Unions rally at the Price Center

    The Coalition of Union Employees, the University Professional and Technical Employees, and the University Council/American Federation of Teachers all staged a rally on Oct. 2 to make public their labor grievances against the University of California and UCSD.

    Kimberly Hughes

    The three groups, which combined to number about 100 individuals, marched from the Price Center to the Chancellor’s Complex via Library Walk. Demonstrators shouted, carried signs and rattled cans filled with coins.

    The rally had a minimal effect on university operations. Most students watched the rally as they passed the group on Library Walk; some students participated in the rally as a sign of solidarity with the unions.

    “”[The University of California] should never be involved in anything that practices unfair labor, especially since it has to set an example for the future of America,”” said Eleanor Roosevelt College senior Andrew Victor, who marched with the rally. “”I feel I should use my power as a student to change this.””

    Kimberly Hughes

    The coalition, which is made up of clerical workers, researchers, technicians and lecturers, are demanding higher wages are accusing UCSD of “”unfair labor practices.””

    UC spokesman Paul Schwartz defended the university, stating that the University of California made many compromises and accused the labor unions of slowing the process.

    The University of California has been in negotiations with C.U.E. for over a year, with UPTE since last May, and with UC/AFT since 2000.

    “”We need to conclude these negotiations,”” Schwartz said. “”The union needs to do its part and be able to compromise if we are to reach a settlement.””

    The University of California points to the state’s budgetary cuts as limiting factors affecting salary increases. Salary programs in the university are driven by state funding.

    “”We can only do as much as state funding allows,”” Schwartz said.

    Most of the unions’ complaints at the rally focused on bargaining methods with the university rather than particulars of the negotiated contracts.

    Eric Paavola, a clinical lab specialist at the Student Health Center, is the president of the CWA 9119 chapter of UPTE.

    UPTE represents approximately 1,000 researchers and technicians, including staff research associates, animal technicians, clinical laboratory technicians, psychologists, pharmacists, communications technicians and academic computing technicians at UCSD.

    Currently, researchers and technicians hold different contracts at UCSD. Researchers have been without a contract since June 30, and technicians since Sept. 4. Bargaining has been going on since last May. UPTE wants to negotiate for one contract between the two groups.

    Negotiating a contract is important for these workers, Paavola said, due to the nearly 30 percent turnover rate each year.

    “”We’re just a training ground for private industry,”” he said. “”People move on to bigger jobs.””

    UPTE believes that UCSD is not bargaining fairly. Paavola alleges that the university is using regressive bargaining tactics, where offers are made by the university and later rescinded.

    Paavola feels that with the unions beginning to act in accordance with one another, their ability to negotiate with the University of California will increase.

    “”The university is having to deal with unions in a whole different light now that we’re becoming more organized,”” Paavola said.

    C.U.E., which represents clerical workers at UCSD, wants higher wages and accused the University of California of “”bargaining in bad faith.”” As of press time, C.U.E. had not returned phone calls made by the Guardian to its San Diego offices.

    The Oct. 2 rally was a local manifestation of labor issues being raised by university unions up and down the UC system, particularly with regard to UC lecturers.

    In August, C.U.E. and AFT union members at UC Berkeley staged a three-day strike that coincided with the first week of classes. Some classes being taught by striking lecturers were canceled for the duration of the strike.

    The Los Angeles Times reported on the growing unrest of lecturers in a Sept. 30 article. The article cited the growing number of classes lecturers were expected to teach, as well as the salary gap between lecturers and tenured professors as reasons for the strife.

    The article also reported that two-day walkouts by lecturers are planned for Oct. 14 and 15 at UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis and UCSD, although unions representing groups at UCSD told the Guardian they were unable to say definitively if their chapters were planning to stage a walk-out at UCSD.

    Fred Lonidier is a professor of visual arts and the president of the University Council/AFT Local 2034, the union representing lecturers at UCSD. Like UPTE, he feels that the University of California has not bargained to the best of its ability.

    “”The main grievance for all these unions is the University of California is not bargaining in good faith,”” Lonidier said. “”It makes it hard to bargain with them.””

    One of Lonidier’s union’s complaints, similar to that of UPTE’s, is that UCSD labor negotiators are using regressive bargaining tactics.

    Lonidier said this practice constitutes an unfair labor practice and could be grounds for a strike.

    “”The UC labor relations really stink,”” Lonidier said. “”The university is looking at major labor unrest from one end of it to the other.””

    UC/AFT also believes that the current system of hiring and releasing lecturers is unfair.

    The University of California employs about 1,600 lecturers systemwide. Most lecturers are hired for an initial six-year probationary period. After this period, the university can choose whether or not to offer the lecturer a three-year, renewable contract.

    The current system, Lonidier said, is inconsistent and not based on merit.

    “”It’s very arbitrary,”” he said.

    Schwartz said what the University of California is currently able to offer its lecturers is “”among the best in the country.”” He noted that UC lecturers’ three-year contracts can be renewed regardless of whether the lecturer is part-time or full time.

    “”Our salaries are very competitive and, in some instances, are superior to lecturers at private California universities like Stanford and USC,”” Schwartz said.

    UC/AFT also wants to use a merit-based system for rehiring lecturers to provide more job security. The current system has no accountability, according to UC/AFT.

    Schwartz said the position of lecturer was never designed to be a permanent career position.

    Lonidier believes that giving lecturers more job security will foster more academic freedom, as it does for tenured professors.

    “”[Tenure’s] purpose is for academic freedom,”” he said of tenured professors. “”They’re now worthy to have an unpopular opinion.””

    Addressing concerns that lecturers are only looking out for their own interests and not those of the student body, Lonidier feels that the demands made by the lecturers will also benefit students.

    “”We believe we can make the case that undergraduate teaching can be better,”” Lonidier said.

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