United Auto Workers, or UAW, Local 2865 — the union that represents UC graduate student instructors, teaching assistants, readers and tutors — filed unfair labor practice charges against the UC system Feb. 27 and March 2, after weeks of systemwide protests in support of a cost of living adjustment, or COLA.
The files allege that UC administration has refused to bargain with the union, that it has tried to engage in “unlawful” bargaining with student employees and nonunion organizations that lack the legal authority to contractually bargain and that students have become extremely rent-burdened with rising housing costs. The files also cite the recent dismissal of 54 UC Santa Cruz, or UCSC, graduate student strikers who were fired Feb. 28 in the second set of charges.
“The Union has asked for months for UC to sit down and bargain a cost of living increase for the University’s hard-working student employees, most of whom are rent-burdened and experiencing acute economic hardship,” said UAW Local 2865 President Kavitha Iyengar in a press release.
The UC Office of the President, or UCOP, however, maintains that the strikes “negatively impact” undergraduates and “violate” the current contract that the union holds with UC administration, according to UCOP spokesperson Andrew Gordon.
The UC system filed its own unfair labor practice charge against UAW Local 2865 on Feb. 24 after graduate students withheld grades in protest for a COLA at UCSC and for their failure to end the strikes by Feb. 21, a deadline set by UC President Janet Napolitano. According to Iyengar, the UC system’s filing was the impetus for the union to file its own unfair labor practice charges against the university.
“The University of California values our graduate students, including those who are academic student employees,” Gordon said in an email. “However, that mission is in jeopardy when teaching assistants represented by the United Auto Workers (UAW) refuse to fulfill their teaching obligations by withholding grades and not teaching classes.”
Gordon also said the UC system considers the current contract UAW Local 2865 to address numerous issues through the inclusion of annual wage increases, remissions of health care premiums, child care subsidies and tuition waivers. He added that UC administration has been planning initiatives to create new student housing priced below market rates.
According to Iyengar, UAW Local 2865’s bargaining team is meeting this week to discuss future events and legal options, including a potential sanctioned strike. The team consists of two representatives — the union chair and the recording secretary — from each teaching campus.
Iyengar added that the goal of the union’s unfair labor practice charge against the UC system is to reopen bargaining with UCOP and to reinstate the 54 fired graduate student workers from UCSC.
“We are fighting hard for a #Cola4All – a cost of living adjustment that will provide meaningful economic relief to workers,” Iyengar said in a press release. “We will keep organizing, keep holding actions, and keep speaking up until all of us are paid fairly for our work.”