CUCFA statement on UAW negotiations and strike

Dear Colleagues,

The Council of UC Faculty Associations supports the demands made by the graduate student union (UAW 2865) in its negotiations for a new contract and support the union’s right to strike on April 2 and 3 if they find it needed to bring negotiations to a speedy and respectful conclusion. We encourage you to read the letter below, written by the graduate student union, which describes the issues and what faculty can do to support the graduate students in their negotiations for better wages and working conditions.

Graduate student instructors are essential to the educational mission of the University of California. Currently, UC graduate student workers are underpaid and have higher workloads than at comparable research universities, as shown by a UCOP study of TA compensation Ensuring that graduate instructor-led classes are kept at a manageable and consistent size ensures not only equitable treatment for graduate students, but a high quality undergraduate learning experience across the University of California.

We urge UCOP to engage in good faith bargaining with UAW and to address the issues over class size, workload, and salary issues.

What is good for graduate students is also good for faculty and for undergraduates.

The Board of the Council of UC Faculty Associations

Dear Members of the Faculty,

After filing a number of Unfair Labor Practice charges against UC management, UC Student-Workers at UC Santa Cruz, represented by UAW 2865, are planning to go on strike from Wednesday, April 2nd, through Thursday, April 3rd. Members of the union–at both UCSC and on other UC campuses–will be striking over management’s refusal to negotiate over mandatory topics of bargaining, and over the unlawful intimidation of student workers.

In the current round of contract negotiations, management has repeatedly mis-characterized issues such as TA/student ratios and non-discrimination protections as permissive bargaining subjects (i.e., issues which can be negotiated but for which management is not obligated to negotiate) in order to avoid bargaining responsibility. These issues directly affect working conditions, and management is in violation of labor law by not treating them as mandatory subjects of bargaining. In December, UC management’s lead negotiator asserted that the issue of TA/student ratios was not a mandatory subject of bargaining, and that she had no interest in negotiating over this issue. Labor law is clear: the ratio of students to teachers (like the ratio of patients to nurses) shapes employees’ workload, and is a mandatory subject of bargaining. At the same bargaining session, management insisted that the 18 quarter rule (which bars graduate students from receiving more than 18 quarters of teaching assignments) was merely a permissive subject of bargaining. But again, labor law is clear: management must negotiate over the terms of employment, including terms, such as the 18 quarter rule, that affect workers’ eligibility for rehire or that limit the duration of their eligibility for employment.

Recently, management has partially reversed their position and started conversations about TA/student ratios. However, substantive movement is yet to be seen, and the ULP remains unresolved.

Last fall, on a number of occasions, representatives of UC management unlawfully interfered with graduate student workers’ rights to take collective action. On October 29, approximately 50 student workers at UC Berkeley gathered to deliver a letter to Graduate Dean Szeri about their living and working conditions. When those assembled arrived at the Dean’s office, they were met with a locked door and a handful of police officers, who soon began filming those who gathered quietly outside of the Dean’s office. Labor law is very clear: it is unlawful for police officers working for employers to film protected activities undertaken by employees, such as delivering a letter. When police officers film employees, this has a chilling effect on the political activities of those filmed, who may fear retaliation on the job. The UC Student-Workers Union filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge with the Public Employee Relations Board about this incident and PERB issued an initial ruling stating that management’s alleged acts do constitute an unfair labor practice.

On November 20, UC student workers engaged in a one-day solidarity strike with service and health care workers represented by AFSCME 3299, who were striking to protest unlawful intimidation tactics enacted last spring by UC managers. In the days preceding the strike, management representatives sent misleading and intimidating emails to student workers in an attempt to discourage them from engaging in this protected collective action at a number of campuses. Management stated that the strike was unlawful, that student workers were responsible for avoiding “disruption” of classes, and that students’ employment or work visas could be forfeit if they were involved in the strike.

Finally, in the week preceding the planned AFSCME and UAW strike of the week of March 2, 2014, an administrator at UCSC threatened our members with retaliation if they participated in the upcoming strike activities. This is obviously illegal and the basis for a ULP that we have filed with PERB.

The strike will be all day from April 2nd through April 3rd. UAW members will not be performing their TA duties on Wednesday or Thursday. The right of UAW members to participate in this strike without interference or retaliation is legally protected.

We invite all faculty and instructors to be in solidarity with us for the duration of the strike. Specifically, we are asking that you

–Inform your students about the strike.

–Respect our picket line for the entire two days by canceling class.

–Do not penalize undergraduate students if they choose not to cross our picket line on those days. Students should not be dropped from the course roster if they do not attend class on those days because of the picket line or campus access difficulties.

–Pressure the UC Administration to stop intimidation of student workers.

We hope you will support us as we fight to protect the rights of our workers.

In solidarity,
UAW Organizing Committee

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