Bargaining Update, AFSCME strike, and Ways to Get Involved

In our contract campaign, we had great movement at the table from UC management in December, but none since then.  In early December we saw increasing wage offers, childcare support, the beginnings of language around gender neutral bathrooms and lactation support, and a willingness to discuss stable jobs for undocumented workers.  However, since then things froze up.  In fact, management has been rejecting our bargaining dates and offering us times a month out.  They continue to refuse our input in determining class size. Finally, they have failed to make a wage offer that would come close to closing the gap between us and our competitor institutions.

We need to develop a public means to move them – we experienced great media, legislative and public response throughout the fall and in response to our recent testimony at the January Regents meeting but it is time to find other pressure points.

This update contains

1. Campaign Update: What We Have Done in the Last Month
2. Upcoming Issues: Class Size Complaint, Recent Press, and Potential Work Actions
3. AFSCME Update: Their Strike
4. How Can We Relate to the AFSCME Strike? What is legal, ethical, etc?
5. How can I get involved with the UAW?

1. Campaign Update: What We Have Done in the Last Month:

– Legislators: Several union members went to the state capitol to speak with our senators and representatives about the key issues of our campaign including support for student families, gender neutral bathrooms, undocumented students, lowering class sizes, and increasing student-worker compensation. We met with 15 representatives and their aides, and received overwhelming support. These representatives have begun to outreach on behalf of our union to UC management by asking them to show movement on our proposals.

– Bargaining: Over 120 people came to bargaining at Davis Feb 10-11 to speak to management about their personal experiences and why this contract matters to them.  Member participation has been a key component to this contract campaign and important to getting management to move. We hope to do this again next time.

– Asking for Support on Campus: Campus leaders have been busy meeting with Chancellors, Faculty Associations, and taking action with our allies in Resource Centers and other offices on campus.

– Visibility: We held a statewide week of visibility to highlight our anti-discrimination demands. We partnered with the wonderful artist Julio Salgado to commission our poster (see Across the state people came out to discuss these issues, participate in color-ins, and talk to other members on campus.

– However, we need more activity on campuses and on the ground, please think with us about how you can add your voice and pressure on the UC management.

2. Upcoming Issues: Class Size Complaint, Recent Press, and Potential Work Actions:

UC management is still refusing to discuss our concerns over class size. We filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge a few weeks ago.This is something that we are considering supporting with work actions on all campuses – keep tuned for more on this.

Teaching assistants in the UC have seen class size increase significantly over the past years. These increases adversely affect undergraduate students who rely on one-on-one contact with graduate instructors.  The learning conditions of UC students are our working conditions. In many courses, TAs are unable to provide meaningful feedback to students. One teaching assistant reported: “As a graduate student in the Arts, I’ve been a teaching assistant for several courses packed to the 380-student capacity with two or three TAs. Grading homework for my third of the class takes such a significant amount of time that assignments are usually designed to be graded quickly, offering little to no feedback to students. This is not fair to the students.” The question of increasing class sizes is also an issue of accessibility to a UC education. The students who struggle the most when there is decreasing one-on-one instruction are often students from underfunded high schools and those with limited support systems.

See the recent article in the Sacramento Bee:

3. AFSCME Update: Their Strike

AFSCME workers (a state-wide union of 22,000 service workers and patient care workers at all of the 10 UC campuses and 5 UC medical centers) are going on a statewide 5-day strike March 3rd-7th.  After 20 months of bargaining with the university and two strikes, the UC is still refusing to give these low-wage workers basic job security, safe staffing, and wage increases that it has offered all other unionized workers at the university. Currently, more than 90% of AFSCME workers are eligible for some form of public assistance based on their UC income. Their injury rates have risen by nearly 20% in the last 5 years. Most must work second and third jobs to survive. The UC is also refusing to grant them the same protections against outsourcing that apply to all other state workers, reserving the right to lay off workers and contract out their work to third parties that pay minimum wages.

4. How Can We Relate to the AFSCME Strike? What is legal?

AFSCME says they will be picketing from 6am to 6pm Monday through Friday, and asks that we please come to the line whenever and as often as we can.  They are especially asking for lots of support on the first and last days of the strike–Monday and Friday.

Every UAW Campus Unit is empowered to make a local decision about how they want to support AFSCME.  This can range from a full-on sympathy strike for 1-5 days, to organizing departments to picket together, or bringing sections or classes to the picket line, or elsewhere off-campus, or simply ensuring that we all know our legal right to refuse to cross a picket line.  All workers are legally entitled to make a personal ethical decision to not cross a picket line and communicate that to their employer.  This can mean taking the actual picket line as a physical barrier to campus, or more broadly as a metaphysical line between us and our labor.  It would be illegal for the UCs to punish anyone who missed work for these reasons.  However, they can theoretically, and have on occasion threatened to, dock our pay.  (How they would calculate the loss of pay for a TA is an interesting challenge). We recommend that you warn students and faculty of plans to shift or cancel sections.  Because each campus will approach this question differently, please keep an eye out for further communications or decision making processes that you can join in on. For instance, at UCSC the UAW will likely be striking on Wednesday March 5 – more details forthcoming.

5. How can I get involved with the UAW?

While we are displeased with management’s response to our efforts to improve the lives of graduate students, we are hopeful 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.  Thus far, when we take collective action, the UCs tend to change their positions.

Support student families
Support equal academic and profesional opportunities for undocumented grad students
Demand gender-neutral bathrooms
Smaller class size petition
Rights for Research Assistants

We encourage your comments, participation, and questions. Please join us for our next sessions and ask your campus bargaining team members how to become more involved. If you can’t come to bargaining feel free to send your testimonials and comments you would like to share in bargaining to your campus leaders!

In solidarity,

Your UAW Bargaining Team