UC lecturers call on UC President Michael Drake for job security

Photo of UC-AFT Statewide Bike/Car Caravan Action to Welcome President Drake
Crystal Chang Cohen and Emily Rose/Courtesy
University Council-American Federation of Teachers is focusing on securing "rehiring rights," which encourage preserving lecturer continuity across multiple years, for UC lecturers.

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University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, a union representing UC lecturers and librarians, hosted a caravan rally Monday to welcome UC President Michael Drake in hopes of pushing him to support UC lecturers in ongoing contract negotiations with the university.

Rallies were held across all UC campuses, with their chief objectives being to obtain job security for lecturers as well as to open the door for further negotiations down the road. Lecturers are teaching specialists who are not eligible for tenure and teach more than one-third of the credit courses in the UC system. The median annual salary for lecturers in 2018 was $20,255, and more than 30% are excluded from health insurance and other benefits, according to UC-AFT Vice President for Organizing Daniel Schoorl.

“The general idea is to not forget us,” said UCLA lecturer Caroline Luce. “(We are) calling on all campus administrators that we can who might have Drake’s ear.”

The union has been in negotiations with the university for 14 months, Luce added. She said the union had made encouraging progress before running into hurdles with the UC Office of the President due to the budgetary uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, the union tabled its demands concerning wages and benefits, focusing solely on two aspects of job security.

The first is “rehiring rights,” which means lecturers who had previously taught a course at the university would be considered before other lecturers applying for the position. The union is also focusing on multiyear contracts: If a lecturer on a one-year contract is determined to have done well, they would be eligible for a two-year contract and subsequently a three-year contract.

These measures support instructional continuity, which is important for many students who see lecturers as mentors and depend on them for access to opportunities and guidance, according to Luce.

“We are viewed primarily as a “flexible” labor source, useful for containing ever-growing instructional costs and increased class size,” alleged a letter read during the UC Berkeley rally by campus lecturer and union member Crystal Chang Cohen. “To the students that we all teach, however, we are a crucial part of their undergraduate experiences.”

Because lecturers are paid on a class-by-class basis, they are also responsible for a large amount of unpaid labor, such as writing recommendations, serving on curriculum committees and helping students with DeCal courses, Chang Cohen said.

She added that lecturers were not compensated for the time-consuming and “really challenging” logistical work of transitioning to remote learning.

“All UC workers deserve dignity and respect,” Luce said. “We know that the UC has some tough choices to make as we head into what will likely be a budget crisis, but we’re really encouraging decision-makers at every level … to take seriously the essential service that public education is to the state of California.”

Contact Annika Rao at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @annikyr.