UC lecturers push for job security in contract negotiations

Ben Klein/File

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Faculty from UC campuses across the state pushed for greater job stability in negotiations between the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, and the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, at UC Berkeley on Wednesday.

Students and non-Academic Senate faculty from UC Berkeley crowded into a meeting room in University Hall on Wednesday to watch UC-AFT — the union representing UC nonsenate faculty — bargain with the UCOP. At noon, UC-AFT members left the hall to host a rally outside, which was attended by faculty from several UC schools, as well as members of the Teamsters union — one of the largest labor unions in North America — and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which is currently in a labor dispute with the university.

Union officials say job security for lecturers is lacking, with few protections for faculty members’ jobs before their 12th semester teaching. Officials also say more support is needed for faculty over summer sessions.

“Right now, the university refuses to make an investment in its teaching faculty, and wants the flexibility to let us go whenever they want, to swap us out with other faculty members and generally to deprive students of stability and mentorship that they need to succeed,” said UC-AFT President Mia McIver. “In our current contract, the university basically refuses to make any commitment to retain faculty beyond one semester or one year.”

According to McIver, UC faculty won protections against termination from UCOP after a strike in 2003. Those protections, however, only extended to faculty who have taught for six years or longer at UC. For faculty who have not reached this level of seniority — often referred to as “pre-six” faculty — there is little protection or security, UC-AFT claims. During Wednesday’s negotiations, the union pushed for further restrictions on the elimination of pre-six faculty.

UC-AFT is also pushing for more support from the university over the summer sessions, during which faculty are often paid considerably less than during the academic year, according to UC-AFT officials.

“We want summer sessions teaching to be treated as similarly to teaching in the academic year as possible,” McIver said. “It’s the same classes, it’s many of the same students in a more hectic and compressed time frame, so there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t count or service credit towards a continuing appointment. There’s no reason we should be paid less during the summer than we are during the academic year, and there’s no way we should be at a disadvantage when it comes to health and retirement benefits.”

UC-AFT brought up many of these concerns in the negotiations meeting on Wednesday, and many of these issues were preliminarily addressed by an initial contract proposal the union put forth at the meeting. These negotiations followed June 4’s negotiations at UC Riverside, during which the union pushed for instructional resources and increased access to professional development funding, according to the UC-AFT website.

The next negotiations meeting will be held at UC San Diego in July, and negotiations will return to Berkeley in September.

“We are working hard to reach a long-term contract that fairly recognizes the important role our lecturers play in supporting UC’s academic mission, while also considering UC’s many competing priorities,” said UCOP spokesperson Elisa Smith in an email.

Ben Klein is an assistant news editor. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @BenKlein_dc.