Contract reached between TAs, UC

    A major strike was averted when the University of California announced late on Dec. 2 that they had reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers union, which represents over 11,000 teaching assistants and other academic student employees systemwide.

    Earlier in the day, the union had announced that its members would strike on Dec. 4, just days before the start of finals week, in hopes of pressuring the university to preserve the union’s right to sympathy strikes in its new contract.

    Union members will vote on the agreement this week. If the union fails to ratify the agreement, which takes a majority to pass, UAW would have to return to the bargaining table with the university.

    Both the University of California and UAW have withheld all information regarding the agreement, pending the ratification of the agreement.

    Nonetheless, the UAW bargaining team was very happy with the outcome of the negotiations.

    “”The bargaining team is pleased and it’s enthusiastically recommending that the members ratify the agreement,”” UAW spokesman Rajan Mehta said.

    UCOP officials would not comment on the agreement.

    The UAW had decided to strike to protest what they deemed unfair negotiating tactics undertaken by the university when it refused to grant UAW the right to “”sympathy strike,”” a right the union was afforded in its old contract allowing its members to strike in support of other labor unions.

    The university described the union’s charges of negotiating in “”bad faith”” as an attempt by UAW to gain public sympathy.

    As late as the afternoon of Dec. 2, union officials were not optimistic about chances for an agreement with the university.

    “”[Unfair negotiation practices] have included engaging in surface bargaining,”” UAW spokesperson Beth Rayfield said early on Dec. 2. “”They’ve made regressive proposals, they’ve failed to schedule sufficient bargaining dates, they’ve made unilateral changes in the terms and conditions of employment, they’ve attempted to bypass the union … Talks are continuing, but at this point the unfair labor practices they have committed have created obstacles that make it hard to move around.””

    Union officials believe that the threat of a strike forced a change in the university’s bargaining position.

    University representatives had previously stated that a strike would have no effect on their positions.

    “”The negotiations had been ongoing and we were more hopeful yesterday and things worked,”” Mehta said. “”We believe that our strong organizing efforts have influenced the university and have brought about this change in their behavior.””

    Many students felt relieved that their TAs would be available to aid them before finals week.

    “”I wasn’t looking forward to a strike because finals are next week,”” Sixth College freshman Katie Hall said. “”I planned on going to office hours, and it would have been bad if they weren’t there.””

    Other students were indifferent to the agreement.

    “”I’m not sure how it would have affected me,”” Sixth College sophomore Columbine Robinson said. “”The professor would still give exams and still grade them.””

    Nonetheless, teaching assistants and professors around campus were pleased that an agreement could be reached.

    “”Basically, as an educator and as a member of the TA union, I’m extremely pleased that they were able to get this matter taken care of in a way that did not disrupt our teaching and educational commitments to the undergraduates,”” political science TA Cullen Hendrix said. “”It was an unfortunate thing to have to look ahead that we would have to be in a position of diminishing their ability to do well in their courses. But at the same time, it’s incumbent on us to bargain hard to get the kind of benefits and rights that we feel we deserve as a union, not just for ourselves but for our future members.””

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