UC-AFT lecturers vote to authorize strike for better pay

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Yukun Zhang/Staff
The University Council-American Federation of Teachers voted to authorize a strike for UC lecturers, citing reasons such as high turnover rates and poor compensation for lecturers' work.

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The University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, voted to authorize a potential strike for increased job security and pay for UC lecturers June 2.

About 96% of the union voted in favor of the strike, according to Ben Brown, a UC Berkeley representative for UC-AFT. Brown said the vote does not guarantee that a strike will take place but that it demonstrates solidarity within the union for the lecturers’ demands.

“The strike vote exceeded the number of people who had pledged to say yes,” Brown said. “That’s a strong indication to me, as part of the bargaining team, that we are taking positions that our union supports.”

In a resolution passed by UC-AFT, UC lecturers cite high turnover rates, poor compensation and unpaid labor in their grievances with the UC system.

The resolution highlights the “part-time” nature of lecturers’ jobs, in which they claim to receive little to no benefits. Additionally, Brown noted that lecturers who had been employed for less than 12 semesters or 18 quarters could be inexplicably released from their contracts, which he called a detriment to students.

“It is hard when students try to contact their favorite lecturer to write them a letter of recommendation, be their faculty sponsor for a Decal, or serve as a thesis advisor, only to find out that that person has not been rehired,” said Crystal Chang Cohen, a board member of UC-AFT’s Bay Area chapter, in an email.

According to Mia McIver, president of UC-AFT, the UC system pays lecturers an annual median salary of $19,067. McIver said the union is negotiating for a raise above the median salary.

UC-AFT is also looking for the UC system to recognize additional labor that lecturers may provide such as counseling and writing letters of recommendation for students. 

Negotiations between UC-AFT and the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, have been ongoing since January 2019.

“In the latest round of negotiations, UC made significant movement toward compromises with union leaders on key union priorities including compensation, appointments, and leave policy,” a statement released by UCOP reads. “The University remains hopeful that we can reach an agreement as we continue to bargain with UC-AFT.”

Although UCOP will be offering a 1.2% raise to lecturers in 2022 and a 2% raise from 2023 to 2025, Brown said he believed UCOP’s negotiations were “insufficient.”

Both Brown and McIver mentioned that a 3% raise for all UC employees had not been extended to include lecturers.

“A strike would be a short-term sacrifice for long-term significant improvements in faculty working conditions and student learning conditions,” McIver said in an email. “We are on the students’ side and are fighting so that our students get the best possible education.”

Contact Kavya Gupta and Lianna Leung at [email protected].