Students Rally In Support of Fired UC Santa Cruz TAs

CampusLaborNews

Photo of demonstrators in front of the Chancellor's Complex during a March 2 COLA at UCSD demonstration.
Arlene Banuelos / The Triton

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Students, faculty, and community members marched at the “Red 4 Ed” rally in front of Geisel Library Monday, in solidarity with UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) graduate students on strike who were fired. At least 54 graduate students were fired on Friday for withholding grades as a part of an ongoing strike for wage increases.

Graduate student workers at UCSC went on a wildcat strike and withheld grades in December 2019, demanding that administrators open negotiations for a cost of living pay adjustment (COLA). The strike escalated into a full work stoppage on February 10, when graduate students began refusing to conduct research or hold class and office hours.

“[The intent to dismiss] is based on abandonment of your job responsibilities by failing to submit student grades well past the fall quarter deadline … and failing to follow a directive provided to you from the Interim Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor,” said UCSC Acting Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Quentin Williams in a letter dismissing 54 graduate students from their Spring Quarter 2020 teaching appointments.

Hundreds of graduate students, undergraduate students, and faculty have joined in a picket at the UCSC entrance since February 10. Police in riot gear met the protestors, and at least 17 people have been arrested.

“We are shocked by [the UC system’s] callousness, and by the violence that so many protesters experienced as they peacefully made the case for a cost of living increase,” said Kavitha Iyengar, president of UAW Local 2865, the union that represents UC academic workers. “Instead of firing [teaching assistants] who are standing up for a decent standard of living for themselves, [UC administration] must sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate a cost of living increase.”

The rally on Monday led to Geisel Library cancelling their annual birthday celebration for Dr. Seuss. UCSD 4 COLA criticized the university for holding a celebration days after graduate students were fired at UCSC.

Graduate students across the UC system inspired by the actions of UCSC graduate students have launched a broader systemwide COLA movement. Graduate students at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB) and UC Davis went on strike last Thursday. Graduate students at UCSB are participating in a full work stoppage, while graduate students at UC Davis are withholding grades.

Graduates students with COLA 4 UCSD told The Triton they are ready to go on strike but need to decide between holding a full work stoppage or withholding grades.

Based on a poll conducted by COLA 4 UCSD, 80% of the 205 teaching assistants who responded are willing to withhold Winter Quarter 2020 grades. 60% of poll respondents are willing to participate in a full work stoppage and 79% support conducting strikes similar to the one-day picket held in February.

COLA 4 UCSD will host its second general assembly at 1:30 p.m. this Thursday to hold a community discussion and vote on whether to hold a full work stoppage or withhold grades.

“UC San Diego will join UC Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, and Davis in a strike aimed at winning a COLA…” said COLA 4 UCSD in an email announcing the poll results Tuesday morning. “We will not accept the firing of our colleagues. We will not accept poverty wages. We will not accept a UC system that forces its undergraduate students, graduate students, and Lecturers into a life of precarity.”

Mo Al Elew is a Senior Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow him @SoloMune.