FAQs

• WHAT IS THE STUDENT-WORKERS UNION?
• WHAT IS A UNION CONTRACT?
CAN INTERNATIONAL WORKERS PARTICIPATE IN THE UNION?
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE A PROBLEM AT WORK?
CAN GSRs AND RAs BE PART OF THE UNION?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A MEMBER?
• WHERE DO MY DUES GO?
HOW CAN I GET INVOLVED?


WHAT IS THE STUDENT-WORKERS UNION?

UAW Local 2865, the UC Student-Workers Union is the union that represents over 17,000 Academic Student Employees—Teaching Assistants (TAs), Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), Readers, and Tutors—at the University of California. Our Union negotiates a Collective Bargaining Agreement, or contract, that sets the base-level pay, benefits, and rights and protections of every Academic Student Employee (ASE) at the University of California. Over the years, we’ve worked together to win many of the benefits we now enjoy, from full in-state tuition remission to health insurance and the childcare subsidy.

WHAT IS A UNION CONTRACT?

A “Union contract,” or “Collective Bargaining Agreement” (CBA), is the legal document that lays out our rights and benefits as student-workers at the University of California. Our contract is the document that we collectively negotiated for and the UC administration agreed to. It says that we (all TAs, GSIs, Readers, and Tutors) are represented by our Union and that the UC has to negotiate with our Union when it wants to make changes to our working conditions. It lays out our rights and gives us an avenue—the grievance procedure—to seek redress from the administration if we face any issues related to our working lives.

Each contract lasts for a number of years (both our Union and the UC agree to an expiration date), and then we begin a new round of negotiations to update the contract. These negotiations are one of our major opportunities to come together across each campus and decide what needs to be improved in our working lives.

We are currently bargaining our new contract! Our first bargaining session was February 28, 2018.

  • Here is a list of our Initial Bargaining Goals >
  • Sign up here > to get involved with a bargaining committee working group! These working groups will help draft contract language and build coalitions with allied organizations to create powerful, collaborative demands that reflect the existing knowledge, experience, and needs of our communities. It’s a great way to get involved and build connections at other campuses!

Contract negotiations take place between representatives from the UC Office of the President (UCOP) and the bargaining team of our Union, made up of the elected Campus Unit Chairs and Recording Secretaries. Of course, those are just the people who sit at the table—our bargaining strength comes from the involvement of the membership as a whole.

Our Union practices “open bargaining,” which means that negotiation sessions between the bargaining team and UCOP are open to all Union members. Union members often speak directly to Management during these negotiations, and Union members weigh in on proposals considered at the bargaining table. The goal of contract negotiations is to make improvements to our working conditions, but it is always possible that the UC will try to remove benefits during bargaining as well, which is why it is especially important for all members to be involved in this process.

CAN INTERNATIONAL WORKERS PARTICIPATE IN THE UNION?

International scholars have the same rights as US citizens to join and participate in the Union. In many years of representing international student-workers at the UC and elsewhere, no one has reported any complications in their status from unionizing. The UAW advocates for international workers to be able to freely choose their employment and opposes employer control over the H1-B Visa. The UAW also advocates for international workers who choose it to have a pathway to becoming US citizens. Please see our International Students page for more information.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I HAVE A PROBLEM AT WORK?

If you have a concern, problem, or question about any aspect of your work, you should contact your union representative to make sure you preserve your rights in the situation. One of our Union’s primary functions is enforcing the contract, which means representing student-workers at all steps of a resolution process known as the grievance procedure. We can file grievances —formal notices to the University that our contract has been violated —when we’ve been underpaid, harassed, discriminated against, etc. Our Union can file grievances on behalf of individuals, groups, or the Union as a whole. Once we file a grievance, the affected workers and union representatives meet with the University’s Office of Labor Relations to make our case and discuss proposed remedies.

