By Diana Zhu
DAVIS – On Oct. 24, the University of California teaching faculty held a statewide rally in defense of public higher education through a car and bike caravan.
The event took place within a caravan, but also within other socially-distanced actions, across eight of the ten UC campuses across the state of California – Davis, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Merced, Santa Barbara, Los Angeles, Riverside and San Diego.
The University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) is a union of 6,500 lecturers and contract-teaching faculty across the 10 UC campuses, where they work together to defend better salaries and benefits, greater security of employment, professional respect and support, workplace rights, academic freedom, legislative solutions to educational policy issues and full access to quality public higher education for students.
Over the past 18 months, UC-AFT has been in contract negotiations with the UC Office of the President (UCOP), when in April, citing budget uncertainty in wake of the coronavirus pandemic, UCOP reversed months’ worth of progress and moved to end negotiations with a short-term contract virtually no different to their previous contract.
UC-AFT expressed “willingness to forego demands for increased wages, expanded health care, and anything else that would cost the university money for the duration of the short-term contract in exchange for a core set of job security proposals that prioritize instructional continuity and rehiring rights.”
“After over 18 months of bargaining, the UC administration continues to avoid addressing UC-AFT’s core demands for job security. Instead of agreeing to provide protections for early career teaching faculty, they have quietly laid off nearly 2,000 UC contract-faculty by failing to renew their contracts. UC administrators have put the livelihood of thousands of skilled and experienced educators and their families at risk by refusing to accept our job security proposals or our Covid related health and safety demands. Government inaction at the state and federal level only adds to these risks, as Congress’ failures to pass critical relief funding for public higher education amplify the threat of drastic budget cuts and mass layoffs of 2021.”
On Saturday, UC-AFT members came together to call on the UC administration to accept their security proposals and settle their contract now and ask to “join UC-AFT in its fight to create an inclusive university in which all UC students have the mentorship, support, and resources they need to succeed and all members of the teaching faculty are treated with dignity and respect.”