TAs, readers represented by UAW protest UC administration’s intimidation tactics
A union representing student workers throughout the UC system has authorized its members to go on strike following a unionwide vote that passed with 96 percent support. United Auto Workers Local 2865 includes 12,000 teaching assistants, graduate student teachers and readers who now have the authority to strike in protest of alleged intimidation tactics used by the UC administration.
The vote comes a week after the union’s no-strike clause expired in its contracts with the University of California. UAW has expressed support for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 workers, who plan to strike at UC campuses on Nov. 20. UAW may join them in solidarity.
UAW members claim that their annual pay, purportedly an average of $17,000, is not nearly enough to live on without taking a second or third job. Like AFSCME workers, UAW representatives believe that the UC administration acted unlawfully when it asked union members if they were planning to go on strike.
The union published a report titled “Towards Mediocrity” that outlines how undergraduate and graduate success is tied and how quality education depends on both.
“We are the front line teachers and researchers in the UC system […] we have observed a decline in educational quality and accessibility at the UCs,” the report read. “When an introductory class in the sciences has 300 students and one Teaching Assistant, students struggle. So does the TA. Even heroics on the part of the teacher can’t keep 1/4 of the class from failing out.”
The UC system has been negotiating contracts with several of the unions that represent its workers in addition to UAW, including AFSCME, University Professional and Technical Workers and the California Nurses Association.
According to UC officials, CNA will strike in conjunction with AFSCME this month. UPTE-CWA, which represents research and technical employees in the UC health system, agreed not to participate in any strike activity and will instead return to contract negotiations.
University of California Vice President for Systemwide Human Resources and Programs Dwaine Duckett released a statement on AFSCME’s planned strike.
“Given the hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding cuts UC has absorbed over the past five years, we must be fiscally prudent,” the statement read. “University leaders have to be mindful that large, programmatic increases in pay and benefits for these workers drive up the cost of services they provide.”
UC officials believe that an increase in employee pay will inevitably result in fee hikes for both students and patients across the system’s health centers. However, AFSCME alleges that students have already seen fee increases to offset six-figure salaries for the system’s top executives.
AFSCME’s last strike in May cost the UC system upwards of $20 million, and a UAW strike could mean a major academic labor loss as TAs and readers go on strike.