UC Santa Cruz fires striking grad students

The University of California, Santa Cruz fired 54 teaching assistants (TAs) Friday after they went on strike for higher wages.

The graduate students began withholding final fall grades as part of a wildcat strike not approved by union leadership. Striking assistants said the wage increase was necessary to keep up with the cost of living.

"We are sympathetic to the high cost of housing in Santa Cruz and the pressure this puts on TAs, but a wildcat strike is not the way to get relief," university President Janet Napolitano said in a Feb. 14 letter to the striking students, CNN reported.

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The students also said that in addition to the 54 fired students, 28 other TAs were sent notices that they would not be considered for such positions in the next semester.

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersMilitary madness in the age of COVID-19 Will Twitter make @RealDonaldTrump a one-term president? Judd Gregg: The coming Biden coup MORE (I-Vt.) responded to the firings Friday, calling them “disgraceful” and asking Napolitano and the university to “stop this outrageous union busting and negotiate in good faith.”

Activists, meanwhile, have called for demonstrations in response to the firings.

"In response to this grave administrative escalation, we call for the cancellation of classes on Monday and for everyone to join us on the picket for a press conference at 9am," reads a statement on the website of a group called "pay us more ucsc."

Kavitha Iyengar, president of UAW Local 2865, which represents more than 19,000 academic workers throughout the University of California system, also condemned the firings, writing, "We are shocked by UC's callousness, and by the violence that so many protesters experienced as they peacefully made the case for a cost of living increase."

“Instead of firing TAs who are standing up for a decent standard of living for themselves, UC must sit down at the bargaining table and negotiate a cost of living increase,” she added.

The university has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union for failing to stop the strike in keeping with its collective bargaining agreement. The union counterfiled its own charge, saying the school has refused to meet with the union to negotiate cost-of-living adjustments.