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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Lengthy negotiations over UC labor contract completed

MORGAN TIEU / AGGIE2030

Teamsters to vote on tentative agreement

The University of California (UC) announced on March 23 that it has reached a provisional agreement with the Teamsters Union regarding a potential new labor contract. The contract covers several thousand clerical employees and will be voted on by the union on April 19.

Negotiations between the two organizations started in April 2016, a full four months before the original contract expired. These negotiations did not occur smoothly, as both sides converged with conflicting standards.

“Negotiations were tough as we fought tooth and nail to achieve the tentative agreement that our members are now voting to ratify,” said Christian Castro, the Teamster communications director, via email.

One of the main issues that was debated during the negotiations was between the UC-supported merit-based wage increases and the Teamster-supported guaranteed wage increases.

“Originally [the UC] had proposed a small increase of 1 percent and what is called step increases, which are only given to those with a satisfactory personal review,” Castro said. “Many bosses and managers can then exploit that by doing favoritism […] We wanted guaranteed raises for everyone, across the board, no ifs, ands or buts.”

After continued unsatisfactory offers and an organized labor strike performed by the Teamsters, the two parties reached an agreement. According to a press release, the new contract, if implemented, will include an annual three percent wage increase for every covered employee; a $1,200 bonus per clerical employee, paid upon contract ratification; a $25 limit on any rate increases to the Kaiser and Health Net Blue and Gold health insurance plans and retirement options for employees hired on or after July 1, 2016.

Although the process was long, Lani Richardson, a Teamster Bargaining Team representative, believes that without the initiative and hard work of its members, the two parties would never have reached this final deal.

“I truly feel this process would’ve dragged out much longer had it not been for our campaign we built on the ground, which empowered our activists to take actions and show strength at the workplace,” Richardson said via email. “When dealing with the UC, one can have the most competent people at the table, with the most compelling arguments and facts on their side — which we did — but ultimately talk doesn’t move the University — Teamster Member Power does.”

Starting on April 10, in-person balloting will occur at each location across the UC system. These votes will then be checked for eligibility and counted on Wednesday, April 19 at the Teamsters Local 2010 Office in Oakland.

Both Castro and Richardson expect positive results from the voting process.

Castro based his reasoning on the encouragement of the Teamster bargaining team and executive board to vote in favor of the contract.

“Our bargaining team and Executive board have both recommended a ‘yes’ vote on the contract and we believe that this is the best possible deal under the circumstances,” Castro said via email.

Richardson believes the contract will be ratified due to similar contracts passing in the past.

“The feedback I’ve personally been receiving has been positive,” Richardson said via email. “This contract is the third our local has just settled, and is patterned the same as the other two. The other two agreements for skilled trades workers at UCSD and UCLA passed overwhelmingly with 98% and 91% of members voting to ratify, respectively. So based on this and the feedback from members, I believe that the agreement will be ratified.”

Dwaine B. Duckett, the UC vice president for systemwide human resources, said the UC views the outcome of the negotiations as positive.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that maintains competitive wages and benefits for our clerical colleagues and recognizes the important role they play in keeping our campuses and medical centers running smoothly,” Duckett said in a UC press release.

Although the Teamster’s main goal will be completed if the potential contract is implemented, the Teamsters will continue to press forward, focusing on various issues that were not dealt with during contract negotiations.

“Going forward, we will be enforcing our new agreement, plus building campaigns to address the issues which, were left at the table,” Richardson said via email. “We continue to have a few issues, such a misclassification of workers and protection of our bargaining unit work, that face our membership. In the coming months and years, we will make sure that the University sees and feels our most important concerns, as problems for them too.”
Written by: Emily Shintani — campus@theaggie.org

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