The UC UAW Disability Justice Committee has demanded the University of California create a safe and healthy workplace as they negotiate on disability articles for academic workers.
In their negotiations, UC UAW 2865, UAW 5810 and SRU-UAW have demanded the University of California meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, according to co-founder of the UAW Disability Justice Committee Heather Ringo.
“Workers need to get their needs met if we want to fulfill the university’s mission of being a diverse and equitable and inclusive place,” Ringo said.
The unions have fought for the removal of “prohibitive” and “exhausting” medical documentation processes for various accommodations, according to Ringo. The unions have demanded supervisor training to prevent discrimination of disabled people and ensure employers are aware of their obligations under the ADA. According to Ringo, this supervisor training was struck down in UAW 2865 negotiations with the UC.
Without these accommodations and requests, Ringo claimed, many disabled workers are unable to do their job.
According to Ringo, UAW 5810 got rid of access needs and reasonable accommodations in their tentative agreement with the UC. The only accommodation kept was temporary work adjustments, Ringo added. This is where the UC grants disabled people access needs without the required documentation as long as they are working to get the documentation, Ringo said.
“This is a health and safety issue, but it is also a democracy issue, this kind of question of past practice of setting this precedent of forcing us into conditions that are insufficient, the safety is a concerning one,” said UAW 2865 member Mary Jirmanus Saba.
Ringo said this process has been heartwarming as some undergraduate students have sent messages of support for those on the picket line.
Though the union is advocating for the rights of workers, Ringo is hopeful the benefits workers receive will trickle down to all people on campus, including undergraduates and faculty. Ringo said that, in 2014, the union fought for gender-neutral bathrooms for staff, and now gender-neutral bathrooms are offered across UC campuses for everyone.
“The disability community is vibrant and I think that rallying around these demands has put us into conversation and into community in ways that we hadn’t been before and that has been energizing, uplifting and extremely crucial in a time where disabled people are continuously treated as disposable,” Ringo said.