UC Student-Workers Union, UCOP begin negotiations for new employment contract

Bowen Xiao/File
Members of UAW Local 2865, a union representing student-workers, protest in June 2013 amid contract negotiations with the University of California. Members of sister union UAW Local 5810, which represents postdoctoral researchers, recently voted to authorize their bargaining team to call for a strike amid an alleged delay in the bargaining process with UC administrators.

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The UC Student-Workers Union, or UAW Local 2865, began negotiations for a new employment contract with representatives from the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, at the union’s statewide office in Berkeley on Wednesday.

UAW Local 2865’s demands include higher wages, affordable housing, adequate healthcare, establishment of UC sanctuary campuses, an end to police brutality and lower student-to-teacher ratios, among others, according to the union’s initial bargaining goals.

“Our goals are all equally important,” said Kyle Galindez, recording secretary for the UC Santa Cruz chapter of UAW Local 2865. “We are a social justice union, so we fight for things like higher wages and affordable housing, but we also work for social justice issues. We want the university to commit to socially responsible investments.”

The current employment contract for UC student workers will expire June 30. Negotiations will occur every few weeks at different UC campuses until the union and UCOP reach an agreement, according to a press release.

The contract applies to all readers, graduate student instructors, tutors, undergraduate student instructors and teaching assistants at all nine UC campuses, UAW Local 2865 Northern Vice President Erin Greer said in an email.

According to Greer and Galindez, UAW Local 2865 is demanding a “UC for all.”

“Our plan is to reimagine the future of education by demanding a diverse and equitable workplace, safe working conditions and social justice for the community,” Galindez said.

He added that many UC students and faculty attended the first negotiation meeting to support the student workers.

“We have had a very good turnout,” Galindez said. “There’s a lot of students here in support, both undergraduate and graduate students, and there has also been support from faculty and postdocs as well.”

According to UCOP spokesperson Stephanie Beechem, the university was in contact with the union regarding possible topics of discussion prior to the first negotiation meeting.

“Our goal is to reach a multi-year agreement that recognizes the significant contributions academic student employees make to UC with competitive pay, family-friendly benefits, a safe workplace and good working conditions,” Beechem said in an email. “We’ll be working hard to negotiate a fair agreement as quickly as possible.”

The length of the contract will be determined during negotiations, according to Greer. The current contract is four years long, but the length of the new contract could be different.

Greer added that at the UAW Local 2865 and the UC’s last round of contract negotiations, the union made many breakthroughs, including establishing the right for employees to access gender-neutral restrooms near their workplaces.

“We are dreaming even bigger this time,” Greer said in an email. “If we achieve our goals, the UC will truly be a more inclusive institution.”

Contact Amanda Yao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AmandaJYao.