How To Strike

The picket will continue every week day, 8:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m, until we vote as a graduate student body at a General Assembly to end it. 

What is a wildcat strike?

A wildcat strike is “a work stoppage that occurs during the term of a collective bargaining agreement without approval of union leadership and in violation of a no-strike clause. Individuals who participate in wildcat strikes are engaged in unprotected activity and may be subject to employer discipline. The employer may, however, single out instigators for harsher discipline than is imposed against other participants.”

Labor actions and strikes themselves are not illegal; the reason that UC communications have continually called the UCSC strike “illegal” is because it is not sanctioned by the union contract under which TAs work. The university can, however, take disciplinary actions against those who do not fulfill their work obligations, and they have at UCSC, where 82 strikers were fired. 

The fact that a wildcat strike is unsanctioned by both the university and statewide union should not dissuade us from moving forward. What will be decisive here are our numbers and support for another, our commitment to seeing this through, and our solidarity. Indeed, a great deal of the history of worker’s movements were built upon wildcat strikes, and these methods are just as successful today—including last year’s teachers’ strike in West Virginia. We are at a historic moment in the labor movement. Struggles all around us show us that strikes get workers the goods.

What does a strike look like? 

Each student should decide for themselves what they feel comfortable doing as we move forward. If you are not ready to go on full strike yet, but would like to continue teaching and only withhold final grades, that is great! If you do not want to engage in any work stoppage yet, but would talk to other grads, faculty, staff, and undergrads face to face, we’d love to have you do that. What you do, how you engage with the COLA strike, and when or if you join us at the picket line is ultimately up to you. 

We have broken down possible strike actions into three categories with the following descriptions:

Full Strike

Participating in a full strike means that teaching assistants will stop all TA-related work, such as teaching, grading, and proctoring exams. This does not mean you stop all your graduate labor, such as attending courses or completing your dissertation.

Grading Strike

To participated in a grading strike, teaching assistants will continue grading assignments and performing all other TA-related duties, but at the end of the quarter you will not submit any grades, except for students in precarious situations.

Solidarity Actions

While many of us are not TAs, we can still show solidarity with striking colleagues and the COLA movement. If your work impacts the institution directly in any way, then we encourage you to withhold your labor. We also encourage students on fellowship and/or GSR to come to the picket and help with organizing.

More details on striking

Here we list some general advice on striking, followed by detailed advice broken down by position (TA, GSR, GSI/Associate, Fellowship) below.

General advice:

  • We completely understand that many on our campus who support the idea of a Cost-of-Living Adjustment may be uncomfortable with the pace of events and not yet be ready for such an action. We hope that the hundreds who have committed to striking will inspire broader participation, but understand that this decision might occur on a different timeline from what we have set out. There are still several other ways to support the strike, and more will be coming as we continue: see this document for upcoming events and ways that you can get involved. If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us or fill out this anonymous feedback form
  • Continue to attend graduate classes, perform duties related to degree progress, work on our own personal research, and maintain full enrollment; failing to attend to your duties as a graduate student (rather than an employee) gives the administration more avenues for retaliation and opens you up to significant risk. 
  • Everyone should participate in the strike based on their level of comfort, after considering the involved risks. Determine what, if any, actions you are comfortable taking considering your own situation. Those who are particularly precarious (such as international students, undocumented students, formerly-incarcerated students, those who have dependents, etc.) may decide to take less drastic action or no action at all, and that is absolutely ok! Graduate students who hold more privileged positions are encouraged to show up and fight for our more vulnerable colleagues! 
  • If you can, stop teaching, grading, and performing any job duties related to teaching assistant positions. Alternatively, you can hold sections and office hours at the picket line (see below).
  • Tell undergrads that our bargaining power is based on our capacity to withhold our labor, and that the UC has given us no choice but to strike by retaliating against UCSC and failing to address their longstanding neglect of graduate student cost of living. However, we are intentionally attempting to reduce the impact of striking on them, including in our demands and negotiations.
  • Repeat the above to faculty and lecturers, while reminding them they have their own contractual protections against being forced to do extra work to account for the strike. They also have Academic Freedom and Academic Responsibility clauses that give them leeway to push back against the university for compromising their capacity to instruct students through their unwillingness to negotiate with UCSC strikers.
  • International graduate students: the following is OISS’s official stance on COLA: “Threats to losing one’s F1 status may occur if you participate in a risky action (like occupying a building) and are arrested. Accordingly, we recommend that you engage in strike actions only related to labor activities (e.g. canceling class, withholding grades). The other threat to your F1 status may occur if you are no longer enrolled full-time. Under-enrollment could happen whether one is on strike or not. Every quarter, OISS checks whether you are enrolled full-time, and if you are not, they notify and ask you to enroll accordingly. If, following multiple attempts to have you enrolled, and you are still not, OISS would begin to investigate why you are under-enrolled, which ultimately may affect your F1 status.” Please also look at UCSC’s FAQ for International Students and their note on international students and striking. We urge international students and other more vulnerable students to seriously consider their positions and the risks that they are willing to take. It is ok to decide not to strike or to decide to take smaller and less risky actions!
  • Refer to UCSC’s FAQs geared towards graduate students, international students, faculty, and undergrads for some initial information about the rationales, parameters, and details concerning strike activity. We plan to prepare our own versions of these documents in the coming days, and will circulate them widely. 

