Union petition seeks to change SLC tutor compensation policy

Kay Yang/Staff
Student tutors help their peers prepare for finals at the Student Learning Center on campus. Recently, a group of students has signed a petition to the campus to receive pay in their first semester of tutoring, which the center currently refers to as a training period.

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About 200 people have signed a petition calling for the campus to allocate more funds to the Student Learning Center and pay its tutors regardless of the time they have spent working at the center.

UAW 2865, a union representing UC student workers, put forth a petition on April 17 drafted by SLC tutors seeking to alter the SLC policy toward compensation, which dictates that a tutor’s first semester of work is unpaid.

“The university isn’t going to be compelled to pay people unless there is pressure from the community to do so,” said Munira Lokhandwala, a head steward of the union’s UC Berkeley unit. “It’s about people who use and understand the value of the center wanting the people who work there to get paid for the work that they do.”

During their first semester, tutors at the center complete job training and work for class credit instead of payment. After their first semester, they have the opportunity to be hired for pay going forward.

According to Lokhandwala, this system breaches the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the university.

“The university has just figured out a way to categorize them as not being workers,” Lokhandwala said. “It’s an indirect violation of the contract we have. They’re denying that the tutors being hired for credit are working.”

Tutors at the center who asked to remain anonymous to protect their positions said that they were led to believe they would be considered for paid positions during interviews but that they later found out that class credit for education courses was the only option available.

According to the tutors, the center refers to their unpaid first semester as a “training seminar” despite the fact that the tutors receive little to no instruction and have the same tutoring responsibilities as their paid counterparts.

“The center is trying to frame it as training, but it’s not,” said one of tutors who also contributed to the petition. “We’re doing the exact same work, and we’re not receiving training. Lots of people have previous tutoring experience, and they’re still required to take this course.”

UAW 2865 filed a grievance in February against the SLC regarding tutor pay that was declined by the university. The grievance is currently pending third-party arbitration, according to Lokhandwala.

Both the UC Berkeley administration and the SLC declined to comment for this article.

The center’s tutor payment process is different from those of academic centers at other UC campuses.

According to Dan Givens, a program administrator at UC Santa Barbara’s Campus Learning Assistance Services center, tutors at that center start tutoring lower-level classes for pay in their first semester and progressively build up to tougher material instead of having an unpaid apprenticeship period.

The petition contributors said their appeal is not meant to be confrontational and that they would like to work with the center rather than against it.

“The administration is not recognizing our academic labor,” commented another contributor to the petition. “Right now, we’re just trying to build up attention on campus.”

Contact Claire Chiara at [email protected].