UC Berkeley lecturers’ union rallies for job security, living wages

Jenna Wong/Staff

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On Wednesday, about 100 people gathered on Sproul Plaza for a University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, rally to campaign for job security and a living wage.

In a press release, UC-AFT said the median salary for lecturers is $19,900 because so many of the positions are part-time. In comparison, the median salary of UC Berkeley professors for the 2018-19 school year was $201,700, according to a survey from the American Association of University Professors.

According to the press release, another difference between tenure-track faculty and lecturers is that lecturers have no job security; they often only find out in August whether they will have a job for the fall semester or not.

Marianne Kaletzky, a member of UC-AFT and a UC Berkeley lecturer, said the university does not provide her with health care because she is a lecturer. According to Kaletzky, the organization has been negotiating with the UC Office of the President to get a better employment contract that includes better pay equity, stability in appointments and more benefits.

“UC’s goal is a multi-year agreement that includes market-competitive pay, consistent with past years, and excellent benefits, and recognizes the significant contributions our lecturers make to UC’s education mission,” said UC spokesperson Sarah McBride in an email.

The UC-AFT labor choir also performed union songs at the rally. They began the rally with “We’re Gonna Roll the Union On” and ended with “We Shall Not Be Moved.” Rally attendees chanted, “Money for jobs and education, not for Chancellor Christ’s vacation” and held up signs that read, “May Day for Fair Pay” and “Faculty Equity = Student Success.”

At the rally, multiple lecturers expressed that they did not feel valued by the campus. Crystal Chang Cohen, a lecturer on campus and a member of UC-AFT, emphasized how much work lecturers do, saying that 40 percent of student credit hours are taught by lecturers and that UC Berkeley employs 1,000 lecturers. She added that one-third of these lecturers do not receive health benefits from the university.

Patrick Baur — another lecturer on campus and a member of United Auto Workers Local 5810, a union representing UC postdoctoral scholars — said during the rally that lecturers and other nontenured campus employees are being asked to do more work for less compensation.

“The people like us who do all this work are constantly, continuously being asked to do more for less,” Baur said during the rally. “More hours, more responsibilities, more clients, more students, but less pay, less benefits, less security, less respect, less opportunities to advance. That’s the common challenge we have to face.”

Many speakers at the rally also said the poor treatment of lecturers impacts students. Joanna Reed, a lecturer on campus and a member of UC-AFT, said students do not deserve a teacher who has to work two jobs or who is actively looking for another job.

ASUC President Alexander Wilfert, who also spoke at the rally, said the best classes he has taken on campus have been taught by lecturers and asked why lecturers need to ask to be “treated with values that a public university should always embody.”

“One important thing we’re fighting for is that lecturers want to do this work for their students,” said UC-AFT rally organizer Emily Rose. “We want to honor the classroom and students and teachers to make it sustainable for lecturers to not have to get second jobs.”

Contact Megha Krishnan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.