UC Berkeley librarians hold protest amid contract negotiations

Jenna Wong/Staff

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About 60 to 70 people gathered outside of Doe Library on Wednesday to show their support for UC librarians, who are being represented by the University Council-AFT, or UC-AFT, in their contract negotiations with the UC Office of the President, or UCOP.

Negotiations have been taking place since April of last year. The 16th bargaining session took place on campus Wednesday with nine librarians — two of whom work on campus — and 17 people from UCOP management, according to campus environmental design librarian David Eifler, who is part of the negotiating team.

“It is absolutely unconscionable that the UC hasn’t come up with a fair contract even after a year,” said Dominick Lawton, head steward of United Auto Workers 2865, the local student-workers union. “There is one way in which it really is our UC. … Without all of our labor, this system does not function.”

According to Eifler, the UC-AFT’s priorities include salaries, funding for professional development and academic freedom, as well as an end to the current overreliance on temporary employees. The UCOP said it is focused on fair pay, quality health care, continued retirement benefits and a multiyear contract that ensures stability, while also “carefully consider(ing) the university’s multiple budget priorities and long term financial health,” Eifler said in an email.

Members of labor unions and campus groups, including the campus American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the American Association of University Professors and the Berkeley Faculty Association attended the rally in solidarity.

The Oakland Education Association, or OEA, which organized the recent teacher strikes earlier this month, also attended.

“As an educator in Oakland public schools, I have benefitted from having student support through librarians,” said Keith Brown, president of the OEA.The movement to support public education is not limited to K-12.”

Attendees of the rally held signs, including ones that read “Throw a book at UCOP” and “Academic freedom for all,” and chanted slogans such as “UC for All” and “When we fight, we win.”

Eifler said working with students is “absolutely the most important part” of his job. Kendra Levine, a librarian at the campus Institute of Transportation Studies Library, added that librarians make information more readily accessible for students and faculty on campus. She hopes that negotiators are able to agree on a fair contract so “that librarians can afford to work” on UC campuses.

The next negotiation meeting is March 20 on the UCLA campus. Eifler said he is “cautiously optimistic” that a deal will be agreed upon in the near future, and similar sentiments were expressed by UCOP in an email.

Contact Katherine Finman at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.