In 2018, leaders of the UAW chose to accept a UC-wide contract, which offered only a 3% pay increase, and which 83% of UCSC graduate student workers had voted to reject. Rent rose 54% in Santa Cruz during the last contractual period, and it became common for graduate students to spend the majority of their income on housing. At the same time, the quality of housing declined as living quarters became more cramped and unsafe, as stories of problems such as toxic black mold abounded.
In November 2019, graduate student workers began to organize and demand a cost of living adjustment that would 1) remove their rent burden and 2) be on parity with rates at UC Riverside, amounting to a raise of $1,412 per student, per month. In December, graduate students withheld 12,000 grades for the fall semester and were met with silence from the administration.
As of February 10th, graduate student workers at UCSC are on an indefinite wildcat strike, joined by undergraduate students and faculty, and touching off the beginnings of a UC-wide movement for COLA. They have picketed in their hundreds, facing riot cops and threats of a mass layoff. Their demands are as follows:
- A cost of living adjustment of $1,412/month
- That UCSC overturn the 15-day suspension of the 17 students arrested so far
- That UCSC rescind all disciplinary actions issued for participation in the strike
- And that UCSC cease all attempts at retaliation and repression against strikers
To the UC Santa Cruz graduate students on strike:
We the undersigned express our warm solidarity with the UC Santa Cruz COLA struggle, the developing undergraduate movement there, and the growing militant action across the UC system.
Low wages and staggering costs of living are dragging a whole generation of students into debt, crippling overwork, and dangerous living conditions around the country. At the same time, university administrations are happy to shell out thousands of dollars on repressing students who dare to organize outside of the administrative and trade-union bureaucracies. We recognize the issue of living wages for student-workers and affordable student housing as absolutely critical in the struggle for a free and open university in the service of the people.
The COLA struggle is proving beyond doubt the power of organization in the student movement. You have resisted the underhanded attempts by the UC administration to break the unity of the students through threats and halfhearted concessions, and you have bravely faced down the batons of the best mercenary cops that hundreds of thousands of dollars can buy.
We applaud you for your bravery in the face of the police and for your organizing skill in the buildup to the strike. Furthermore, we enthusiastically support your decision to firmly take the path of militant struggle, relying on your own forces after the betrayal of UAW bureaucrats and the in the face of both threats and empty promises on the part of the UC administration. Victory is inevitable with the continued growth, organization, and fortitude of the camp of popular struggle!
The May Day Student Organization
Puerto Rican Alliance at Brooklyn College
Queer Student Activist Alliance at Brooklyn College
Latinos Unidos Con Honor Y Amistad (LUCHA) at New York University
First-Generation Low Income Partnership (FLIP) at New York University