University of California president Janet Napolitano, a former head of DHS, blasts 'wildcat strike' at UC Santa Cruz

University of California President Janet Napolitano on Friday condemned a multi-day graduate student worker strike at UC Santa Cruz this week that resulted in 17 arrests, saying there would be “consequences” including potential job losses.

Hundreds of grad students gathered at the campus this week to demand a cost-of-living increase of $1,412 a month, according to The Washington Post.

Napolitano, in a letter to students and faculty, wrote that the “unauthorized” strike was in direct violation of their existing collective bargaining agreement with the United Automobile Workers, which represents grad students across the UC system.

The university system president -- who was governor of Arizona from 2003 to 2009 and U.S. homeland security secretary under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2013 -- said the school wouldn’t reopen the agreement.

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“To accede to the demands of a group of employees engaged in an unauthorized wildcat strike would undercut the very foundation of an agreement negotiated in good faith by the UAW and ratified by thousands of members across the system,” she wrote.

Napolitano said administrators are sympathetic to the high cost of living near campus, but a strike isn’t the way to get what they want.

She said the school chancellor had already proposed two solutions: a $2,500 need-based housing fellowship; and a five-year funding program at the minimum support level of a 50 percent teaching assistantship for doctoral students.

“However, holding undergraduate grades hostage and refusing to carry out contracted teaching responsibilities is the wrong way to go,” she wrote. “Therefore, participation in the wildcat strike will have consequences, up to and including the termination of existing employees at the University.”

On Wednesday, students linked arms and sat in front of the main entrance to campus for several hours, resulting in 17 arrests, the Post reported.

Protesters accused officers of using excessive force during the protests, but officers said they’re just trying to keep everyone safe, according to the Post.

“Officers repeatedly tried to de-escalate the situation and made clear that blocking this major roadway had to stop or it would lead to arrest,” university spokesman Scott Hernandez-Jason said in an email Thursday, according to the Post. “Failing to comply with an order to disperse and obstructing a roadway is extremely dangerous, and it is also against the law.”’

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The University of California’s chief operating officer, Rachael Nava, wrote a letter to UAW Local 2865, asking them to stop the protests, but the union asked the school to consider to the students’ demands, the Post reported.

The new contract expires in 2022, but the university could still address the demands.