Grad student union claims 'victory' after being fired for withholding grades during strike

One student celebrated by sending a message to UCSC: "f**k you, pay us."

Graduate students who withheld the grades of undergraduate students while protesting over a cost of living adjustment said they have been reinstated by UCSC.

The University of California, Santa Cruz has reinstated 41 graduate students who were previously fired for refusing to grade undergraduate student work during a labor union strike, according to their labor union. 

Campus Reform previously reported on the months-long student strikes as they unfolded. At the time, graduate student workers withheld the grades of undergraduate students as part of the strike. According to Inside Higher Ed, the university gave strikers an option: turn in grades for students, or be dismissed as a graduate student worker. In March, UCSC fired over 70 graduate assistants as a result of the strike.

UCSC and United Auto Workers 2865 (UAW 2865) filed multiple unfair labor practice charges against each other as a result of the firings, which resulted in a settlement in which 41 of the students were reinstated as graduate student workers, according to the Daily Nexus. The two parties signed a formal agreement on Aug. 8, and the agreement was announced on Aug. 11.

[RELATED: 17 arrested as grad students block roadways, withhold grades in months-long strike]

The local union chapter, UAW 2865 issued a statement on Twitter, celebrating the “historic win.”

“In a historic win, UC has agreed to rehire the 41 graduate student-workers UCSC fired for demanding a #COLA. This incredible victory is thanks to months of organizing by workers and coalition partners across the state. Make no mistake: when workers fight, they win. #1U”


UCSC was less definitive in its statement. 

”Last week, representatives from University of California Office of the President, UC Santa Cruz, and UAW 2865 worked with a mediator to negotiate an agreement to allow for eligibility for re-employment of academic student employees who were dismissed for their failure to submit grades during the 2019-20 academic year,” a statement from the university read. 

Fired graduate student Tony Boardman said he is “grateful” to have his job back, but told the university to get the “f***ing cops off our campus.”

“We have organised, and so many have organised in solidarity with us (for which we’re so grateful) to win our jobs back. If not for the setback of the pandemic we would surely have won much more. We have won here, but our comrades are still being disciplined, and we still can’t afford to live in the place we work. We say: drop the fucking student conduct and get the fucking cops off our campus. And of course: fuck you, pay us”



[RELATED: Some UCSC STILL don’t have fall semester grades...and union workers are to blame]

A spokesperson for the National Association of Scholars told Campus Reform that students should not have had their grades held “hostage,” and blamed UCSC for not taking better action.

“[The grades of undergraduate students] should not have been held hostage by the graduate students. The university is wholly at fault. Universities should not rely on graduate students for teaching,” the spokesperson said. “Education should be the university’s primary objective, not attracting students via lazy rivers, diversity officers for this or that, or programs that don’t enrich the education of students.”

Campus Reform reached out to UCSC and UAW 2865, but they did not respond in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article: @MattTRLewis