University of California academic workers go on strike

SAN DIEGO, Nov 14 (Reuters) - Thousands of academic workers went on strike at University of California campuses throughout the state on Monday, forming picket lines, affecting classes and staging noisy protests to demand better wages for teaching assistants and others.

Some 48,000 academic workers represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) are in contract talks with the University of California system, but it was uncertain how many went on strike at the 10 UC campuses. The union says more than 36,000 of them voted to authorize a strike a month ago.

The UAW is one of the largest and most diverse unions in North America, with members in virtually every sector of the economy, according to its website.

The striking workers include those who lecture, grade papers, perform research and other tasks too great for individual professors to handle. After weekend talks failed to reach a contract agreement, members walked off the job on Monday.

The University of California said "all campuses will be prepared to ensure continuity of instruction and research" even as strikers set up picket lines and protests at campuses, including Berkeley and Los Angeles.

"A lot of us came into this because we really love science and the work that we do. However, these working conditions are really hampering our ability to teach and do research in line with the mission of the university," said Anoop Praturu, a graduate student researcher participating in the UC San Diego picket.

The union says its members are working themselves into extreme debt with a base salary for part-time employees starting at $24,000 per year.

The University of California said it is offering wage increases of up to 7.5% for postdoctoral scholars, 7% for academic student employees, 10% for graduate student researchers, and 4% for academic researchers.

"UC continues to negotiate with the union and is committed to working collaboratively with the UAW to find solutions to outstanding issues," Executive Vice Chancellor Benjamin Hermalin and Chief People Officer Eugene Whitlock aid in an open message on Monday.

Reporting by Mike Blake in San Diego and Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, Calif.; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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Mike Blake is a senior photographer with Reuters and a member of the Pulitzer Prize winning team for Breaking News Photography in 2019. He began his career with Reuters in Toronto, Canada in 1985 and has traveled the World covering Olympic Games (18 in total) and World sporting events as well as breaking news and feature stories. Previously based in Vancouver and now Los Angeles, Blake attended Emily Carr College of Art and began his career making prints at a major daily newspaper. Blake grew up skateboarding and taking pictures and continues to do so now in his spare time.