- Summer Sessions
- Rights for RAs
- Rights for Undocumented Students
- A More Flexible Grievance Process
- Free Speech Day in Remembrance of Police Brutality
- Next Steps: UC Berkeley July 23rd and 24th
We concluded our second session of bargaining at UC Santa Barbara on July 8th and 9th.
Summer negotiations have tended to be taken up with logistics, information gathering, and relatively nonpolitical issues, given our desire for all of our membership to be involved in the process of bargaining some of the larger issues, and our desire to bargain with the necessary information available. Thus far, both sides of the table have proposed contract language on a few articles, though much of the first two sessions has been taken up with logistics, information gathering, and introductions. Within this context, a number of the topics discussed so far are quite significant to our members and to getting a good contract. We will continue to be in contact with you about other significant issues that are brought up by ourselves and by the administration within bargaining. Here is a brief sketch of some of these issues.
Perhaps the most important element of negotiations at present involves our request for relevant and necessary information. Management is required by law to share information that enables us to make intelligent proposals – i.e. how has class size changed over time and affected our workload? Or, what is the ethnic and racial breakdown of our membership and how has that changed as our wages fell further behind comparable universities? However, management has not yet provided most of this information. This could become a significant issue if they continue to withhold crucial data that impedes our negotiations.
We deliberately held the session in Santa Barbara to allow for participation of members of the Joint Council who met the day before, along with rank and file members of Santa Barbara. It was significant that both Joint Council members along with Santa Barbara folks played a role within the proceedings not only as observants of the process, but as active participants. Rank and file members contributed to the discussion of how to make proposals, how to respond to management, and provided concrete and valuable testimony supporting the changes in the bylaws proposed by the membership through the deliberative process of the statewide contract meeting. Our ability to win a strong contract is dependent on the participation of the entire union within the bargaining process. Membership from Santa Barbara contributed substantially to that fight. You will have the same opportunity as we travel across the state to meet on each of our campuses.
This session continued the work of hearing the various proposals from the UC Management. Additionally, we began to present a number of proposals from our agreements made at the statewide contract meeting.
Before that point, we agreed to the ground rules with management. We unfortunately were not able to get management to put their verbal agreement about not bringing the police into the bargaining session into print, but it is a verbal agreement that we intend to take quite seriously. In light of the police violence that has plagued the UC in the past few years, our hope is that they live up to their agreements.
Beyond this conversation, the two days were primarily spent discussing proposals, both groups responding to new proposals and putting new proposals on the table. At this point, the administration seems to be primarily concerned with attempting to roll back our rights as union members under the cloak of ‘clarifying the contract.’
Our first proposal dealt with the issue of summer sessions. We are proposing that the summer sessions should be treated like any other part of the year. Currently, our contract language does not give the same rights to work done during the summer as the rest of the year. Most notably, the university administration has the ability to cancel a class two classes into a session, an ability that makes our job security much more precarious. As Robert Cavooris from Santa Cruz noted, “It’s bad enough not to know where your paycheck is coming from 30 days in advance… If I’m not sure I have a wage over the summer and already signed a lease for rent, this could actually end up costing me money and making me generally insecure about my whole working future. That affects me teaching in the spring, affects my ability to teach and pursue my own research, which is important for me to be an effective teacher as well.” In response UCLA Dean Joe Watson simply stated we need to accept this level of precarity as a fact of life, arguing that we should be required to do the impossible, find potential replacement work at the same time that we prepare for class. It’s pretty clear that it has been a long time since he has had to deal with the precarious financial state of graduate student life.
In addition, we brought up the fact that we cannot get the same support for our academic work during the summer sessions. Riverside Unit Chair John Gust noted that the summer has become a de facto fourth quarter, a fact that also affects the academic life of our members. Frequently, the summer becomes the best time to work on language requirements, which are difficult to negotiate during the school year. We don’t receive university support for course work during the summer, even when we are working. Changing the language to standardize the contract will at least allow for support to those individuals who are working.
