UC community must show up for lecturers, support fair contract

UNIVERSITY AFFAIRS: UC lecturers have continued to show up for students. It’s time for students to show up for them.

Illustration of a lecturer climbing a ladder supported by students
Rachel Lee/Staff

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If professors are the brain of the UC system, lecturers are the heart and lungs. Yet, the essential work of UC lecturers remains undervalued and unprotected. UC lecturers instruct 42% of all credit hours and perform unquantifiable amounts of unpaid labor outside of their job description. 

But they have been contractless for more than two years, and the UC administration continues to drag its feet in negotiations. Despite this, UC lecturers have continued to show up for students. It’s time for students to show up for them.

The University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, entered negotiations with three key objectives: reasonable workload standards that eliminate uncompensated labor, a transparent and consistent appointment process and improved wages and benefits. With these demands met, UC lecturers would benefit from job security, a stable health care plan and the ability to afford living near their campuses. 

Some UC lecturers have been teaching for more than a decade, yet have no protections from layoffs and are forced to reapply for their jobs year after year. In the past, UC management has leveraged wage increases against job security. However, UC-AFT emphasizes that without a fair appointment process, increased wages are all but meaningless — many lecturers will be let go before these benefits accrue. The priority of UC-AFT is to secure longer contracts that promise heightened job security. 

Students often don’t even see a functional difference between lecturers and professors. This speaks volumes to the injustice lecturers face under UC management. Lecturers are expected to perform the same role as professors, yet do not experience the same guarantees of future employment. 

Other members of the campus community have the ability to effectively plan months and years in advance — students can sign leases without the fear of losing their seat at UC Berkeley and tenured faculty can lay down roots in the area without worrying about their future income or health care. UC-AFT is advocating for changes that will allow lecturers the same stability that other members of the campus community experience; the campus community has an obligation to support such advocacy. 

Lecturers who have not yet joined UC-AFT should get involved now and sign on to the strike pledge. Undergraduate students should reach out to the administrative faculty in charge of hiring and firing and advocate on behalf of their lecturers. 

Any and all community members should also sign the UC community petition, which tells UC administrators that undergraduate students recognize the importance of lecturers and support their fight for fair working conditions. Finally, department chairs and tenured senate faculty should push for systematic change that benefits the lecturers they hired.

The pandemic has introduced a degree of uncertainty into almost everybody’s life, but UC lecturers have been living under uncertainty for far too long. The best way for the campus community to show appreciation for lecturers is to stand up in support of a fair contract. The campus community owes this to its lecturers.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the summer 2021 opinion editor, Sarah Siegel.