This story was updated 4/20/23 to include UC Berkeley’s decision to reject the union’s “final” offer.
Weeks of bargaining on wages, fee remissions and hiring levels for academic student employees, or ASEs, in EECS and data science courses have pushed the ASEs’ labor union to put forth its “last,” “best” and “final” contract offer to UC Berkeley.
UAW 2865, the union representing ASEs, entered negotiations with campus on fee remission and hiring levels for course staff in campus electrical engineering and computer sciences, or EECS, and data science courses in mid-February.
Since their start, campus and the union have bargained through deep-cutting disagreements on wages and benefits, a looming budgetary crisis, pushes for mediation, claims of course staff overwork and campus concerns that union bargainers may not have accurately represented the wishes of the hundreds of EECS and data science ASEs at the bargaining table.
But Friday, the union set forth what it calls its “last,” “best” and “final” offer on wages, fee remissions and hiring levels. It accompanies a letter addressed to the campus bargaining team — signed by more than 300 undergraduate and graduate ASEs across approximately 30 different EECS and data science courses.
However, during the Friday bargaining session, associate teaching professor John DeNero said he could not accept the offer at the time, as it falls outside of prescribed budgetary parameters. Multiple members of the campus bargaining team, however, thanked ASEs for their efforts in compiling the offer.
The supposal details three different positions for undergraduate ASEs in EECS and data science: undergraduate course staff, or UCS, 1, 2 and 3. UCS2s and UCS3s would see their tuition and fees remitted between 40% and 100%, depending on the number of hours they work. UCS1s would be paid hourly. UCS2s and UCS3s, however, would be salaried at the level of campus teaching assistants with planned wage increases of 7.5% in October 2023 and 2024.
The supposal would also obligate campus to increase staff hours by 15% per enrollment from 2022-23 hiring levels, except in some urgent circumstances.
While the union’s offer may not currently fit into campus’s budgetary parameters, ASEs’ labor contract, ratified late last year, entitles about 350 undergraduate ASEs in EECS and data science to 100% remission of tuition and fees.
“Never before in the history of our union have workers agreed to give up so much of their hard-won rights. But our students are suffering, and if this is what it takes to bring them relief, we are willing to do it,” the ASEs’ letter alleged.
The letter added that if campus “attempts to implement an instructional model of extreme austerity,” EECS and data science ASEs will file grievances on claims of overwork and alleged employer misconduct.
The supposal will be discussed by department chairs, deans, provosts and interested EECS and data science faculty, according to associate teaching professor Josh Hug. Given that the union’s offer does not fall within certain parameters, DeNero could not accept the offer unless it received “explicit approval,” Hug added.
UC Berkeley rejected UAW 2865’s so-called “last,” “best” and “final” offer on staffing levels, fee remission and wages for EECS and data science course staffers, according to a YouTube video posted by DeNero on April 18.
Parties are slated to meet on April 20 with potential mediators, who could facilitate the bargaining process going forward, according to Gilmore. Gilmore added that campus will propose a counteroffer to the union April 21.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.