Biggest academic strike in US history, workers hit the streets
Tens of thousands of academic workers in the state of California went on a full strike demanding increasing minimum salaries and better working conditions.
In the biggest academic worker strike in American history, around 48,000 academics, including postdoctoral scholars and teaching assistants, took to the streets in California demanding a minimum salary of $54,000 per year to fight the surging inflation hitting the country.
The protesters also called for increased child benefits and better working circumstances for disabled workers.
Earlier in October, the US Commerce Department announced that the price index in the United States, the main indicator used by the Federal Reserve to monitor inflation, has increased by 6.2% year on year in September.
The academic workers canceled classes and stopped research in addition to canceling thousands of employee office hours as they gathered in front of Universities across the state.
"We're the ones who perform the majority of the teaching"
Despite the strike, the University of California system, which consists of more than ten public universities and around 300,000 students, insisted on not closing.
“We’re the ones who perform the majority of the teaching, and we’re the ones who perform the majority of the research, I have a hard time seeing how operations are going to be maintained with us on the picket line,” said Rafael Jaime, head of the United Automobile Workers (UAW) 2865 and a doctoral candidate at the University of California in Los Angeles.
“We’re the backbone of the university,” Jaime added.
US inflation surged to a new four-decade high in May, defying hopes that price pressures had peaked and deepening President Joe Biden's political troubles as Americans struggle to meet the cost of essentials like food and gas.
The University of California system released a statement denying that it practiced unfair labor and claimed it was “generous and responsive to union priorities.”
Last November, the university system dodged a planned strike after negotiations reached a last-minute agreement with university lecturers that improved their job security and included raises.
"We make about $23,000 a year, and that’s unlivable in many parts of California. When I get paid, half of my paycheque immediately goes to my landlord,” said Janna Haider, recording secretary for the Santa Barbara branch of the UAW 2865.
The University system was able to negotiate lecturers against going on strike last November after increasing their salaries and improving their job security.
Earlier in September, Janet Yellen, the Secretary of the US Treasury, remarked that inflation at home is causing a great sense of economic insecurity and that she hopes it does not become endemic - despite that experts have been warning that inflation may become rooted in the US economy.
Despite the fact that higher interest rates are supposed to limit intra-bank loans and thus create new money, the Economic Policy Institute found in an April study that corporate profits accounted in the last two years for 54% of inflation in the US. This means that the problem is price speculation, not overeager lenders.