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UCLA Gets An F From TA's

On all eight campuses of the University Of California, hundreds of graduate student teaching assistants - or TAs - are on strike...the largest student labor action ever reports CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker.

From UCLA in the south "We administer exams, we grade final exams, we grade papers, we teach sections. We are workers!"

To UC Berkeley up north...the strikers give the nation s largest university system an F for fairness.

Teaching Assistant Connie Razza says "What we re asking for is a fair say in the terms and conditions of our employment."

They have tried and failed for 15 years to get the university to sit down at the bargaining table. A student victory in California could fire up campuses across the country.

Teaching assistants are often the best and the brightest, paid to help professors teach undergraduates, often in classes too large for one instructor.

"I'm absolutely essential and indispensable," a striker says.

The teaching assistants have timed the strike to try to teach the university system a lesson it won't soon forget...clearing out their desks and walking out of class right at the start of the fall semester finals.

"I understand why they re doing this," says a student," but it s kinda hurting us."

The university is not swayed. Administrators say teaching is a valuable part of a graduate students' education.

"We believe that having a union interposed between the student-teacher relationship could damage it and we want to look after the quality of what we do," says UCLA Vice Chancellor Wyatt R. Hume.

Professors left carrying the full workload fear quality will suffer. UCLA history professor, Scott Bartchy says his assistants are a crucial part of his teaching team.

"At every point you have to be working on excellence, and part of that will be diminished during these last couple of weeks and I find that to be sad, says Bartchy.

And the strikers say until the university agrees to bargain with them, you won't find them hitting the books, but hitting the pavement.