COLA Movement and Wildcat Strikes

This page was last updated on 3/16/2020.

Recently, UC Santa Cruz graduate student workers have made headlines demanding a living wage through protests including grading and full teaching wildcat strikes. The movement has reverberated through the UC community, driven by rent-burdened graduate students who are discontent with the disparate increases in salary and cost of living in California. This page serves to inform the Berkeley graduate student community on recent and historical events related to the wildcat strike*.
*The Graduate Assembly (GA) is a separate entity from the Berkeley COLA General Assembly.

What is a wildcat strike?

A wildcat strike is a strike action undertaken by unionized workers without the union leadership’s authorization, support, or approval.

What is COLA? What does it mean to be rent burdened?

COLA stands for Cost of Living Adjustment and is a salary adjustment based on the cost-of-living index of the employee’s geographic location. A person or household is considered rent-burdened if 30% or more of the household income is spent on rent. The student workers union, UAW 2865, is currently collecting data on graduate student expenses and living conditions: fill out their poll.

What has happened at UCSC?

Demanding a living wage, graduate student workers have been on a wildcat grading strike since 12/9/19 which escalated into a full teaching strike on 2/10/20. The ongoing movement has garnered national attention including an endorsement from Senator Bernie Sanders. The COLA demands, outlined in a letter to UCSC Chancellor Larive, include increasing student wages by $1,412 per month, which is the amount required to bring graduate students out of rent burden. On 2/28/20, UCSC administration retaliated by terminating student workers engaged in the strike. To learn more, visit and follow updates on twitter

What is happening on other campuses?
What is happening on our campus at Berkeley?

If you are interested in learning more or getting involved at UCB, please email or

Faculty Involvement in the COLA Movement
UC Administration Response to COLA Movement

See GA President Adam Orford’s response to these messages, highlighting some of the ongoing issues in University communications.