MERCED, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – Across the state, around 48,000 University of California graduate student workers, researchers, and student workers went on strike to protest the UC system and demand higher wages.
UC Merced has around 800 employees that fall into this category. Hundreds of them showed their support for the protests, holding signs and starting chants to make their voices heard.
“We’ve had enough. At some point, we all have gone past a breaking point. For me like, pay is the biggest one, I’m sure for a lot of other people,” said Ashwin Thomas, a student worker at UC Merced.
Normally, Thomas is working at his university job at 11 o’clock in the morning. Instead, he took the day to stand with his fellow student workers. Like many of his colleagues, he took the day to strike in front of the UC Merced main entrance.
“Just like a lot of other Americans, piling on debt. Credit cards, it’s not what you’re supposed to do, but you need to anyone because you gotta eat,” he said.
“You can see from the attendance here, that this is how important it is to workers. They’re willing to risk everything,” said Mark Woodall, a union representative for UAW 2865.
The union sees the number of people who took to the streets to protest for higher wages, a sign of how fed up workers really are.
“This sets us behind in our own work, our own studies, in our own scholarships in our own research, but it’s necessary,” said Woodall.
The university announced no classes were disrupted or canceled because of the strikes.
“We made sure to contact our faculty and make sure our classes run as usual. Students need to expect classes will continue throughout the whole week until they reach an agreement,” said Desiree Lopez with UC Merced.
On the UC’s system informational page on union negotiations, the wage increase is seven percent, which brings the majority of student workers to over $30,000 a year.
For Thomas, it isn’t enough.
“It’ll be up to us to decide whether we keep this on, if it works for us, I think collectively to decide to go back to work but, as long as it takes,” Thomas said.
The UC system has requested a third-party mediator to overlook the negotiations between the union and the universities. The two sides have met more than 50 times for negotiations, according to a UC representative. The protests are set to continue until a deal is met.