Bargaining Update #6, September 16 & 17 at UC Berkeley
“A good teacher can teach regardless how many students there are in the classroom: 10, 20, 30 etc., it shouldn’t matter.”
-UC Administrator and Bargaining Team Representative in our September 16 Session.
“As an undergraduate student I feel like I’m drowned in massively large classes. In those cases it has always been our GSI’s who have supported us academically, emotionally, and socially. I had a class of about 60 people, but only one GSI who was single handedly managing the class. She told me that her whole spring break was spent marking essays day and night. I hope that negotiators understand how burdened GSI’s are and how that burden gets transferred on to undergraduates. The very least you can do is make sure that GSIs’ demands are reviewed properly. This is about the campus community, and they are contributing to that community and to the world.”
-Undergraduate Student Ally Statement to Management on September 17 Bargaining Session
These were our eleventh and twelfth days of bargaining. We brought bargaining to UC Berkeley just after the semester began so members could come out to participate in this bargaining that impacts us all! At Berkeley we heard testimonials from student parents, transgender ASE’s and many undergraduate allies. This process of “open bargaining” will continue, so please join us when we come to your campus and help move this forward.
In this latest round of bargaining we discussed numerous issues – childcare costs, nursing stations, antidiscrimination, gender neutral bathrooms, evaluations, retirement and dependant health care.
We are still facing a number of challenges due to UC Management’s refusal to provide us requested information despite our numerous formal written requests and our legal right to this information on discrimination, childcare, health insurance, class size, fees and more. We are committed to fighting for our rightful access to this information and will not let the UC’s failure to provide it prevent us from advocating for the interests of our members. Please sign the petition to demand that management give us the information that we are legally entitled to.
Antidiscrimination, Nursing Stations and Gender Neutral Bathrooms
We introduced a new proposal to expand the antidiscrimination protections in the contract. In particular the proposal included provisions for mandatory access to gender neutral bathrooms and nursing nations for all ASEs. A number of members spoke about the challenges of teaching without access to gender neutral bathrooms and the lack of support for transgender students at the UC. We also made a powerful case for the importance of clean, accessible nursing nations with access to refrigeration for all members who are pumping milk for their infants. Additionally, we proposed expand coverage in anti-discrimination to cover instances of “microaggressions” against ASEs.
The testimony of our members speaks best to the importance of these issues:
“This is a particularly important medical issue for trans-women who are at a much high risk of bladder infection. One of the main medications given to those transitioning is a diuretic.
I have more than one trans friend who goes to the bathroom who does not feel safe in a binary-gendered restroom…insofar as the University has not made transphobia a priority is a major problem. The fact that the university has not made the safety and health of trans-people a priority has contributed to transphobia on-campus.”
Members’ Discussion of Educational Quality
In the afternoon of the session on the 17th, the bargaining team was joined by a large contingent of members who had attended a rally in support of public education. Nearly 50 members crowded into the bargaining session to share their experience with declining quality of education with management. A number of undergraduate allies spoke about the importance of their GSIs in their experience at Berkeley, and also insisted on the importance of small class sizes to quality of education. Others spoke about the importance of dependant health care benefits, and the general economic hardship of ASE’s working for salaries well below standard living wages.
Faculty also came out in support of an improved contract and to affirm our work’s importance for the quality of education. During the negotiations we shared a recent letter signed by over 30 department chairs at Berkeley, insisting that we need a substantial wage increase for the UC to remain a competitive research institution.
Dependent Health Care, Childcare and Parental Leave
At this session we continued our conversation about the many challenges student parents have including finding affordable childcare, being able to take family leave, and affording quality dependent healthcare. At the session we discussed the inadequacy of the subsidy as well as the problems with the UC childcare centers including their extended closures and long waitlists. Despite our numerous requests the UC has also still failed to provide us with information regarding the time ASE parents spend on waitlists, changes in availability of on campus childcare, and several other childcare related requests.
A statement from a member at Davis highlights the challenges facing ASE parents: “I was working on the quarter system while pregnancy and anticipating my baby. Spring quarter was the time I was going to have off, but as a GSR I had no leave. Even if I was working as a TA the time I had off wasn’t nearly enough… Our situation is completely unacceptable.”
We presented management with a proposal to cover the costs of dependant health care. Costs now are nearly $2000 a semester per dependant. Many of our members in the earlier sessions testified to the challenges and near impossibility of paying for this coverage on limited salaries. For families with both parents working as ASEs or single parent households this leaves ASEs with few options. We are committed to bargaining for solutions for affordable healthcare.
If you are concerned about supporting student parents please sign this petition and get involved in the campaign on your campus!
Future Bargaining Needs You
While we are displeased with management’s response to our efforts to improve the lives of graduate students, we are confident that with increased member participation in the bargaining process we can demonstrate that management must be prepared to offer real change if the UC is to continue to function as a world class, public university.
Please follow our bargaining process on Twitter.
We encourage your comments, participation, and questions. Please join us for our next sessions coming to your campus soon and ask your campus bargaining team members how to become more involved.
Your UAW Bargaining Team