COLA Movement and Wildcat Strikes
This page was last updated on 3/16/2020.
Recently, UC Santa Cruz graduate student workers have made headlines demanding a living wage through protests including grading and full teaching wildcat strikes. The movement has reverberated through the UC community, driven by rent-burdened graduate students who are discontent with the disparate increases in salary and cost of living in California. This page serves to inform the Berkeley graduate student community on recent and historical events related to the wildcat strike*.
*The Graduate Assembly (GA) is a separate entity from the Berkeley COLA General Assembly.
What is a wildcat strike?
A wildcat strike is a strike action undertaken by unionized workers without the union leadership’s authorization, support, or approval.
What is COLA? What does it mean to be rent burdened?
COLA stands for Cost of Living Adjustment and is a salary adjustment based on the cost-of-living index of the employee’s geographic location. A person or household is considered rent-burdened if 30% or more of the household income is spent on rent. The student workers union, UAW 2865, is currently collecting data on graduate student expenses and living conditions: fill out their poll.
What has happened at UCSC?
Demanding a living wage, graduate student workers have been on a wildcat grading strike since 12/9/19 which escalated into a full teaching strike on 2/10/20. The ongoing movement has garnered national attention including an endorsement from Senator Bernie Sanders. The COLA demands, outlined in a letter to UCSC Chancellor Larive, include increasing student wages by $1,412 per month, which is the amount required to bring graduate students out of rent burden. On 2/28/20, UCSC administration retaliated by terminating student workers engaged in the strike. To learn more, visit payusmoreucsc.com and follow updates on twitter.
What is happening on other campuses?
- UCSB: Graduate student workers have been on a wildcat teaching strike since 2/27/20. Follow the UCSB COLA movement on twitter: @ucsb4cola
- UCD: Graduate student workers have been on a wildcat grading strike since 2/27/20. Follow the UCD COLA movement on twitter: @ucd4cola
- UCLA: The UCLA Graduate Student Association Forum voted to express unequivocal solidarity with striking graduate student workers at UCSC on 2/22/20. On 3/5/20, students and faculty staged protests demanding COLA.
- Stanford: The Stanford Graduate Student Council passed a bill calling for solidarity with striking graduate student workers at UCSC on 2/26/20.
What is happening on our campus at Berkeley?
- On 2/21/20 a COLA Rally was held on Sproul where faculty and students came together to show solidarity with UCSC and demand cost of living adjustment at Berkeley.
- On 3/5/20, over 1000 students and faculty protested in solidarity with UCSC graduate students and to demand COLA for all by staging a walkout and rally at Sproul Plaza.
- On 3/5/20, at the March Delegates Assembly, the Graduate Assembly adopted Resolution 2002B in which the GA demands that the U.C. Office of the President (UCOP) and U.C. Berkeley administration…
- not retaliate against students fighting to improve their living conditions in the ongoing COLA campaign.
- meet with student workers and representatives to discuss the issues that they are raising
- On 3/8/20, our GA President, Adam Orford, issued a statement on the March Delegates meeting and the COLA movement.
- As of 3/16/20, sixteen departments have declared themselves “strike-ready”. Read their letters to Chancellor Christ.
- On 3/9/20, the COLA General Assembly voted in favor of a full work stoppage.
- On 3/16/20, UCB graduate workers from 16 departments are on a wildcat strike.
- The COLA General Assembly (a separate entity from the Graduate Assembly) meetings are held on Mondays – see the Cal COLA calendar for locations and times.
- Follow the UC Berkeley COLA movement: www.payusmoreucb.com and on twitter.
Faculty Involvement in the COLA Movement
- At UC Santa Cruz, the Faculty Organizing Group (FOG) has created a COLA website with resources for faculty members looking to get involved including an FAQ, COLA resources, media coverage, FOG’s letter to Governor Newsom, and a quick lesson for undergrads about the strike.
- The COLA movement organizers have circulated a solidarity pledge for non-UCSC faculty.
UC Administration Response to COLA Movement
- Janet Napolitano, the president of the UC system, issued an open letter to faculty, staff and students at UC Santa Cruz.
- UCB Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Divisio, Lisa Garcia Bedolla and Human Resources Administrator Eugene Whitlock issued a response to the student rally on Sproul Plaza on 2/21/20.
- UCB Chancellor Carol Christ issued a statement to graduate students stating that the administration will not reopen the labor agreement.
See GA President Adam Orford’s response to these messages, highlighting some of the ongoing issues in University communications.