UC lecturers rally after contract expires

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The University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, Local 1474 staged a rally on the steps of Sproul Hall on Monday, as part of a statewide demonstration calling attention to the expiration of its contract.

After more than nine months of bargaining with the UC Office of the President, members of UC-AFT, the union representing non-Academic Senate faculty and librarians, gathered at various UC campuses after their contract expired Friday. During the rally, participants made calls for more full-time positions, improved job security, a fair and manageable workload and better compensation. About 200 people attended the rally.

“Our teaching conditions are student learning conditions,” said UC Berkeley lecturer Ben Brown during the rally. “We cannot teach effectively if every semester or every year we have to wonder, ‘Is this commitment going to lead to a career? Are we going to be here next year?’ We need security for our lecturers.”

During the demonstration, members of the UC-AFT labor choir led the crowd in song — chanting “solidarity forever, for the union makes us strong.”

Many of those in attendance were UC Berkeley students who came out in support of the lecturers.

“As students, we’re the number one client of the university,” said campus senior Sheyda Khonji, who attended the rally representing United Students Against Sweatshops. “That puts us in the unique position of really having the privilege to be able to challenge the working conditions that the university puts its workers under.”

Currently, lecturers teach 42% of all student credit hours at UC Berkeley and 30% of total credit hours in the UC system, according to a UC-AFT press release — yet union members allege that lecturers often face a lack of job security, low pay and insufficient benefits.

In 2018, the median income for a UC lecturer was about $19,900 per year, according to the UC-AFT press release. Lecturers’ contracts are renewed annually, which jeopardizes job security for many as they can be let go on a quarterly, semesterly or annual basis.

Negotiations have been ongoing since April 2019, but a resolution had still not been reached by the time UC-AFT’s contract expired. Faculty have been working without a contract ever since.

UC-AFT has submitted more than 30 articles to be negotiated with the UC systemincluding proposals for paid family leave and providing compensation for work done outside of regular hours.

The UC system, however, alleged in an email to UC-AFT members that they have not received any proposals on compensation or any other topic of interest from the union.

“It’s disappointing that UC’s negotiators don’t seem interested in making changes that will better support and strengthen undergraduate education,” said Tiffany Page, campus lecturer and member of the UC-AFT table team, in the UC-AFT press release. “These changes would enable Lecturers to have sufficient time to prep their classes, develop on-going mentoring relationships with students, and be available to write letters of recommendation or serve as references for students after the semester has ended.”

The campus Academic Senate also expressed its support for UC-AFT, urging the UC system to “recognize, respect and reward” the contributions that lecturers make on campus.

On Friday, the day of the contract’s expiration, the UC system sent an email to UC-AFT members offering annual compensation increases spanning the next five years.

“After nine months of bargaining, we are very disappointed that we aren’t closer to an agreement that recognizes the important contributions you and your colleagues make to UC’s teaching mission,” said Peter Chester, executive director of UC Systemwide Labor Relations, in the email.“We believe you deserve to vote on our offer, and to be fairly recognized and compensated for the contributions you make to the University and our students.”

According to Page, future negotiation dates have yet to be set, although they are expected.

Contact Jake Souza at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @jsouza_dailycal.