This time around, UC student-workers, researchers, and postdoctoral employees must hold our leaders to their word. Many of our coworkers will ask how many days must we put down our pens and keyboards, stay out of lecture halls and off Zoom classroom meetings, and return to normal university operations to win a COLA? The answer: one day longer than UC administration refuses to bring us out of rent burden.

How will we do that?

  • Build rank-and-file power through networks that regularly check with all our coworkers to gauge strike fatigue and enthusiasm, share bargaining updates, and discuss any future tentative agreements. These networks should remind our coworkers, fellow organizers, and ourselves that mutual reliance will sustain long-term, open-ended strikes. We can do this by making picket signs together, joining the lines as a unified group, writing collective open letters, babysitting each other’s children, sharing meals and making sure we have each other’s and our own needs met during the long haul.
  • Exercise rank-and-file power by exerting pressure on the bargaining team to refuse concessions around the COLA demand. We’ve already seen the power of a Zoom room full of hundreds of academic workers, admonishing bargaining team members who edged too close to compromise. Attend these sessions as a group and make yourself heard. Similarly, contact the bargaining team members who represent you and make clear that you won’t settle for anything less than a COLA.
  • Expand the strike. From its own public transit systems to housing developments to on-campus dining halls, the university’s footprint is broad. Organize rank-and-file workers and tenants to take solidaristic collective action at sites related to the UC, like redirecting bus routes, walking off construction sites, halting package deliveries, occupying dining halls, or withholding rent.
  • Raise each other’s expectations–for ourselves, for workers across the country and globe, and for future generations of academic workers. Taking historic action offers an example of what a different world looks like, one where we take control over our collective and individual lives. We show that we can work together and fight for one another that we deserve more than we routinely get.
  • Live the minimal demands. Many groups will pressure us to approve a subpar contract, arguing a 13% wage increase over the next three years is “the best we can get.” We know that’s not true. More importantly, we must not make it true: encourage and ensure each other does not return to work without a Cost of Living Adjustment.

We won’t be cowed back to the UC’s crumbling classrooms and unaffordable housing. We won’t be forced to compete with thousands of our students, coworkers, and friends for the few units the UC’s meager wages can cover. We won’t allow anyone to make us believe we–and all working people–deserve less than our bosses routinely offer. The balance of power is in our favor–now it’s on us to wield it.

If you enjoyed this article, we recommend our previous reporting on labor organizing at the University of California: Wildcat Strike Launched by UC Santa Cruz Graduate Student Workers and this interview with Black Rose militants on the It’s Going Down podcast.