Response to UC Administration Emails Regarding GSR Unionization

Dear UC Student-Worker Union Member,

We recently wrote to you when Governor Brown signed SB 201 into law. This historic piece of legislation extends the definition of employee to graduate student researchers (GSRs), which enables GSRs/RAs to form a union and collectively bargain for their rights. Many of you have rightly expressed concern about recent email communications from UC administrators following SB 201’s passage, which seem intended to have a chilling effect on student-workers being able to freely exercise our right to discuss unionization and workplace issues without employer interference. Our union is in contact with our legal counsel to discuss whether UC’s emails constitute an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) under California labor law.

While we are disappointed by UC’s email communications, we are not surprised: The UC administration has fought against GSR/RA collective bargaining rights for 35 years, and the UC formally opposed SB 201 during this legislative session.

What the UC administration didn’t mention in their communications is that through collective bargaining, TAs, tutors, and readers have negotiated significant improvements to our working conditions since we formed our union in 2000. During our last round of contract negotiations in 2014, our union won a 17% wage increase over 4 years; a 50% increase in the childcare subsidy for working parents; workload protections and remedies for over-work; zero-premium health insurance; protections against harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender, race/ethnicity, religion, and more; appointment security; a committee regarding instructional opportunities for non-DACA undocumented students; and the right to access gender-neutral restrooms. The UC was not willing to simply give us these rights – we were only able to win these significant gains by exercising the collective strength and power of our member-driven, member-run union.

Without a union to enforce the victories of contract negotiations, none of these rights and benefits are guaranteed, and binding protections against harassment and discrimination do not exist. That’s why GSRs/RAs at the University of WashingtonUniversity of ConnecticutNew York University, and several other colleges and universities have joined together with other student-workers to form unions and strengthen their collective voice.

This is a big year for our union. We’re fighting back against the Trump administration’s regressive policies; negotiating a new contract for TAs, readers, and tutors; building our membership to strengthen our power as a union; and continuing conversations with our colleagues who work as GSRs about the rights and protections student-workers have won through unionization. We will need your help to be stronger than ever as a union. Please email us to get involved in these efforts!

In Solidarity,

The Joint Council of the UC Student-Workers Union, UAW 2865