organized after the closure of Rita Atkinson and Single Graduate Apartments.

Participants at UCSD marched from the Silent Tree at Geisel Library to the Chancellor’s Complex at 1:00 p.m. to deliver a COLA framework and a letter to Chancellor Pradeep Khosla demanding that ASEs receive a monthly housing stipend, rent reduction for on-campus housing, and that UCSD construct more affordable housing. The COLA framework designates a monthly housing stipend for each UC campus based on mandatory fees, a monthly TA salary, and the average monthly housing cost. The proposed plan would give UCSD ASEs an extra $1422 per month for housing.

After Chancellor Khosla did not come outside, participants chanted the letter of demands to the UCSD administration.

Photo of signs that UC San Diego Graduate Students posted on Chancellor Khosla's door, demonstrating in support of a systemwide Cost of Living Adjustment.
Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

UAW Local 2865 estimates that ASEs systemwide spent 38% to 60% of their monthly income on housing in 2019. At UCSD, the average is 42%, placing ASEs within the rent-burden, defined by the U.S. Housing and Urban Development as individuals who pay over 30% of their income in housing. Rent-burdened individuals and families may find it difficult to afford other costs of living such as groceries, transportation, and healthcare.

UAW argues that there is precedent for a housing stipend, as the UC system has given housing stipends to medical interns and residents at UCSD, UCLA, and UCSF. 

“It’s really hard to get accepted for housing off-campus if you don’t make at least three times what you pay in rent,” said UAW Local 2865 organizer Dylan Travis. “That makes the majority of housing throughout San Diego completely unlivable for us.”

Someone from UCSC was supposed to speak at a public COLA information session at the Graduate Student Association offices on February 12, but they were arrested during the UCSC strike.

UAW is planning an hour-long “grade-in” and additional office hours in front of the Chancellor’s office on Tuesday at 1:00 p.m.

Camille Lemesoff is a Staff Writer for The Triton.