United Auto Works 2865, the union representing over 12,000 Academic Student Employees (ASE) including teaching assistants, tutors and readers throughout the UC system, met with the UC’s bargaining committee in Los Angeles on Oct. 14 and 15 to exchange contract proposals.
After two days of swapping contract proposals, UAW and UC reached no agreement. The current contract has since been extended until Oct. 29. Appointment notifications, childcare reimbursement and wages were among the main points of contention in the contract debates.
“The things we are asking for would benefit more people than just those covered by the contract,” said Molly Ball, union representative for UC Davis and graduate student in the English department.
Union members stress how integral their jobs are in maintaining the high quality of education provided by the UC system.
There was little movement made on either side, particularly in reference to increased childcare reimbursement for ASEs. Based on calculations made by the UAW 2865 members, the improvements in childcare they are requesting would cost the UC system $75,000 to fund.
“A number of the things we are asking for wouldn’t cost much money at all,” said Brian Malone, union representative for UC Santa Cruz.
Leslie Sepuka, media representative with the UC Office of the President, said UC intends to work toward a satisfactory contract.
“UC’s objective is to reach a multiyear agreement that recognizes the contributions Academic Student Employees make to UC’s teaching mission, funds graduate student education and reflects the budgetary challenges the University has to face,” she said in an e-mail interview.
The union and the university have been engaged in successor negotiations for UAW 2865’s sixth contract since May.
ASEs are unhappy with the current contract articles regarding appointment notifications for class assignments. While there is a degree of job uncertainty that goes along with being an ASE, union members are striving for appointment notification 45 days before the start of the quarter. Currently the contracts require 30 days notice before the start of the quarter.
“It’s not so much about strictly adhering to a number of days, it’s more about departments not waiting until the last minute,” Ball said.
ASEs need sufficient time to prepare for the classes they will be teaching in order to provide the best possible undergraduate education, Ball said. Appointment notifications vary among departments and there are many where it is not an issue.
Although they recognize the UC budget is stretched thin, union members believe wage increases are key in maintaining the high standard of individuals employed by the UC.
“The UC needs to offer the kind of wages that will continue to attract really high caliber people,” Ball said.
The recently approved state budget, which will give $305 million to the UC system, gives hope to ASEs, Ball said. With this increase in the budget there is more money to meet their demands regarding childcare and wage increases.
“Our wages haven’t kept pace with increasing costs of living and inflation over the past few years,” Malone said.
Union members feel the work they contribute to the UC is underappreciated and this is reflected in their wages.
While a new contract failed to materialize during the negotiations in Los Angeles, the UAW 2865 union members remain confident that eventually a contract that satisfies both the UC Board of Regents and the union members will transpire.
During the protest on Oct. 7, the ASEs discussed the possibility of a strike on Nov. 1 if they do not come out of Los Angeles with contracts.
Union representatives will meet once again with the UC bargaining committee on Oct. 27.
KATIE LEVERONI can be reached at email@example.com.