48,000 University of California scholars set to strike for better pay Monday at 10 campuses

BERKELEY, Calif. (KGO) — A statewide strike is looming as nearly 50,000 University of California scholars are set to walk off the job on Monday — a move that could cancel some classes just weeks before final exams.

“I’m going to be on the picket line,” Margot Bezrutczyk said.

Postdoctoral fellow Bezrutczyk says banners are being painted and picket signs are ready for a strike on Monday.

“I have never felt such solidarity in my entire life,” she said.

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Forty-eight thousand university workers at the University of California – from researchers to teaching assistants – plan to strike on UC’s 10 campuses after contract talks failed to reach an agreement over the past year. Union members, represented by United Auto Workers, say wages are a key part of the dispute. Some university employees earn less than $24,000 per year.

“If people are struggling to make ends meet and find accommodation, it means they won’t be able to focus and provide a good education for our students,” said university student Samuel Chan. from UC Berkeley.

On its website, university officials say UC continues to negotiate in good faith with the union, determined to find solutions to outstanding issues.

UC Berkeley officials say they are preparing for a strike but expect little disruption, saying in a statement: “Campus expects classes to remain as scheduled, offices will be open and campus will provide normal or equivalent services.”

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But students say many classes have already been canceled or postponed.

“I don’t know what to expect. Half of them said we might not have class tomorrow,” said UC Berkeley student Arian Karimi.

“Almost all of my grad student-led chat sessions get canceled because they go on strike,” said UC Berkeley student Caroline Lobel.

And with final exams just weeks away, there are concerns.

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“If it goes on for a while, it could be very disruptive,” Karimi said.

“I expect the ongoing strike to disrupt university activities – that’s part of the strike’s goal,” Bezrutczyk said.

A negotiation session was taking place this weekend at UC Irvine but, as of Sunday evening, no agreement had been reached.

A union rally is scheduled for Monday at 11:30 a.m. at Sproul Plaza on the UC Berkeley campus.

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