Justin Keever, 29, a teaching assistant and 6th year Visual Studies PhD candidate, pickets with dozens of academic employees at UC Irvine on Monday, November 14, 2022.
CNN Business  — 

About 48,000 academic employees across the University of California system walked off the job Monday morning, demanding higher pay and improved working conditions, according to the union representing them.

Striking workers include researchers, graduate student researchers and instructors, trainees, fellows, and others who provide academic support across the University of California’s 10 campuses. The United Auto Workers union represents these academic employee groups who want transportation subsidies and pay that matches housing costs.

Among the salary demands, the union wants a $70,000/year minimum salary for post-doctoral employees; their current salary range starts at $55,632/year.

The UAW, which has been negotiating since Spring 2021, alleges the University of California has taken unlawful actions such as bypassing the bargaining process and making unilateral decisions.

“People live in very cramped situations, people often face the prospect and reality of houselessness,” graduate student instructor Jack Davies told CNN affiliate KSBW.

The University of California said on its website that it “strongly disagree[s] with the UAW allegations that UC has engaged in unlawful behavior. Throughout the negotiations, UC has listened carefully to the union’s concerns and bargained in good faith, as illustrated by the many tentative agreements reached thus far including on topics underlying the UAW’s allegations.”

On Monday evening, the University of California proposed a third-party mediator for negotiations in the strike, saying in a statement that it is the “best path to an agreement.”

“We remain hopeful that with mediation and by maintaining a spirit of flexibility and compromise we can achieve a fair agreement with the UAW,” the system said.