A potential strike involving graduate students at the University of Southern California was avoided following the successful negotiation of a deal between the students and the university. The agreed-upon agreement was the result of over six months of discussions.
The university has consented to elevate the minimum wage for specific academic staff, boosting their initial annual salary from $35,700 to $40,000. Additionally, higher-paid employees will see a 4.5% salary increase, effective from the upcoming year.
The university has also committed to providing a childcare allowance for staff and offering a semester-long leave for new parents. Additionally, they have agreed to establish a procedure for grievance and arbitration for employees, along with enhanced support for international students.
There has been an unprecedented surge in labor organizing among academic personnel in the United States in the last year. In the previous year, close to 50,000 academic staff members at the University of California engaged in a strike, resulting in substantial enhancements in both compensation and benefits.
Encouraged by the favorable results, academic employees at USC opted to unionize in February of this year, giving rise to the formation of the Graduate Student Worker Organizing Committee-UAW at USC.
A considerable number of academic employees at USC shared their difficulties with the high cost of living in Los Angeles, highlighting that their stipends were inadequate for their financial support. Nearly 90% of the recently joined union members at USC indicated facing a rent burden, indicating that more than 30% of their income went toward rent, with the average rental expense constituting 54% of academic workers’ income.
The Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School, Andrew McConnell Stott, expressed that the accord between the University and the union stemmed from the University’s sincere negotiation efforts. He described the process as respectful, professional, and fruitful. The University issued a statement expressing gratitude to its academic staff for engaging in constructive negotiations and their dedication to the University’s mission of teaching and learning.
The finalization of the agreement is pending, and the 3,000 members of the USC union are scheduled to vote on it this week. Nonetheless, the University expresses optimism that the proposed agreement will receive approval from the union.