Most grievances filed about workload concerns are successful, and they can be filed through an expedited process to ensure a speedy resolution. If you are experiencing a problem, it is likely that other students in a similar situation have experienced it before you. Contact your campus union representative if you are, or even think you might be, experiencing work-related issues.

CAN GSRs AND RAs BE PART OF THE UNION?

Yes! All graduate students, including GSRs and RAs, can be members. As of now, however, the work performed by GSRs and RAs is not protected by our Union contract. The good news is that even when not covered by the contract, GSRs and RAs who join our Union still have all the rights of Union membership: democratic participation and a voice in ASE working conditions, which often affect GSR and RA working conditions.

For years, the University denied that GSRs and RAs were workers and refused them the right to be covered by our collective bargaining agreement. A recent change in California law compels the University to recognize that GSRs and RAs as employees who enjoy the same right as GSIs, Tutors, and Readers to form a union and collectively bargain. This change in law is only the first step toward winning collective representation for GSRs and RAs. If you are interested in helping to establish collective bargaining for GSRs and RAs, please contact your local campus elected officers.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A MEMBER?

Being a member ensures you have a say in what your Union negotiates and how it represents students and student-workers at the UC. It is also an important way for you to support your fellow student-workers, because signing up as a member increases our collective power as a union to win better wages, benefits, rights, and protections for all student-workers.

Your Student-Workers’ Union is member-driven. Student-workers like you hold elected leadership positions and work in committees and caucuses to ensure that the work of our Union gets done. Rank-and-file members set our Union’s priorities: important decisions about bargaining demands and campaign involvements are directed by rank-and-file members, who vote on proposals at campus unit membership meetings, online, and occasionally in ballot elections. Rank-and-file members also bring forward many of the proposals and projects that our Union takes up. But it’s entirely up to individuals to decide how actively they want to participate in the decision-making and daily business of our Union.

Graduate students can join even when they’re not currently employed by the University in a position under our contract. Undergraduate students can join while they’re employed, and then remain members and participate in decision-making even if they no longer work in a contract-covered job.

To become a member of your Union, you pay a one-time Initiation Fee (currently $10), and when you’re employed in a position covered by our contract, you pay a small percentage of your wages in dues that help keep your Union strong (currently about 1.44% of your wages). Student-workers who don’t sign up as members still pay 1.156% of their wages to our Union in what are called “fair share fees,” because they receive the representation and benefits provided by our Union, but they do not get to weigh in on our Union’s priorities.

Members get all the benefits of membership as they move between teaching, research, and fellowship, but only pay dues when working within the Unit as an Academic Student Employee. 

WHERE DO MY DUES GO?

Dues provide the financial resources that give our Union access to legal advice, experienced staff who keep the ship afloat, office supplies and equipment, and other materials necessary to remain a strong collective advocate for student-worker rights.

About 1/3 of our dues supports our local union’s capacity to effectively represent student-workers. This work includes preparing for and engaging in contract negotiations, enforcing the contract and helping student-workers with grievances, educating student-workers about our rights under the contract, and other initiatives that advance student-workers interests. All of these expenditures are determined democratically by members and elected leaders.

About 1/3 of dues money goes into the UAW Strike Fund, which —whether we use it in the future or not —gives us more power at the bargaining table. The remaining share of dues goes to the UAW International Union, which provides us with expertise and support regarding negotiations, contract enforcement, legal matters, health and safety, insurance benefits, political action, and many other issues.

A portion of the money which goes to the International Union is used to fund organizing drives of other workers who want to unionize —in fact, dues money from other UAW members enabled us to form our union, so it’s important that we give back to help other workers not yet organized form unions and fight for better wages, rights and protections.

Any student-worker interested in seeing a detailed explanation of UAW Local 2865’s expenditures may contact us for a copy of the most recent independent auditor’s report.

CAN I GET INVOLVED?

Get involved in a bargaining working group, attend a monthly membership meeting, or become a union activist! There are lots of ways you can get more involved with your union. Contact your local campus elected officers to find out how you can get involved.