Welcome Back Bargaining Update – UC refuses to bargain over quality of education

Hello student-workers! Welcome back to school if you have been away. As you may know, your student-workers union has been in negotiations for a new contract and now that the university is back in session, we will continue bargaining. In this post please see an update on bargaining thus far and some ways you can get involved! You can:

-Contact us to learn more about how you can advocate for our demands on your campus.
-Sign a petition calling for UC to agree to talk about class size, provide equal opportunities for undocumented students, provide gender-neutral bathrooms, and support student-families.

Read on for the full update.

As the front line educators and researchers we care about Quality of and Access to Education. For a full list see our website.

Quality Demands – We are negotiating about Class Size, Online Education, ASE compensation and fee remissions, parking, October pay, Job Security, Research Assistant bargaining rights.
Access Demands – We are negotiating about increasing Non-Discrimination coverage, Undocumented Worker Rights, and bettering the positions of underrepresented students, both graduate and undergraduate.
Student-Family Demands – We are negotiating for Affordable Housing, Better Childcare Support, Quality Healthcare, and More Access to Leaves.

What’s been most exciting about this current contract campaign is how many of YOU have participated in open bargaining sessions, rallies, press conferences, petitions, call-ins, and other contract actions across the state. Together we’ve built one of the strongest rank-and-file led contract fights in our local’s history. Our collective actions have forced management to make major moves on contract demands that impact student parents. The university has made movement on our proposals for installing lactation facilities in classroom buildings for ASEs who are nursing. In addition they have proposed raising the childcare subsidy for student parents as well as increasing the number of weeks of guaranteed leave that are available to student parents. The university has also proposed increasing access to all-gender bathrooms for trans*, gender non-conforming, and differently abled student-workers. Management has also proposed a 3% annual wage increase, which is already an improvement from the 2% increase given in our last contract. This is the kind of movement from management that collective action can bring and we must continue to fight together to win a fair contract that remains competitive with other similar institutions and provides us with a living wage that we deserve!

We are pleased to have made some progress, but still have much negotiating ahead of us if we are to settle a contract that we deserve. Mostly notably UC management continues to evade important issues such as the fair treatment of undocumented graduate students, growing class size as a risk to quality of education as well as our working conditions, and the growing gap between financial support to graduate student workers at the UC and comparator institutions, as is documented by reports from the UC Faculty Senate and Office of the President.

Last week we filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against UC Management for their refusal to bargain over one of our key working conditions: TA to student ratios. UC management is uninterested in thinking seriously about their very reason for existence: quality education. 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.

Please sign the petition to demand UC Management bargain about class size and TA-student ratios and then pass it along to undergraduate students.

The challenge: it is easy to assume that in a university setting where reason is the prime virtue, bargaining ought to be settled simply on the grounds of well-argued or cited facts.  These are certainly important.  However, the most articulate and convincing argument that has no power behind it dies at a bargaining table. To develop power as a union, we are putting pressure on management in a multiple and varied manner and connecting this power to specific proposals at the bargaining table. This means engaging allies among the faculty, legislators and undergrads.  We are also doing open bargaining to show management how much our members care about this contract. This means that members and allies can come and participate in the bargaining room.  When 130 people came into bargaining at UC Santa Cruz, it helped lots.

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.

There are petitions to share and sign:
Support equal academic and profesional opportunities for undocumented grad students.

Demand gender-neutral bathrooms.

Support student families.

Demand that management agree to talk about class size.

Get involved with the on-the-ground work of our campaign. Contact us today.

Please follow our bargaining process on Twitter and visit our website.

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