Lecturers seek longer job contracts, more security from university
The University of California American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), a labor union that represents lecturers and librarians working at the UCs, is bargaining with the University of California Office of the President over a new contract for lecturers and other non-tenure-track faculty.
The latest bargaining session occurred last week at UC Davis, where 88 union members and supporters were present. An additional 63 members and supporters arrived at 11:30 a.m. to watch the session in a show of support.
Katie Arosteguy, a continuing University Writing Program lecturer and member of UC-AFT, expressed concern over UCOP’s demand for closed bargaining sessions — a request that isn’t new for UCOP, who insisted on closed bargaining sessions during their negotiations with the UC Student-Workers Union Local 2865, a labor union representing undergraduate tutors and graduate student workers.
“Today, we really wanted to try and show up in numbers just to demonstrate that we’re paying attention,” Arosteguy said. “They did not want to have open bargaining sessions, so we wanted to show up to just demonstrate that we’re paying attention and that we care about getting a fair contract and that we want them to bargain in good faith with us. We were pretty disturbed to hear them say that they don’t want students to be present, or reporters or student reporters, so we pushed back on that.”
Mia McIver, the president and chief negotiator of UC-AFT and pre-continuing lecturer in Writing Programs at UCLA, described the bargaining session as positive. The union presented three proposals to UCOP, while UCOP presented two proposals to the negotiators. McIver said both sides “had a good discussion about all five of those proposals.”
The union’s main goals include the reimbursement of moving expenses for new faculty who have to make extensive living adjustments and making sure non-tenured faculty, who have been terminated due to long-term illnesses or injuries, have due process rights and severance compensation.
“We also passed a proposal of academic calendars,” McIver said. “If UC admin is thinking about increasing or reducing the number of days of instruction or if they are considering adding Saturdays and Sundays as instructional days, we want to be part of that discussion before those changes go into effect. We think that’s an issue both for understanding how that’s going to affect students’ education and access to education. Also, we want to make sure we understand how that affects our own workload.”
The UCOP will respond to these proposals at the next bargaining session, scheduled to take place at UCLA on May 16.
McIver expressed disappointment over proposals submitted by UCOP, including the claim that UCOP cannot guarantee that faculty hired near the start of a term will have access to instructional resources, such as email.
“Without those things, we don’t have a roster of who’s in our class, we can’t contact students, we can’t send out a syllabus, we can’t order textbooks, we can’t upload assignments and readings, so that’s very problematic for us,” McIver said. “It’s very disappointing to hear administrators who have power over that say that they don’t have power over that.”
Another newly proposed contract term from UCOP aims to replace in-person orientations for new faculty with online orientations.
“We think that there’s just no substitute for in-person contact that helps make faculty understand what this job is, what the resources that are available to assist with teaching, what is needed to know to work with and support students on a given campus,” McIver said. “Also, we think faculty deserve to have a conversation with their union representative and to understand what rights and responsibilities they have that are associated with our negotiated contract.”
Matt Oliver, a UWP lecturer at UC Davis and member of the UC-AFT bargaining team, stressed his desire for equality between non-tenure-track faculty, like lecturers, and tenure-track faculty.
“The university doesn’t really acknowledge us as faculty, they’ve kind of put us in the staff category,” Oliver said. “Every year, my library card expires, and they have to confirm I’ve been rehired. Whatever resources they make available to faculty are not available to me; tenure-track faculty have access to child care. I don’t.”
Oliver also discussed the fact that many lecturers are hired as part-time workers. Part-time lecturers don’t have access to long-term disability insurance offered by the UC, cannot participate in the UC retirement system and are subject to medical separation at the university’s discretion, according to Oliver.
“I’d like to see some kind of language that indicates lecturers should be full-time unless there’s a special need to do otherwise,” Oliver said. “Typically, at places like LA and other schools, there are multiple part-time people — none of whom get the benefits — and it seems to me sort of a shady kind of backdoor move that I’d like to see addressed. If you know you need someone to teach the classes, hire somebody and invest in that person.”
Since lecturers are often hired close to the start of a term and many of their contracts are renewed each quarter or each year, they have limited job security.
“I am in my fifth year of what we call pre-six, which means I’m on an annual contract,” Oliver said. “I don’t know if I’ll be hired again next year — I probably will, but it’s one of those things.”
Oliver said he would like the university to notify non-tenured faculty whether or not they will have a job for the coming year by February or March of the proceeding school year.
“I won’t know if I have a job next year until June at the earliest — sometimes it’s been July,” Oliver said. “It seems that that’s not very polite. I understand if I don’t do my job well, I should be discontinued, but if you let me know early enough to find another job, it seems that that would be the polite thing to do.”
In addition to earlier re-hiring notifications, Oliver also said he would like to see longer contracts offered from the UC.
“We take on the expenses of moving here because the UC needs someone to teach a course, but if we don’t know one quarter later or a year later whether or not we have a job, it puts us in a dicey situation,” Oliver said.
Written by: Sabrina Habchi — firstname.lastname@example.org