A Breakthrough in the University of California Labor Dispute

Vivek Bharadwaj, left, a grad student researcher, and Anisah Awad, a community supporter, chanted with University of California workers on Monday in front of the U.C. office of the president in Oakland.Credit…Salgu Wissmath/San Francisco Chronicle, via Associated Press

With the University of California strike in its third week — and threatening to encroach on final exams for some 300,000 students — negotiators announced a breakthrough on Tuesday: a tentative agreement that would cover about one-quarter of the unionized workers who walked off the job in the largest university-based labor action in U.S. history.

The deal, if ratified, would significantly raise pay and improve benefits for about 12,000 academic researchers and postdoctoral scholars, according to Neal Sweeney, president of U.A.W. Local 5810. It is also expected to hasten settlements with some 36,000 graduate student teaching assistants, researchers and tutors, who are still negotiating with the university system.

That’s the good news. The bad news: The deal doesn’t end the walkout that has upended fall instruction from San Diego to Berkeley. Until the university has reached agreements with all of the strikers, the postdocs and academic researchers will remain off the job in solidarity, Sweeney said, noting that the student researchers have been awaiting a response to their latest proposal for more than 12 days.

The striking workers — who run labs, lead class discussion groups and perform much of the day-to-day work — have called for significant pay increases in the face of soaring housing costs in California, particularly as wages have risen elsewhere in a tight labor market.

Since the academic employees walked off the job, classes have been disrupted, office hours have been canceled and labs have temporarily closed.

The tentative five-year agreement announced Tuesday would raise salaries by some 20 percent for most postdocs over the next year, and would increase pay for the lowest-paid postdoctoral workers 57 percent by 2027. Academic researchers would get a 4.5 percent raise in the first year of the contract and at least 3.5 percent a year after that.

Paid family leave would double to eight weeks; postdoctoral workers would receive up to $2,500 in child care subsidies; and initial appointment periods would be lengthened to improve job security, particularly for international workers. Workers would also receive enhanced transportation benefits — including a discount on e-bikes — as well as stronger protections against abuses in the workplace.

More on California

  • Jaywalking Law: California has had one of the strictest jaywalking laws in the nation. Starting Jan. 1, that will no longer be the case.
  • Remaking a River: Taming the Los Angeles River helped Los Angeles emerge as a global megalopolis, but it also left a gaping scar across the territory. Imagining the river’s future poses new challenges.
  • A Piece of Black History Destroyed: Lincoln Heights — a historically Black community in a predominantly white, rural county in Northern California — endured for decades. Then came the Mill fire.
  • Employee Strike: In one of the nation’s biggest strikes in recent years, teaching assistants, researchers and other workers across the University of California system walked off the job to demand higher pay.

The 10-campus university system — which has been under pressure from Democratic leaders in pro-labor California to reach a deal — lauded the agreement, calling the academic workers “vital to U.C.’s research activities.”

For more:

  • Why union drives are succeeding.

  • The potential dark side of a white-hot labor market.

Birds take flight at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge.Credit…AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

The rest of the news

  • Environmental efforts: The federal government will spend $250 million over the next four years to clean and restore the drying Salton Sea, The Associated Press reports.

  • Colorado shooting: In politically red stretches of California, the recent Colorado Springs massacre has been yet another devastating reminder of how difficult and lonely it can be to be queer in conservative America, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • 25 cents: Silver-proof quarters minted between 1999 and 2008, indicated by an “S” marking, could actually be worth up to $11 in California, KTLA reports.


  • Search warrants: The Los Angeles Police Department has served several search warrants in an attempt to find out who recorded a private meeting involving three Los Angeles City Council members that exposed racist comments, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Hammer Museum: After two decades, the Hammer Museum will unveil its final expansion and renovations in March, The Los Angeles Times reports.

  • Guilty plea: A man pleaded guilty to two crimes after admitting to having fired BB guns at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Pasadena 11 separate times, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

  • Fentanyl deaths: The rate of death from illegal fentanyl has increased 1,280 percent between 2016 and 2021, The Los Angeles Times reports.


  • Inmate abuse: The former warden of a women’s prison who is accused molesting inmates and forcing them to pose naked in their cells went on trial on Monday, The Associated Press reports.

  • Freezing temperatures: A cold front this week means that residents in Sacramento, Santa Clara and Napa valleys will experience lows below 32 degrees, some of the coldest temperatures in the state this year, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Credit…Nils Timm

What you get

For $1.8 million: A renovated showplace in Los Angeles, a ranch house in Sonoma and a midcentury home in Orinda.

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times.

What we’re eating

A rich, autumnal galette that takes its inspiration from French onion soup.

A foggy day at San Simeon Pier.Credit…Paul Harris/Getty Images

Where we’re traveling

Today’s tip comes from Reilly Rix, who lives in Fresno. Reilly recommends William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach along the Central Coast:

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Tell us

Did you recently buy or rent a home in California? We want to hear from you.

The New York Times’s weekly real estate column, The Hunt, features everyday people who just moved and want to share their stories. If that’s you, get in touch with us at [email protected].

Stanislaus National Forest.Credit…LiPo Ching/Digital First Media, via The Mercury News, via Getty Images

And before you go, some good news

Stanislaus National Forest is allowing up to 5,000 people to cut down their own tree at no charge this holiday season.

The drive to the forest, about three hours east of San Francisco, may cost you, but it’s a fun family experience — and for a good cause, NBC Bay Area reports.

“Christmas tree permits are being offered to the public in an effort to help reduce hazardous fuel ladders that have built up over years of fire suppression,” the U.S. Forest Service said. “Removal of excessive amounts of small trees from the forest will help create a healthier forest over time.”

Thanks for reading. We’ll be back tomorrow.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Soumya Karlamangla, Briana Scalia, Shivani Gonzalez and Isabella Grullón Paz contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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