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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Lecturer protests call for job security, fair workload compensation

The two-day demonstration by UC-AFT lecturers brings attention to the fight for better work compensation

By CHRISTINE LEE — campus@theaggie.org

Members of UC-AFT, the UC-wide union representing non-senate faculty and librarians, gathered on the corner of 1st and A St. on Wednesday, Oct. 13 and Thursday, Oct. 14 to bring attention to issues surrounding job stability, fair workload and compensation across the UC system. 

“We’re turning out to show the university administration that we have lecturer support, we have student support and we have ally support through senate faculty, other UC unions and even the communities in which our campuses are located,” Katie Rodger, the internship coordinator of the University Writing Program (UWP) and the local president of the UC-AFT Davis Chapter, said. “What we really want to signal to the university is that in spite of being at home and being separated we have not become [disunited], in fact we are stronger than ever.”

The UC’s offer on Oct. 11 included some pay raises, changes to contracts offered and more transparency in workload assessments. UC-AFT argues that the raises will not keep up with inflation and the cost of living in California. The union is fighting for contracts that create a pathway for a career in teaching where instructors will be compensated for the work they do outside of the classroom.

The UC Office of the President (UCOP) provided a statement of their negotiations with UC-AFT. 

“We believe that this proposal is fair, equitable, and responsive to our lecturers’ concerns — and aligned with our shared values and mission as a world-class higher education institution,” Associate Director of Media Relations Ryan King said via email. “From demonstrating flexibility to incorporating union feedback, the University has made good-faith, earnest efforts toward achieving a contract.”

According to Sean McDonnell, a continuing lecturer at UWP, lecturers find it frustrating that the administration has not publicly made a statement about their efforts to change their working conditions.

“One of the things that is surprising, and quite frankly disappointing, is that the administration on campus and the system-wide administration, and I’m talking about people like Gary May and Michael Drake, have not even acknowledged that this is going on,” McDonnell said. “They have a whole team of highly-paid lawyers who meet with the union. All lecturer negotiators are volunteers. But we’ve never heard from Michael Drake, we’ve never heard from Gary May. I actually saw Gary May, he was a block and a half away yesterday and walked in the other direction.”

Protesting lecturers also brought attention to the contacts they sign with the university. Those under the continuing contract have security in their work, but many lecturers are hired as part time. At UC Davis, lecturers teach 30% of undergraduate credit hours, and a quarter of UC lecturers — whatever the reason — do not return to their jobs each year. 

“Getting the strong contract we’re after will benefit students,” Rodger said. “Having teachers and mentors that don’t stick around because they don’t tend to last in the UC system more than two years on average is going to directly impact the quality of students’ educations. It’s going to directly impact the course of our lives and the livelihoods of our families. It’s also going to impact, frankly, the state. People who don’t work full time and can’t earn a livable wage end up utilizing state resources to support them. So it’s good for all if we have a better contract.” 

According to the lecturers who turned out to call for more action and greater consideration of their demands, they participate in these demonstrations with their students in mind.

“I love my job so much,” Cassie Hemstrom, a continuing lecturer for UWP, said. “I think that the teaching we do here at this school is amazing, and we’re a world-class institution. Our students expect to see a world-class education they’re paying for. It’s a promise that we’ve made to them, and we need to make sure we can keep that promise, but we can’t do that if the UC is constantly moving us out of our jobs, shifting us around, giving us only part-time work and undercutting the promise they’re making to students.”
Written by: Christine Lee — campus@theaggie.org

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