On Brink Of Statewide Strike, UAW Wins Unprecedented Victory

UC Student-Worker Union Wins Contract With Groundbreaking Civil Rights and Quality of Education Agreements

After nearly a week of bargaining late into the night as a third system-wide strike loomed, the 13,000 workers of the UC Student-Worker Union UAW 2865 reached a labor agreement with UC management yesterday at 7pm.  The agreement concludes a year of intense negotiations which traversed a deteriorating union management relationship involving 2 system-wide strikes and now 2 barely averted strikes.  The agreement for labor peace includes class size provisions new to the UCs as well as rights for undocumented students and for gender-neutral bathrooms that will set precedent for the labor movement nationwide.  The UC Student-Worker Union, which represents front line educators across the UC system, will vote on ratification over the next weeks.

Precedent Setting Agreement

The tentative agreement reached last night forms new terrain for student-workers and the labor movement more generally.  One unprecedented agreement creates a joint labor-management program to ensure equal academic and professional development experiences for non-DACA qualified undocumented graduate students as compared to their documented peers.  A second builds labor-management committees to protect a newly agreed upon right to gender-neutral bathrooms, a right that will be grievable in the new contract.  Finally, the UC and UAW agreed to labor-management committees designed to be able to track the ways teacher-student ratios are effecting the quality of UC education.

The contract includes significant progress for student-parents as well.  This includes expanding leaves from 4 paid weeks to 6 for birth parents (4 paid and 2 unpaid for non-birth parents) which makes possible a full 3 month benefitted maternity leave on quarter campuses.  Under previous agreements, many women felt pressured to take the quarters with no pay or benefits.  Student parents also will have their childcare subsidy increased 50%, from $600/quarter (900/semester) to $900/quarter (1350/semester).  Finally, access to lactation stations was guaranteed.

The UAW’s contract campaign aimed to close a nearly 20% wage gap between the UCs and competitor institutions which was identified by the Academic Senate as pushing qualified graduate students away from the UCs (see UAW report: tinyurl.com/towardsmediocrity) The 4 year agreement includes 16% (5,4,4 3) of raises that compounds to 17% which, after tracking changes in UC competitor wages over the life of the contract, will likely close over 1/3 of the competitiveness gap identified by the Academic Senate.

Deteriorating Relationship

Over the past year, the UAW-UC relationship evoked growing hostility including multiple Unfair Labor Practice charges over threats and intimidation to workers, two system-wide strikes, and two barely averted strike threats.  When the UAW demanded to bargain around the quality of education and civil rights issues recently settled, UC management initially unlawfully refused to bargain over these issues and then escalated its threats and intimidation against workers.  These resulted in the UAW filing over 8 Unfair Labor Practice charges (ULPs).  These charges described threats to international student visas, to UAW member’s future employment, docking excessive pay for strike participation, and arrests and discipline of legal picketers.

The ULPs were the basis for a 2 day strike in April and the 10 day finals week and grading strike that was scheduled to begin this upcoming Saturday, June 7.  The expired contract also resulted in a near strike at UCSC in March that resolved grievances over contracting out UAW represented labor and over excessive workload and its effect on quality of education.  The current agreement has the UC and UAW settling the ULPs that were the basis for the upcoming strike.