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Davis, California

Monday, April 22, 2024

Unions rally to call attention to equity demands

The rally followed one held in March, which centered on rent burden and housing insecurity


By ISABELLA KRZESNIAK campus@theaggie.org


On April 26, members of Student Researchers United (SRU-UAW), United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865 and UAW 5810 marched from the Memorial Union to Dutton Hall to bring attention to demands for their upcoming contract negotiations. ​​United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865 represents graduate student instructors, teaching assistants, readers and tutors, and UAW 5810 represents postdocs and academic researchers. Union members presented an open letter outlining their demands, which include eliminating rent burden, creating a safe and inclusive workplace and expanding benefits related to childcare.

This action follows a union rally held on March 3, which called attention to bargaining demands centered on housing.

The rally on April 26 was intended to bring attention to demands to create a more equitable workplace, according to Neetha Iyer, the chair of the UC Davis branch of UAW 2865.

“Over the lifetime of our contracts, administrators […] have refused to move on some important equity measures, including things like support for fair housing, paid family leave and decent compensation,” Iyer said.

The 48,000 members of the three unions aim to bargain under one contract for 2022, according to Conor White, the campus recording secretary for UAW 5810.

“The idea is that with a larger body to negotiate with, we’ll have a stronger negotiating position,” White said. “We’re making concessions on different things for different unions, and we’d rather just bargain collectively.”

Among the bargaining demands is support for international scholars. The open letter insists that the university cover immigration and visa costs and eliminate Non-Resident Supplemental Tuition (NRST), an additional cost of up to $15,000 that non-resident workers pay as part of tuition. As an international student, Iyer believes that eliminating NRST is a step toward creating equity in the workplace.

“One thing that the university can do to make our lives better is to bargain with us over immigration issues and tuition issues,” Iyer said.

According to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, academia reports the second highest rates of workplace harassment. White believes that the UC does not completely fulfill its contractual obligations when it comes to helping those with harassment grievances.

“Oftentimes we find ourselves impeded with our ability to seek justice for people who have to go through that sort of thing,” White said. “[The UC] likes to put their image forward and say they care […] and we’re trying to hold them to account. But unfortunately, they’re dragging their feet on that, especially when the things that we’re asking them for aren’t that radical — they’re commensurate with a lot of academic workplace standards.”

The UC Davis Harassment & Discrimination Assistance and Prevention Program did not respond to a request for comment as of May 8.

Iyer and her colleagues emphasized that their working conditions impact the learning conditions for undergraduate students.

“If our workers aren’t paid or treated correctly that directly affects the education that’s provided to undergraduates, which the university prides itself on,” Iyer said. “We’re the ones that teach classes, grade papers and do the research for the UC.”

According to Wes Westerfield, a guide for UAW 2865’s executive board, the bargaining sessions that are taking place now will define the graduate student experience for the next four years. He said he is hopeful about the impact of the rally.

“We don’t always see an immediate result, but I think with the level of media attention that was drawn at some of the other campuses and the level of noise that we made in the administrative building, I think it will pressure the UC into giving into our bargaining demands,” Westerfield said.


Written by: Isabella Krzesniak — campus@theaggie.org



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