UC, academic workers union commence unfair labor practices hearing

Photo of a COLA protest
Sunny Shen/File
The first Public Employment Relations Board hearing concerning charges filed by the United Automobile Workers Local 2865 union and the UC system against each other took place Tuesday. The next hearing is scheduled to take place Jan. 4.

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United Automobile Workers, or UAW, Local 2865 union members and UC administrators convened Tuesday for the first Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, hearing addressing unfair labor practice charges filed against each other.

UAW Local 2865, the union representing 19,000 academic workers across all UC campuses, filed an unfair labor practice charge against the university for its allegedly illegal actions circumventing the union and directly bargaining with workers in response to the UC Santa Cruz wildcat strike, according to UAW Local 2865 President Kavitha Iyengar.

“It’s really important that we have a real say in our working conditions, and that’s what we get in our union,” Iyengar said. “We need to continue to hold the university accountable and improve all of our livelihoods.”

The university also filed an unfair labor practice charge against UAW Local 2865 for allegedly failing to stop the strikes at UC Santa Cruz and other “unsanctioned activities,” including withholding grades and refusing to teach sections, according to UC Office of the President spokesperson Ryan King.

During the hearing, PERB, a quasi-judicial agency responsible for overseeing California’s collective bargaining laws relating to public sector employers, heard introductory arguments, and the university called its chief negotiator, Nadine Fishel, as a witness, according to Iyengar.

“Our primary purpose really is to foster harmonious labor relations between the public employees and the public employers,” PERB General Counsel Felix De La Torre said. “We emphasize having them settle their own differences in a mediation.”

At the next hearing, which will take place Jan. 4, more witnesses will be called on behalf of the university and, potentially, from the union as well, said Iyengar.

Iyengar added, however, that the union hopes the university will agree to a settlement before then. King said in an email that the university is “deeply committed” to listening to the concerns of graduate students and resolving the “complex challenges.”

“The recent hearing of the Public Employment Relations Board provided the opportunity for UC and UAW 2865 to register their case and move forward with ensuring the two sides uphold their legal obligations under the contract,” King added in the email. “We look forward to a swift resolution to the case so that our graduate students may continue in their vital work on behalf of UC.”

Iyengar also emphasized the difficulty of living with “astronomical increases” in housing costs and alleged that the university has neglected to address this crisis.

Conversely, King said the current contract with UAW Local 2865 includes “excellent” benefits, such as child care and increased wages.

“Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions,” Iyengar said. “We want to have really quality public education at the University of California, and that takes good working conditions for the GSIs.”

Contact Serene Chang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_serenechang .