Librarians from several UCs rallied outside Shields during bargaining negotiations

Librarians from several UCs rallied outside Shields during bargaining negotiations

Photo Credits: SABRINA HABCHI / AGGIE

Demands for competitive pay with CSU, CCC librarians

UC librarians, represented by the University Council-American Federation of Teachers Unit 17 (UC-AFT), a union that also represents UC lecturers, rallied outside of Shields Library during a break in their bargaining session with the UC’s bargaining team on Jan. 15. The negotiation process for the UC librarians’ contract has been ongoing for almost a year.

The main discussion points in the bargaining session include a salary dispute and an ongoing debate over whether UC librarians should have academic freedom, which would give them the right to pursue research.

Having just come from a morning bargaining session, Ken Lyons, a librarian at UC Santa Cruz and a member of the UC-AFT Unit 17 bargaining team, said that there were signs of some cooperation from both sides for the first time since bargaining started almost a year ago.

“On salary, [the UC] presented a counterproposal, but with no reasoning behind it that would give us a small pay increase per year [and it] doesn’t even keep with current inflation,” Lyons said. “Both sides need to do some research to see what their ideas actually mean in the long-term. It’s been a long and slow process with not much movement, but there is at least a glimmer of hope today.”

Claire Doan, the director of media relations for the UCOP, maintained via email that the UC has offered “a comprehensive, multi-year contract” including fair pay which “appropriately compensates librarians.”

The UC has offered a guaranteed prospective wage increase of 3 percent upon ratification of a new contract and annual 3 percent increases through the 2021–22 fiscal year, as well as enhancements to the wage structures for librarians, Doan said email. She said that the contract also includes “quality health care for librarians and their families [and] continued excellent retirement benefits.”

At the rally on campus, Lyons said that UC librarians haven’t had a contract since the end of last September. Several members of UC-AFT Unit 17 spoke about the union’s demand for salary increases, mentioning that librarians at California Community Colleges and California State Universities receive higher pay.

“We need to not only keep up with inflation or surpass it, we need to catch up with the other systems in the state,” Lyons said. “There’s a recruitment and retention problem, because we’re paid so low that if people do come to the UC — which is a problem in itself — then they leave to those other systems and make a lot more money. When there are vacancies that they recruit for, we have smaller pools of applicants. That’s a problem not only for us as librarians, but it’s a problem for the institution.”

Daniel Goldstein, a UC Davis librarian and subject specialist, echoed Lyons’ sentiment, explaining that there is a sense that the UC does not adequately value the services librarians provide for the university.

“Librarians’ salaries are at a point where it affects our ability to hire people — we have more and more failed searches throughout the system where we can’t get a proper person to come when they find out what they would be paid,” he said.

UC Davis Subject Specialist Librarian Adam Siegel addressed the crowd of people in attendance at the rally, stating that UC librarians make around 25 to 30 percent less than librarians at CCCs and CSUs.

“We call that the prestige penalty,” he said.

Lyons said that although UC librarians do the same work as librarians at CCCs and CSUs, librarians at these schools are considered tenure-track faculty while UC librarians are not.

“We are a small union — UC librarians are the smallest representative union in UC and that allows UC to get away with [this pay inequity],” Lyons said.

In addition to salary, UC-AFT Unit 17 is also concerned with securing the right to academic freedom.

“UC basically says we don’t have any of the rights that faculty have as academics, such as academic freedom and other associated things, like sabbatical,” Lyons said. “If we’re academics, what makes us academics if we don’t have any of what other academics have?”

According to Goldstein, UC librarians assumed they were guaranteed the right to academic freedom and were surprised to find out otherwise.

“That’s a really big deal because academic freedom underpins so much of what we do everyday,” he said.

In a statement sent to The California Aggie last November, Doan, the representative from UCOP, said that the UC is establishing a work group to analyze the UC policy on academic freedom. The group will make its recommendations this summer.

While both faculty and UC librarians are required to complete research, UC librarians do it while working full-time and cannot request a sabbatical. In addition to this lack of rights, such as academic freedom and the ability to take sabbaticals, UC librarians also aren’t eligible for the benefits faculty receive, such as the mortgage program.

Joaquin Chavez, the vice president of the University Professional and Technical Employees CWA 9119 (UPTE) union, also spoke to attendants of the rally, emphasizing UPTE CWA 9119’s support for UC-AFT Unit 17 and the importance of unions banding together.

“We are all in this struggle together: we serve in developing this institution,” Chavez said. “UPTE is here in solidarity with the librarians, we’re all in this fight together and we have a lot to win together.”

UPTE CWA 9119-represented UC staff have been out of a contract for over a year and a half.

“We can see the university management trying the same sort of tactics that they’re using on us against you and against other groups of workers at the University of California,” Chavez said to the crowd. “They don’t want to give us regular, decent cost of living allowances, they don’t want to give us step raises that incentivize us to actually stay here and show that we’re a valued part of the institution, and they want to take away all kinds of other forms of compensation.”

In Chavez’s view, UC workers are asking only for what they deserve based on the work they put in, and there is a fundamental conflict of interests between the UC and its workers.

“When we’re talking about a fair contract, we’re talking about our aspirations for a decent life, a better life — the kind of life that we deserve given the work that we do to build this university,” Chavez said. “The UC management isn’t concerned with developing that reputation or even continuing to earn it, they are concerned with driving down costs [and] with privatization.”

Written by: Sabrina Habchi — campus@theaggie.org