The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

UC Academic Workers on Strike

Nov 21, 2022

Academic workers at all of the 10 University of California (UC) campuses went on strike on Monday, November 14. Some of the strikers are lecturers and researchers who don’t have permanent jobs at the university. But many of the strikers are students working toward an advanced degree, while they also teach classes, grade papers, tutor students and do research work. The union that represents the strikers, United Auto Workers (UAW), said that, with 48,000 workers involved, this is the largest walkout of academic workers in U.S. history.

As their huge number indicates, these workers do a lot of the teaching and research at UC. So, the walkout has caused many classes on UC campuses to be cancelled. But many other classes have also been cancelled because some undergraduate students and professors have been refusing to cross picket lines.

Strikers say they simply can’t live on what they get paid: $24,000 a year on average. Besides pay increases, their demands include child-care subsidies, better health care benefits, longer family leave, and public transit passes—things every worker needs in a capitalist economy!

UC leaders say they can’t afford to meet these demands. Ridiculous! The UC is a huge public university system, whose budget ($44 billion in 2020–21), is larger than that of the other two California public college systems (California State University and community colleges) combined. And besides state and federal funding, the UC also has more than $16 billion in endowments—money that the UC administration invests in financial markets.

No, UC leaders just have priorities other than better pay and working conditions for their workers—or affordable and better education for their students, for that matter. For example, the UC has increased the undergraduate student tuition from about $700 in 1980 to about $14,000 today, an almost 20-fold (or 2,000%) increase, way above the inflation rate—while laying off teachers and other workers, cutting down the number of classes and increasing class size. During that same time period, the UC has increased its business ties—and profits—enormously. UC leaders brag, for example, that the UCLA medical school has become financially “self-sufficient” (meaning it is now a small business empire by itself), and certainly it is not the only UC entity to do so.

All this also means that the UC system has all kinds of ties with Wall Street. Just look who the UC’s governing body, the UC Regents, is made of. A majority, 15 of the 26, of the board of regents’ voting members are appointed by the California governor, and currently 11 of them are listing their occupation as businessman, financier or lobbyist. The UC Board of Regents, in fact, is a middleman between the UC’s big money pool and those who have put their grabby hands on that money: Big Business and Big Finance.

Under the guise of a public university (which, by the way, gets tons of taxpayer money), the UC system acts just like another big finance company that exploits the hell out of its workers.