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Saturday, April 13, 2024

UC Student Workers Union presents demands at bargaining session

Since the previously scheduled bargaining session was cancelled by UC Management, the UC Student Workers Union (UAW Local 2865) at Davis has anticipated having another opportunity to be heard.

UAW 2865 represents over 12,000 academic student employees at the nine UC campuses and serves to defend public education and protect workers’ rights.

Feb. 10 and 11 marked the official bargaining session at the University. Both days’ events included testimonies from graduate students, teaching assistants and supporters who directly shared their experiences to the UC Management Team. They expressed the difficulties of working and learning under current conditions in hopes of informing management the reality of student workers’ lives.

“Our main goal is to provide a space where our members and students can engage in the process and have a democratic voice in the process,” said Caroline McKusick, executive board member of UC Student Workers Union and a PhD student in anthropology.

Undergraduates, ASUCD Senators, graduate students, teaching assistants and research assistants were present at the session to address contract demands, fighting for gender-neutral restrooms, affordable housing, higher wages, reduced class sizes, childcare, Graduate Student Health Insurance Plan, improved leaves, job security and equal opportunity for immigrant student workers.

Amongst those who testified, Hannah Kagan-Moore, a first-year art history graduate student, expressed her concerns of having to compromise quality of education to avoid violating union rules.

While working two jobs in addition to her teacher’s assistant role and being a full time student herself, rising class sizes make it more difficult to schedule hours with her students.

“When I’m grading a class of 50 students, I cannot give them sufficient feedback without automatically going over my hours,” Kagan-Moore said. “Not only is this a problem for TAs; this really negatively impacts the quality of education for undergraduates here.”

Annie Marino, a second-year Ph.D. student in history, pushed for October pay to allow TA compensation before the current Nov. 1 pay date. Living month-to-month has prevented her as well as many other TAs from being able to put away savings, often forcing them to borrow loans until the first pay.

“We’re in a position to go into debt for our own research for the very thing that the University offered full funding to do, to go into debt and also to work a job that the University relies upon itself,” Marino said.

A Children’s March into the bargaining room also took place on Feb. 10 for student-families demanding support for parents and affordable housing. Many are soon to be displaced after the demolition of Solano and Orchard Park, two campus apartments available to student-parents.

Zeke Baker, a third-year PhD student in sociology and a married father of a seven-and-a-half month old son, testified particularly for childcare funding.

“I should be allowed to be a good parent, good partner, good researcher, worker and good TA for my students and this year it’s not possible to do all those things,” Baker said.

Baker claims that the full funding he already receives of $900 per quarter ($300 of which provided for childcare) is insufficient coverage.

Duane Wright, a third-year sociology graduate student and UC Student Workers Union board member, spoke at the bargaining session after noticing a common theme of underpayment and debt from other testimonies.

He expressed his frustration of not being able to meet the cost of living as well as the conflict of interest of the UC Management administrators who also serve on boards of banks.

“It’s not that the money is not there,” Wright said. “There’s new construction projects, they can put money into things they care about and it’s just about priorities.”

A Student-Worker Solidarity Rally was held on Feb. 11 outside the Memorial Union in addition to these events.

McKusick anticipates another bargaining session after not being able to come to an agreement within the week’s events. Some common ground was established with UC Management, but a negotiation has not yet been made from either side’s proposals, according to McKusick.

The union recently filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against University of California in late January for refusal to bargain class size and grad student instructor term limit. The California Public Employment Relations Board is still in the process of evaluating the charge.

“The University has been negotiating with UAW in good faith for months and continued to do so this week,” said Shelly Meron, media relations specialist at the University of California, Office of the President. “We are listening to what the union has to say, have offered wage increases for these workers and share their desire to maintain academic quality at UC.”

Another bargaining session has been discussed to take place in the last week of February, but a location has not been confirmed.

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