How to Strike as a TA

If your department is highly organized and supportive, we need you and your faculty on the picket line! Having a massive presence at Storke makes it clear that we are on strike; business cannot continue as usual; and that we have the numbers to support our efforts. Based on UCSC’s discussions with TAs, here are our recommendations for how to participate in the strike:

  • Show up and support the picket whenever possible. 
  • Send a letter to your department. Call on faculty to honor the picket line (use our faculty email template
  • Cancel classes or relocate them to the picket line / other alternative spaces (online, in the library, outside, etc.). If you continue to teach your classes, just in a different location, no one can accuse you of not doing your job. Do not require students to show up to the picket line for a class if they do not want to: there are risks associated with picket lines, and you don’t know the exact situations of all your students–they may be undocumented or have other reasons they do not want to be in the same spaces as police officers (use our undergraduate email template).
  • Send an email to your students and encourage them to show up to the picket.
  • If you decide to withhold grades, email your students ASAP using the template here. Alert your students that if they need a grade posted for any reason (for example if they must maintain a certain GPA for a scholarship or are on academic probation), they should tell you, and you will post their grade individually. They do not need to explain why they want their grade posted. See this grade request chart that explains which student situations require immediate grades. 
  • If your department is in the early stages of building power (for instance, in some STEM or professional programs), conduct “Teach the Strike” teach-ins. These teach-ins can be critical for strengthening undergrad-grad relationships and building interdepartmental solidarity. Contact us if you would like to get more directly involved in organizing.

How to Strike as a GSR

What is most important for GSRs to consider is how withholding work will or will not make an impact on the institution. If, for example, your GSR position is directly linked to your dissertation data collection or to your advancement in your lab, you may want to find more covert ways to show your support than withholding your labor completely. Based on UCSC’s discussions with GSRs, here are our recommendations for how to participate in the strike:

  • Show up and support the picket whenever possible. Organize your lab or research team to commit to times on the picket lines. March over to Storke together!
  • Send a letter to your department. Call on faculty to honor the picket line (use our faculty email template
  • If you have to continue GSR work, wear the COLA wildcat t-shirt (details available soon), a UAW 2865 T-shirt, or red (for Ed). Hang flyers around your department and lab, add your rent burden to your email signature, and talk to others about COLA.
  • If you are in STEM, add a COLA slide to every research presentation and talk about COLA at rotation presentations. Email cola.ucsb@gmail.com for information and resources that you can use.
  • Work in public, visible spaces when possible: bring any work that can be done off-site to the picket line.
  • Start a conversation with other GSRs about unionizing. What are the grievances you have as a GSR (for example, no cap on hours you have to work; no set date for the paycheck; protections from exploitation)? Attend, or help present, a presentation at the picket about unionizing GSRs and voice those concerns.
  • If withholding your work will immediately impact the administration and if you feel comfortable doing so, we encourage you to completely withhold your labor.

How to strike as a GSA/Teaching Associate

For GSIs and Teaching Associates, we want to make clear that we are emphasizing the critical role we have in keeping the UC running, while simultaneously articulating that we do not want to hurt students’ academic progress (particularly those who are already falling behind). Based on UCSC’s discussions with GSIs and Teaching Associates, here are our recommendations for how to participate in the strike:

  • Show up and support the picket whenever possible. 
  • Send a letter to your department. Call on faculty to honor the picket line (use our faculty email template
  • Cancel classes or relocate them to the picket line / other alternative spaces (online, in the library, outside, etc.). If you continue to teach your classes, just in a different location, no one can accuse you of not doing your job. Do not require students to show up to the picket line for a class if they do not want to: there are risks associated with picket lines, and you don’t know the exact situations of all your students—they may be undocumented or have other reasons they do not want to be in the same spaces as police officers (use our undergraduate email template).
  • Hold office hours on the picket line.
  • Send an email to your students and encourage them to show up to the picket.
  • If you decide to withhold grades, email your students ASAP using the template here. Alert your students that if they need a grade posted for any reason (for example if they must maintain a certain GPA for a scholarship or are on academic probation), they should tell you, and you will post their grade individually. They do not need to explain why they want their grade posted. See this grade request chart that explains which student situations require immediate grades. 
  • If your department is in the early stages of building power (for instance, in some STEM or professional programs), conduct “Teach the Strike” teach-ins. These teach-ins can be critical for strengthening undergrad-grad relationships and building interdepartmental solidarity. Contact us if you would like to get more directly involved in organizing.

How to Strike on Fellowship

What is most important for graduate students on fellowship to consider is how to use your position to put pressure on the UC and support the efforts of strikers. Based UCSC’s discussions with graduate students on fellowship, here are some recommendations on how to participate in the strike:

  • Show up and support the picket whenever possible—those on Fellowship have comparably less risks associated with their participation than do TAs or Associates who will directly be breaking their contract.
  • Send a letter to your department. Call on faculty to honor the picket line (use our faculty email template
  • Offer to conduct teach-ins, in particular for departments in the early stages of building power (more details to come, contact us for info). 
  • If your department is in the early stages of building power (for instance, in some STEM or professional programs), conduct “Teach the Strike” teach-ins. These teach-ins can be critical for strengthening undergrad-grad relationships and building interdepartmental solidarity. Contact us if you would like to get more directly involved in organizing.
  • Talk to other graduate and undergraduate students, faculty, and staff about COLA and encourage them to get involved.