FAQ about key issues in UC-UAW negotiations

November 21, 2022
UC Office of the President
November 21, 2022

Student employees say UC doesn’t pay them enough to live on — what’s UC’s response?

At UC, academic student employment is strictly part-time in order to support students while they are pursuing their graduate or doctoral degree. In fact, UC policy prohibits them from working more than 20 hours per week to ensure they have the time and energy they need for their studies and other academic activities. Accordingly, their salary rates reflect a part-time work schedule.

UC has a long tradition of providing its academic student employees with some of the best compensation and other financial support in the country. Not only is UC’s current proposal fair and generous in terms of proposed pay increases and other benefits, if accepted UC’s current wage proposals would place our student employees at the top of the pay scale among the nation’s leading public universities and are more comparable to what the top U.S. private universities offer.

To put UC’s current wage proposals in further context, if UC’s student workers were full-time employees, here is the full-time equivalent pay under UC’s proposal:

Student employee group Proposed salary ranges
for 50%-time work
Equivalent salary ranges if these were
full-time employees
Academic Student Employees $24,874 – $30,893 $49,748 – $61,786
Graduate Student Researchers $28,275 – $47,679 $56,550 – $95,358

These part-time work opportunities are one of many ways in which UC supports these student employees as they pursue their course of study. In addition to competitive pay and annual pay increases, UC also provides eligible student employees the following compensation:

• 100% UC-paid tuition and campus fees of $13,707 – $22,248 depending on the campus

• Reimbursements for child care expenses

• UC-paid leave for medical care, pregnancy, baby bonding, and family care

• UC-paid health insurance premiums

• UC subsidies and discounts for transit and parking programs

• Student housing rents that are 20-25 percent below market rates, with some campuses providing even deeper discounts

Why won’t UC tie wages and pay increases to housing rents as the union is requesting?

UC believes its wage proposals are highly competitive and provide strong support for students. Rental rates for non-UC housing vary across the state and UC has no ability to control or predict rates charged by private landlords and companies. The financial impacts of such an unprecedented proposal would be both large and unpredictable.

At the same time, we are acutely aware that affordable housing is a serious statewide issue in California, and we are very sensitive to the housing challenges our faculty, staff and undergraduate and graduate students face. In addition to being among the nation’s most highly compensated student employees, UC also offers undergraduate and graduate students multiple types of support to help them with their housing
costs, including:

Under-market rents: On average, UC student housing rents systemwide are 20-25% below market rates, with some campuses providing even deeper discounts — examples:

  • Family student housing rates at UCSB are 50-60% below market
  • Graduate family housing rates at UC Irvine are at least 39% below market
  • UCLA housing rates range from 20-55% below market

Limits on rental rate increases for UC housing: In addition to below-market housing rates, some UC campuses have limits on future rental rate increases — examples:

  •  Graduate student housing rate increases at UCSD are expected to be capped at 3%
  •  Rate increases in UC Irvine’s 10-year housing plan are capped at 2.5%

Comprehensive financial aid: UC offers students a comprehensive array of financial aid resources to help them with their college-related expenses, including their housing costs.

Graduate student fellowships and grants: UC campuses offer graduate students a variety of paid fellowships and grants. These funds help students with living expenses, including their housing costs.

A top priority for UC is the creation and acquisition of more affordable student housing:

• UC launched its Student Housing Initiative in January 2016 to add 14,000 beds by fall 2020. UC exceeded its 2020 goal with 15,000 beds.

• UC plans an additional 26,000 beds across the system by 2025. These new units will be 10-20 percent below market rate in their respective communities.

Why can’t UC waive out-of-state supplemental tuition for international and other non-resident graduate students?

As a state-funded public institution, UC has an obligation to California resident students. Waiving tuition for out-of-state (including international) student employees puts California resident students at a financial disadvantage, as doing so would  effectively give non-resident students a larger compensation package than resident student employees for doing the same work. We greatly value and appreciate the contributions of our international graduate and other non-resident graduate students, and we support them in a variety of ways. However, exempting them from paying nonresident supplemental tuition would be unfair to our in-state student employees and is counter to UC’s commitment to the residents of California.

How is UC addressing the union’s request for transportation and parking support?

At UC campuses, not only are UAW-represented student employees able to participate in transit and parking-related services on the same basis as other employees, eight of UC’s 10 campuses offer some form of student transit subsidy. In addition, UC has offered to pay 100% of campus fees for eligible appointments which, if accepted by the UAW, means all existing student-funded transit discounts would be fully funded by UC.  Also, UC has offered to ensure all campuses will make pre-tax programs available to
eligible employees for purposes of paying for transit and has committed to matching graduate student employee contributions up to $30 per month into such accounts. Finally, UC has committed to negotiating a significant e-bike discount programs for employees interested in alternative methods of transportation.

UAW claims UC has committed unlawful acts and is bargaining in bad faith — is this true?

We strongly disagree with the UAW’s allegations and welcome the opportunity to address them in front of the state labor board. Throughout negotiations, UC has demonstrated a genuine commitment to working collaboratively and in good faith with the UAW, as illustrated by the responsiveness of UC’s offers to union concerns and the more than 90 tentative agreements reached thus far, including on topics underlying the UAW’s allegations.

In the last year, UC has settled contracts with unions representing UC lecturers, nurses, police and administrative staff. These agreements were the result of both sides working collaboratively to find solutions, and demonstrating flexibility and a willingness to compromise at the bargaining table. UC has approached the negotiations with UAW in the same fashion and remains committed to continuing its good faith efforts to reach agreements with UAW as quickly as possible.