We do the same work during the summer as the rest of the year, and we should receive the same rights and benefits.
With the help of rank and file members, we introduced our proposal for collective bargaining rights for Research Assistants. UCSB Research Assistants spoke in favor the proposal by stating that collective bargaining rights are a fundamental human right. They also noted the absurdity of people regularly losing rights when they switch from being TAs, tutors, or readers to being research assistants.
One guest from UCSB’s mechanical engineering department put it this way: “I enjoy the democracy and transparency of process we have as teaching assistants, but we don’t have the same rights when the quarter rolls over as research assistants.”
In a monumental move, we successfully opened up discussion with Management over rights for undocumented students. UCLA Head Steward Sayil Camacho, along with Bargaining Team member Amanda Armstrong, asked that Management agree to work with our union to ensure that undocumented students may participate fully in the university. As Camacho pointed out, “The university has allowed undocumented students to apply for fellowships and scholarships. Some disciplines require grad students to be a TA or Reader as a requirement to obtain their degree, or, sometimes it is assumed that the student can be a TA or Reader. There are circumstances when a student has turned down their financial aid because of the inability to work.” The full involvement of undocumented students in our university is critical not only to realize state law regarding the DREAM Act, but for the diversity and quality of mentorship at the UC. Camacho and Armstrong suggested a potential way to gain rights for undocumented students would be the creation of a new title that would allow undocumented students to receive a stipend rather than a wage. While Management at first balked at having this conversation, they responded that they would further their internal discussions and come back to us at a later time. It’s clear that in order to realize these changes, we need to maintain and increase momentum on this issue. At our next bargaining sessions, July 23rd and 24th at UC Berkeley, we will re-open this discussion.
In a move central to protecting our rights as workers, we proposed a more flexible grievance process that would meet the various workplace contexts and issues facing Academic Student Employees (ASEs). In our current contract, we have thirty days from when the violation occurs, or from when the ASE becomes aware of the violation, to file a written grievance for Step 2. This gives an ASE a small window of time to informally settle their grievance, through meetings with their supervisor, for example, before moving onto a more formal step. Because the grievance process can be quite stressful for ASEs, and because, with the particular schedules we face during the school year, thirty days is often not enough, we proposed to extend this period in a way that would make the informal proceedings more flexible. In the same vein, for extenuating circumstances in which a timely resolution is necessary, we also proposed an optional “expedited process” in which the grievance procedure may move quickly on to arbitration to resolve the issue. This is particularly important in cases where the ASE’s residency, benefits, or student status are tied to their employment.
We look forward to making headway with this proposal, as it speaks to our ability to meet the varying needs of ASEs. As all of you are aware, working, studying, and researching at the university brings about particular sets of issues that cannot always be addressed within our current grievance procedures. What we are pushing for is a more flexible process that empowers workers under the stressful circumstances of the grievance process.
In recognition of the students and workers who came together on November 18, 2011 to protect each other from atrocious acts of police violence, as well as in remembrance of equally brutal acts of police assault across the UC, we proposed that November 18 be recognized as “Free Speech Day, in Remembrance of Police Brutality.” In a statement that many of us who have experienced UCPD’s intimidation and violence will find insulting, Management responded that it recognizes every day as free speech day. While we are not in agreement with this statement, we have made steps towards an agreement where November 18 could be considered a working holiday to remember police brutality and recognize those who have and will continue to fight against it.
Our next sessions will be held at the union office at UC Berkeley, at 2070 Allston Way, Suite 205, on July 23rd and 24th, beginning at 8:00 AM. We will continue our discussion on rights for undocumented students, and rights for Research Assistants, in addition to other issues. With the help of members like you, we have made significant steps towards improving our working and living conditions, and thus ensuring the well-being of ourselves, our colleagues, and our families. Thank you for your work, and we look forward to having you at the table with us at the end of this month.