“It’s not like you’re going to be in this situation for your life.”

Bargaining Update #4, August 8th and 9th at UC Irvine

Read on for an update from the fourth bargaining session with UC management

Update from UAW 2865 Contract Bargaining Team

  1. Introduction
  2. Appointment Length
  3. Posting
  4. Parking and Transportation
  5. Sabbaticals
  6. Researchers’ Right to Join a Union
  7. Rights for Undocumented Students


UC Management’s Chief Negotiator Nadine Fishel:

Grad school is not your life goal. Grad school is a means to your life goals. It’s not like you’re going to be in this situation for your life.

UC Management made this statement in response to the testimony from TAs, GSIs, Tutors and Readers who impressed upon them the difficulties they face making ends meet. When members of the bargaining team proposed specific subsidies to offset transportation expenses, UC Management’s Chief Negotiator responded: “I’m done with this bullshit,” and left the negotiations after a brief caucus meeting, refusing to return to substantial conversation about a proposal on the table.

You can see what we’re up against.

Luckily, we’re not alone. This bargaining session saw our allies come out in huge numbers from across the state to join and support us and our fight for a living wage, educational excellence for our students and dignity in the workplace. Among the dozens of undergraduates from across the state to show UC Management they support their TAs were key leaders of the UC Student Association, as well as executive officers from both the UCLA Undergraduate Students Association, Associate Students of UC Irvine, and members of United Students Against Sweatshops. We received tremendous support our fellow UC workers represented by AFSCME who do the caregiving work at the UC medical centers and the service and maintenance work vital to the functioning of our campuses.

The Union has introduced 14 subjects of bargaining and offered Management 12 concrete proposals ranging from transportation subsidies to hiring transparency to research assistant rights, to pay equity for summer appointments. Management has yet to agree to any of these 12 proposals.

Although repeatedly requested and legally mandated, management continues to refuse to share the data that would make this a productive bargaining exchange. For instance, to determine potential costs or which members could be benefited, it might be useful to know which people currently use the childcare subsidy. Or, if we are to think about the impacts of class size on quality of education, it would help to have class size data for each campus and department.

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– We also introduced a proposal that would give academic student employees greater job security, by requiring year long job appointments. This proposal would require that the university offer year long appointments with the ability of the individual involved to turn down part of that period for fellowships or other purposes. The proposal would further encourage the university to offer full year appointment for those individuals who fill in for individuals going on fellowship or other activities. A number of individuals gave testimony about the impact of job insecurity on both their work as students and as workers.

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– At the last session, we had made a counter-proposal to the university proposal to remove all requirements about job posting. The university had argued that jobs were exclusively found through either their departments or through a set of informal contacts. We noted that this contributed to the kind of structure of patronage and privilege found in any old boys’ club, and proposed expanding the structure of posting as to allow for more access to information about open postings, rather than less. It’s notable that this open practice of posting is already in practice in UC Merced. We just want to see the sorts of practices of transparency in Merced become common practice. In response, university administration asked a great deal of technical questions about the meaning of this procedure. We’re looking forward to receiving a response from them on this proposal.

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Parking and Transportation

– Parking continues to be a contentious topic of bargaining. We brought a number of speakers to the table who discussed the difficulties around the expenses of parking and introduced a proposal that would allow us to receive full subsidized parking as employees. We noted that the cost of parking was prohibitive given our low salaries. Rather than dealing with the substance of our proposal, and the concerns of activist members, management’s chief negotiator Nadine Fishel threw a fit over minor semantic issues around the presentation of the proposal. We went into caucus, and produced a draft that would live up to their expectations, but instead of returning to the table to have a substantive conversation about the proposal, university administration simply left the building in a huff.

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– We put a proposal on the table that teaching assistants would receive a quarter long sabbatical for every three quarters or semesters that they taught in order to work on research and other work to enrich their teaching experience. The university administration claims to be focused on getting students to graduate in a timely manner, but have primarily introduced punitive enforcement mechanisms to accomplish this goal. The sabbatical would allow for all teaching assistants to have the ability to have periods of time to focus on their studies. In addition, the sabbatical recognizes that the work we do as researchers and academics enriches the work we do as teaching assistants. We’re awaiting a response from the university in regards to this proposal.

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Researchers’ right to join a union

– We also heard from a number of research assistants on the need for them to be able to have the protection of a collectively bargained contract. Coral Wheeler told a story of a graduate student who was pushed out of her department because of health issues (?), who would have been able to challenge that decision with the protection of a contract. Other students expressed their desire to be able to join a union, and have a say in their working conditions. These issues are not isolated, and express the concerns and needs of researchers across the campus.

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Rights for Undocumented Students

We’re continuing to bring up the issue of rights for undocumented students to management since we opened the discussion during negotiations at UC Santa Barbara. Students from various groups who were attending the UC Student Association Congress in Irvine took time from their packed schedules to come to the bargaining table and talk about the importance of enabling the full participation of undocumented students in the university. Moving forward, we will continue to support students and community members across the state in their fight for rights for undocumented students.

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Thank you for taking the time to read this update. If you have any questions, please contact us. If you want to get more involved, please contact your campus representative.

UAW 2865 Contract Bargaining Team