Contract Negotiations Continue between UC Student-Workers and Administration

Graduate students march in the rain to their bargaining session on Wednesday morning

In negotiations at UC San Diego on April 3-4, student-workers criticized Administration’s proposal around sexual harassment and offered new proposals regarding Childcare, Parking & Transit, in #UCForAll Contract Campaign

(From Press Release) — On April 3-4, the third negotiating session between the University of California (UC) Student-Workers Union (UAW Local 2865) and representatives of the UC Administration took place at UC San Diego. With supporting testimonials from rank-and-file members who described their personal stakes in the Union’s demands, the Union’s elected Bargaining Representatives proposed contract language around Childcare, Parking and Transit, Job Posting, and Appointment Notification. The Union also responded to the UC Administration’s proposed language around non-discrimination and harassment.

The Union’s negotiating goals, outlined in a document available online, lay out a vision for achieving a “UC For All,” anchored in social justice, fair wages and affordable housing, the preservation of high quality public education, and more. The goals were drafted by student-workers through extensive discussions, town halls, and surveys of the 17,000+ student-workers at the UC. The bargaining goals were democratically ratified through a vote in which 95 percent of respondents supported the goals. This contract campaign is part of a nationwide movement, in which public education workers, from elementary school to graduate education, are turning to labor action in order to solve systemic problems in their workplaces, demanding that states return to sustainable public education models.

On April 3-4, the Union proposed contract changes that would provide relief to student-workers burdened by the high cost and limited availability of parking and public transportation where they work. Specifically, the Bargaining Representatives demanded that student-workers be reimbursed for the costs of parking and public transit passes during terms in which are they are employed, and that the Union be able to bargain with the UC over access to parking and transit. The Union argued that these issues are inseparable from the accessibility of campus workplaces, and workers should not need to pay in order to work.

The Bargaining Representatives also demanded free, full-time, on-campus childcare or equivalent childcare reimbursements to fully cover the cost of off-campus childcare. Stacey Livingstone, a student-worker and parent at UC San Diego, told the Administration, “I pay $1,222 a month for four days a week of daycare. I cannot afford five. If you respect diversity in terms of student parents, you need to provide further support to mitigate the cost of childcare.”

To date, the UC administration has not offered any proposals to offset the cost of parking or childcare.

During the April 3-4 negotiations, the Union also addressed the UC Administration’s proposal to significantly limit the ability of survivors of sexual harassment and sexual violence to achieve justice through the Union’s grievance procedure. Student-workers drew attention to the failures of the Title IX process, highlighting a recent report from The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that found that UC Berkeley routinely mishandled Title IX sexual harassment claims between 2011 and 2017. The Union is committed to enhancing protections for survivors of sexual harassment and sexual violence.

A statewide working group of members is currently drafting strong, survivor-centered contract language, which the Union will present at the next Bargaining session at UCLA on April 19-20.

Sexual harassment and sexual violence are not the only civil rights issues at the University of California today. The union representing service workers at the UC, AFSCME 3299, has been in tense contract negotiations with the UC that have extended months past the expiration of their contract. The UC is offering a 0% wage increase to the workers in this union, which is made up of 80% POC workers. AFSCME 3299 held pickets in Los Angeles and Berkeley on April 4 to spotlight this unjust treatment, and similarly, UC student protests have drawn attention to anti-black atmospheres on UC campuses. The UC Student-Workers Union’s demands for police demilitarization and adequate spaces for workers of color on campus attempt to address some of these inequities.

Previous bargaining sessions have taken place in Berkeley on February 28th, and in Davis on March 21-22. Reflecting its member-driven and democratic model, the UC Student-Workers Union practices “open bargaining,” in which rank-and-file members attend contract negotiations, set the agenda at the bargaining table, and help draft and approve contract language. Hundreds of student-workers have participated in the open sessions, demonstrating a strong, united commitment to achieving a “UC For All” through contract negotiations.

Bargaining on March 21 in Davis started off with a march led by Union members living in Solano Park, the sole remaining affordable family housing complex at UC Davis, which is slated for demolition by the University Administration. The marchers burst into the bargaining room to demand that the University provide student-workers with affordable housing. The UC Administration responded to the demands proposed by student-workers by outright rejecting the idea of bargaining over core quality of life and workplace issues like housing, sanctuary campuses, diversity, and dependent healthcare.

Michael Flynn, a PhD Student in Physics at UC Davis, said that he attended the bargaining session in Davis in order to “tell the [university] administration that it’s unreasonable to expect a student-worker to complete thesis level research while dealing with issues like housing insecurity, unaffordable healthcare for dependents, poor options for childcare, and the rising costs of living in Davis. The existing support and resources are simply not enough.”

Speaking at the Union’s first bargaining session on February 28 in Berkeley, Diana Ruíz, a PhD student in Film and Media at UC Berkeley, said, “As educators, we won’t back down until we win a UC that protects the most vulnerable among us, extends economic security across all campuses, and empowers and enables every member of the UC community to thrive.”

The next session of bargaining between the UC Student-Workers Union and the UC Administration takes place at UCLA on April 19-20, location and schedule TBD. The session is expected to draw out many student-workers and their supporters among other UC unions, faculty, and the student body. Coming amidst heightened unrest among public education workers across the country and the world, the UC Student-Workers’ bargaining campaign will continue to focus on necessary changes to make higher education accessible and livable for all workers.

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