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Menelik Tafari, a fourth-year urban schooling graduate student at UCLA, walked off the job Monday with about 48,000 other University of California academic workers to strike for better pay and benefits. After his daughter was born in May with complications, he said, he and his wife have struggled to pay for the child care she needs.
Tafari, 32, is one of the organizers behind what has been billed as the largest work stoppage at any academic institution. And as the strike entered its fourth day Thursday, halting research and prompting widespread class cancellations across the UC system’s 10 campuses, the workers said their action has brought to light their financial hardships and difficult working conditions.
“Because my daughter was born with complications, we’ve been on seizure watch,” Tafari said. “We have been very lucky because my mother-in-law has been taking over as the primary caregiver. We pay her around $1,500 a month, depending on what’s going on. But if we didn’t have a family member who was willing and able, we’d be paying about $2,500 a month.”
Tafari earns about $2,500 a month as a teaching assistant and said he has taken other jobs to supplement the income and cover the costs of raising his daughter. In negotiations, the university has proposed covering $2,500 a year in child-care costs for postdoctoral students, but Tafari said that isn’t enough.
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