On February 28th, UC Santa Cruz dismissed 54 teaching assistants after they had engaged in a so-called “wildcat strike” for higher wages. The university president explained that she was sympathetic to the high cost of housing in Santa Cruz, but disapproved of the method the TA’s used to protest.
Tensions between the two parties have been high, as the university has claimed that the workers have no abided by their collective bargaining agreement and the teaching assistants retorted that the school has refused negotiations. The protesters had been fighting for a cost-of-living wage increase, as high costs in the area have made it increasingly difficult to pay for basic expenses.
Even if the strike hadn’t been formally approved by the union, the university should still take action to assist them. The teaching assistants didn’t strike just because they were money-grabbing for more wages––striking is a long, risky, and tedious process. Clearly, they must feel an acute need to do so. In this case, the TA’s felt that the cost of living was rising so fast that their job simply could not sustain a reasonable lifestyle in the area. As a result, they determined that striking was the only possible way out. By firing the TA’s, the university is simply taking a step backward: instead of addressing the problem head on, they simply brush it under the rug and utilize a band-aid solution. If the cost of living really is high, this issue will simply resurface in the future with a different group of individuals.
Additionally, this inaction doesn’t help the university’s reputation. It makes it seem like an institution with little regard for the living conditions of its employees. Simply sitting down at the negotiation table to attempt at a compromise is a significant step in the right direction.