Student workers union reaches tentative agreement on gender-neutral restrooms, lactation stations

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The University of California and a student worker union reached a tentative agreement on key contract issues, including increased access to gender-neutral bathrooms and lactation stations, in a series of bargaining sessions in April.

The United Auto Workers Local 2865 represents more than 13,000 GSIs, readers and both graduate and undergraduate tutors across the UC system. According to the UC Office of the President, this agreement will ensure student workers, upon employment, have access to the restrooms and lactation stations they need on a case-by-case basis.

Such adjustments could include assigning a student worker’s classroom to a specific building that houses facilities that accommodate his or her needs. There will not be an additional construction of facilities, but single-stall restrooms will be redesignated as nongendered.

There are currently 17 gender-neutral bathrooms on campus, according to the Gender Equity Resource Center.

“The UC and UC Berkeley in particular have a reputation of being really queer friendly, and the fact that we have so few gender-neutral bathrooms doesn’t support that idea about Berkeley,” said Emma Silverman, a graduate student and current head steward of the union.

GenEq has constructed a map of single-stall restrooms so people who feel uncomfortable using gendered restrooms can locate alternative environments without harassment or “policing.”

“Whether they call them gender neutral or not is irrelevant, as long as there is not another person in there to tell them, for instance, ‘You’re in the wrong restroom,’ ” said Billy Curtis, executive director of Multicultural, Sexuality and Gender Centers on campus.

Student-worker mothers have also decried a lack of access to necessary facilities with only eight lactation rooms available to student parents and an additional six facilities that restrict access to occupants of the specific buildings.

UC Berkeley fifth-year Briana Starks, a mother of three, has trouble fitting in time to pump breast milk because she has to walk across campus to find one of the few lactation stations.

“I tried to schedule classes with breaks in between, but all of my breaks were spent hiking to a pumping station then running back to class,” Starks said. “It was kind of hard, but if you want to breastfeed, then it’s the only way to get it done if you are in school.”

Alternatives for breast-feeding mothers include pumping or breastfeeding in restrooms, which is not particularly sanitary, or in other public spaces.

Additional groups that have expressed support for gender-neutral, single-stall restrooms include people with disabilities, who may have a caretaker of another gender, Silverman said.

The university and UAW 2865 are still negotiating over the contract and must reach a tentative agreement before the expansion of these facilities takes effect.

 

Contact Taryn Smith at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @tarynshelby.

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