On Nov. 16, a provisional contract was drawn up between UC and UAW Local 2865, the union representing over 12,000 teaching assistants, readers and tutors at the university.
The vote to ratify the contract will take place at all nine UC teaching campuses from Nov. 29 through Dec. 2. If the majority of UAW Local 2865 members vote no, then UAW and UC return to the bargaining table.
Five UAW bargaining team members have written an open letter to the members of UAW 2865 Local urging them to vote against ratifying the contract. The proposed agreement is not a victory, but represents a significant failure by the union’s leadership, said the letter writers.
“The UAW leadership has bought into the UC story about how they can’t afford to provide us with any significant upgrades,” said Brian Malone, member of the UAW bargaining team and graduate student in literature at UC Santa Cruz.
This new contract stipulates a minimum annual salary increase of 2 percent and the promise of additional increases, with a maximum 4 percent increase per year, if the state gives UC more money than it did in 2007.
“This 2 percent increase in wages compared to the projected 3 percent inflation rate over the next three years is equivalent to us taking a pay cut,” Malone said.
Based on calculations made by UAW, an increase in teaching assistant wages from 2 to 4 percent would cost UC about $3 million systemwide.
“People that are organizing the vote no campaign are mainly concerned with the lack of change made in respect to wages,” said Molly Ball, graduate student in the English department at UC Davis and bargaining team member. “However, the improvements made in regards to childcare were a big win for us.”
A main point of contention during negotiations was the total annual amount of childcare expenses that an Academic Student Employee (ASE) may be reimbursed for, which was increased from $900 to $2,400 a year in the new contract. In addition, the childcare program was extended to include summer.
While this is an improvement from the past contract, this is still not enough money to cover the costs of childcare, Malone said.
“The UAW leadership aimed too low and they are walking away too early,” he said.
According to the UAW 2865 Local website, it would be an ineffective and unwise move to further prolong the contract campaign.
“While we respect the rights of individuals to advocate that we hold out for more, we believe that protracted escalation and a possible strike could undermine the gains we’ve already reached agreement on with UC and weaken public support for our contract,” UAW leadership said.
Despite disapproval from select UAW bargaining team members, it appears that both UAW leadership and UC are content with the new contract.
“We are very pleased to have reached what we believe is a fair agreement, and one that recognizes both the contributions our student employees make to UC’s teaching mission and the budgetary challenges we face,” said Peter Chester, UC’s chief negotiator for the contract.
Negotiations have been ongoing since June of this year and a number of UAW members are pleased to see significant improvements made in the contract.
“My impression is that this is the best contract we are going to get at this point,” Ball said.
Malone predicts the campaign will have difficulty passing on a majority of the northern campuses, particularly Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Davis.
“The UC has the money to provide the improvements we’re asking for,” Malone said. “The UAW leadership has failed to get what we deserve and what UC can afford to give us.”
The five members of the bargaining committee launched their vote no campaign on Monday and urge members of UAW 2865 Local to vote no on the tentative agreement as well as vote for a stronger UAW leadership in May 2011.
KATIE LEVERONI can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.