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11.4: Research Topic-Workers' Rights

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    How ‘Historic’ UC Strikes Could Ignite a New Labor Movement in California

    By Ryan Kost

    San Francisco Chronicle, December 16, 2022


    These two news articles describe two different types of California workers in December 2022: tech workers who have been laid off due to company cutbacks, and University of California workers who engaged in a month-long strike for higher wages. Click on the title links to read the articles. Then consider the questions below.

    Exercise \(\PageIndex{1}\)

    1. Baron describes several Bay Area tech workers who were laid off in Fall 2022. Why did some workers indicate they'd chosen their particular jobs or companies? What wages did some of these workers earn?
    2. According to Baron's article, did the companies provide any notice before layoffs? Severance pay?
    3. What are the types of work and average pay of academic workers at University of California campuses?
    4. According to Kost's article, what problems caused the UC Berkeley Faculty Association to write "This strike across the UC system makes visible the structural crisis at the heart of the higher education in the state and the nation"?

    1. Have you or someone you know experienced a layoff due to company cutbacks? Did you have a similar reaction to the employees quoted in Baron's article? Describe how you felt.
    2. Do you or someone you know work in a unionized company? Have you participated in any union organizing efforts? How would you feel if your co-workers decided to unionize? Why?

    1. What do you know about labor unions and their advantages and disadvantages?
    2. Would you agree with labor organizer Apollo Wallace's quote in Kost's article, explaining that academic workers have expanded unions beyond blue collar workers and "are the next generation of labor . . . There's a ruling class, and there's the working class. I will do everything in my strength to always support the working class, whether they're nurses or these kids"? Why or why not?
    3. In Baron's article, according to Cal State East Bay historian Nolan Higdon "the [tech companies'] layoffs reflect the lack of job security that is becoming the norm in Silicon Valley. Companies facing slowing revenue growth and a possible recession look to cut labor costs first." Kost writes that in order to lower the University of California's budget they "rel[y] on graduate students and low-paid lecturers, hired on temporary contracts, to teach a wide variety of courses." Which model would you argue is better for workers, the tech model or the university's model? Why?

    Ideas for Writing

    1. Research a current labor movement, such as the UC strike, or activities at Starbucks or Amazon. What has been the success rate in the movement you researched, and what were factors that affected that success?
    2. Which jobs are you considering for your career? Research their average wages and whether they are unionized or not.
    3. Assuming you are attracted to a particular field, company, and job, what would influence your decision to take the job more: whether it's unionized or the pay and benefits? Explain why.

    Works Cited

    Baron, Ethan. "US Tech Workers React to Layoff Axes with Shock, and ‘More Pain’ is Coming." TheStar, 8 Dec. 2022, Accessed 2 Jan. 2023.

    Kost, Ryan. "How 'Historic" UC Strikes Could Ignite a New Labor Movement in California." San Francisco Chronicle, 16 Dec. 2022, Accessed 2 Jan. 2023.