Capitalism and Anti-Asianism Today: A Roundtable
Friday, 5pm-7pm at 300 Wheeler, UC Berkeley
With Andy Liu, Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Chris Chen, Charmaine Chua and Colleen Lye. Co-sponsored by the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Marxist Working Group (IMWG) and the MIR.
Marx in the Movements
Saturday, 2pm-4pm at 2220 Arts (2220 Beverly Blvd, Los Angeles)
A workshop about radical working class movements and mutual aid in LA, with Julian Smith-Newman and Rose Lenehan of the LA Tenants Union; Lauren Levitt & Chella Coleman, with Sex Workers Outreach Project LA; and Max Amberger and Noah Latkin with Warehouse Workers Resource Center. Moderated by Annie McClanahan and Charmaine Chua.
12 PST on Zoom (link forthcoming)
In conversation with Chris Chen and Stefan Yong
The Marxist Institute of Research stands in solidarity with striking UAW Academic Workers. Our Statement of solidarity is below.
MIR Solidarity Statement with the UC Strike
In a move of historically unprecedented scope, 48,000 UAW Academic Workers represented by UAW 2865, UAW 5810, and SRU-UAW have authorized a strike action with a vote of more than 97.5% in support. Extended negotiations with the UC administration have resulted in almost 30 Unfair Labor Practice charges against the university; basic demands remain unmet. These include tying wages to the high cost of living in California, especially housing. Support for working parents; disability justice; international students; and stronger protections against bullying and harassment are not afterthoughts but essential demands for diverse student workers with specific needs. The MIR fully supports the strike and all its demands.
The strike is one of the largest higher education labor actions in history, sending a powerful message to all precarious and rent-burdened graduate, adjunct, and service workers in higher education. More information can be found at https://www.fairucnow.org/
The historic levels of participation in the strike are not simply a reflection of worsening conditions in public higher education, long-term state defunding, and revenue-seeking administrations, but of an earlier history of hard-fought unionization recognition efforts and capacity building. From the time of the 1984 Assembly Bill 3251 that made collective rights for UC student employees a legal possibility, the history of graduate student labor struggles within the UC system have crucially included internal democratic struggles against the limitations of a status quo business unionism within the UAW itself.
These graduate labor struggles have grown in scale and intensity against ongoing attempts by senior administration to isolate departments and divisions, pit undergraduates against graduate student workers, and sever the research and educational mission of the UC system from the question of basic labor conditions. More recently a 2020 wildcat strike of graduate student workers at UCSC brought early attention to the core demand of a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for graduate students to provide a basic living wage. UC budgeting has long been marked by “core educational austerity surrounded by compartmentalized privatized wealth,” and the COLA is a demand that UC senior management appears most resistant to conceding.
As UC Santa Cruz graduate strikers put it recently, “Without the COLA demand, our struggle loses its bite. …It makes it so that we, and all the workers who come after us, can afford to live where we work. This is why administrative intransigence is the only face we’ve seen. Waves of sectoral unionization throughout the UC since the ‘90s have simply been incorporated into the university’s business paradigm, in which incremental wage increases are offered, but without any relation to the outrageous cost of living in this state. This is precisely how we ended up rent-burdened in the first place.”
At a moment when more historically underrepresented groups are entering the UC system, the COLA demand exposes the hollowness of UC senior management’s vocal support for “the recruitment, retention, and advancement” of historically excluded and underrepresented groups. Yet UC senior management’s refusal to bargain in good faith papers over increasingly untenable employment conditions faced by precisely these groups. The UC administration’s rhetorical framing of institutionally legible forms of diversity falls apart at the bargaining table, where they work tirelessly to sever antiracism from labor struggles.
The nominal commitment to diversity conceals how new generations of UC students are being “included” within increasingly competitive and precarious employment conditions, where often first-generation student workers are forced into a kind of debt trap. Within this business model, the job of teaching a rapidly expanding undergraduate population is being displaced onto a growing pool of adjunct, non-tenure track adjunct/clinical/in-residence faculty and Lecturers. Recent UC-wide data over the last decade reveals a 24% increase in the undergraduate population and, due to the lack of sufficient faculty hiring, a 5% increase in the student-faculty ratio, unequally shared among campuses. Disposable, gigified non-tenure-track teaching labor has been rapidly grown to absorb the excess teaching workloads. These hidden structuring conditions of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the UC system have been accompanied by the stunning 164% growth of non-academic senior administrators. The problem is not just in Sacramento’s budgetary priorities, the long-term legacy of Proposition 13, or taxpayer revolts against increasingly diverse public educational institutions, but in the basic organization of the UC system itself.
As an engine of class reproduction and one of the largest landlords in California, the university itself is a complex site of struggle that graduate labor organizers have worked tirelessly to situate within broader movements against austerity, privatization, racial justice, policing, and university-driven gentrification. Restitution for the 150,000 acres of land expropriated from Indigenous groups to found and fund the UC system remains an urgent ongoing project. The UC system is not only passively shaped by the California cost of living and housing pressures but a powerful active participant in these affordability crises. As Tracy Rosenthal has recently written, “Only 10 percent of the U.C.’s $44 billion budget is now funded by the state of California. The U.C. system generates revenue not only by depressing wages in its role as the state’s third-largest employer but by extracting rents as a landlord to some 106,000 students. The U.C. has expanded far beyond the business of education, into health care and real estate. If McDonald’s is a real estate company that sells hamburgers, the U.C. system is a real estate company and hospital administrator that sells degrees. Property sales from its real estate portfolio, worth $6.4 billion, generated almost $2 billion last year.” The relationship of the UC system to a society in crisis has remained a challenging terrain of struggle for organizers working to transform the often antagonistic relationship between universities and broader publics.
The MIR stands in solidarity with UAW 2865 (the Union of Academic Student Employees at UC), UAW 5810 (Postdocs and Academic Researchers), and SRU-UAW (Student Researchers) as they strike for a better contract, the COLA demand, and safer lives. The institutionally undervalued labor of student workers, particularly teaching and research assistants, make the core educational and research mission of the UC system possible: their working conditions are everyone’s learning conditions.