Oakland, Calif. — Following a planned “sick-out” on Friday where more than 500 teachers across the Oakland Unified School District called out of work sick, hundreds of students within the district have come together in an online petition demanding increased COVID-19 protocols or else they’ll strike. Students at schools in Oakland Unified School District are now demanding increased COVID-19 protocols and supplies. If their demands are not met, they plan to boycott showing up for in-person classes. “We are demanding KN95 masks for all of the students because they’re not easily accessible to them, twice a week PCR and rapid tests for everyone on campus and more outdoor spaces to eat safely when it rains or if the district doesn’t want to give this to us, we demand a shift to online learning,” said Ayleen Serrano who a 10th grader at MetWest High School in Oakland.
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In the late hours of January 6, after more than two months on strike, the Student Workers of Columbia (SWC-UAW) reached a tentative agreement for their union’s first contract with Columbia University. Contract wins include significant raises for workers, bringing annual compensation for those on 9-month appointments to just over $40,000 and raising the minimum wage for hourly workers from $15 to $21. SWC members also won dental insurance, childcare stipends, and an emergency healthcare fund available to all union members. They also won full recognition of all student workers as part of the bargaining unit and provisions for neutral arbitration of harassment and bullying cases. Full details have yet to be released to the public.
Many graduate students find themselves caught between these multiple fronts: burdened with past student debt, earning sub-living-wage pay in their present work and facing dwindling future opportunities. Universities have grown over-reliant on graduate students and other contingent faculty to maintain a pool of low-cost labor. But an upswell of organizing activity in the last year indicates that graduate students have been emboldened to take a collective stand against the precarity and untenable conditions that mar the academic experience in the U.S.
Student loans: many of us have them, all of us hate them. Over the past several decades, the student loan bubble has only continued to increase, now totaling around $1.7 trillion according to Federal Reserve estimates. There have been growing calls for the Biden administration to extend the moratorium on student loan repayments that has been in place since the beginning of the pandemic. Nevertheless, repayments are set to restart on February 1, 2022, at a time when over 3.3 million people in the U.S. have fallen into poverty during the pandemic; Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the US; and the Omicron variant threatens to bring a wave of new cases peaking as early as January, according to CDC estimates.
California - The university agreed Wednesday to recognize Student Researchers United, or SRU, a union representing 17,000 student researchers employed by the UC system. The decision came after nearly 11,000 student researchers across the state voted Nov. 19 to authorize a strike. Out of the members who voted, 97.5% voted in favor of a strike, according to a press release from United Auto Workers, the parent union that SRU is joining. “This is the single biggest new union filing in any industry, definitely this year if not this decade,” said UC Berkeley student researcher Tanzil Chowdhury. “Seventeen thousand new workers just joined the labor movement, which is historic.” In the coming months, SRU will negotiate with the university to establish a contract, according to campus student researcher Tarini Hardiker.