TAs vote to ratify new contract

    An overwhelming vote to ratify an agreement between the University of California and academic student employees on Dec. 6 ended a call for strike of the university’s teaching assistants, readers and tutors. With a vote of 1,682 in favor and 26 opposed, the agreement will be effective until September 2006.

    The contract includes a 1.5 percent minimum wage increase effective on Jan. 1, and a 1.5 percent general wage increase for every time the senate faculty gets a merit increase. Graduate student ASEs working a minimum 25 percent of the time will continue to obtain complete remission of their education, registration and health fees.

    According to a statement by United Auto Workers, the union representing approximately 11,000 teaching assistants, readers and tutors at eight UC campuses, the remission will remain “”despite the sharp increases in student fees and health care costs”” for the year. Future increases in fees during the term of the contract will be covered.

    According to the UAW statement, the “”rights and benefits of summer session ASEs will be greatly improved.”” The union will also be allowed to provide orientations to inform all ASEs about their benefits and rights within the contract.

    Bargaining began in March, when the previous contract for ASEs expired. Throughout the process, UAW filed 64 unfair labor charges against the university for bargaining in bad faith. On Sept. 30, talks broke down when the issue of sympathy strikes arose. UAW wanted to keep the right to strike in support of other unions striking on campuses, while the university wanted to take the language allowing it out of any new contract.

    According to the newly ratified contract, while UAW “”shall not call, promote or engage in a sympathy strike in support of another UC union or bargaining unit,”” individual ASEs have the right to engage in activities in sympathy with other unions striking at the ASE’s work location.

    “”We reached a satisfactory agreement over sympathy strikes,”” said Kathleen Casey, a teaching assistant from the communication department and a member of the bargaining team.

    As part of the agreement, both sides also withdrew all bargaining-related unfair labor practice charges that were filed.

    “”Our primary objective was an agreement that recognizes the important role our instructional assistants play in helping faculty meet UC’s teaching needs, and also confirms the union’s obligation to labor peace,”” said UC spokesperson Paul Schwartz. “”This agreement does both.””

    Following the Sept. 30 breakdown, the UAW called for a one day strike on Oct. 2. The union announced another strike for the last week of the winter quarter on Nov. 25. Both sides agreed on a tentative agreement on Dec. 2.

    “”The sympathy strike issue was significant because it underscores the mutual obligation that labor and management share to settling differences through the negotiation process, and we’re pleased to have resolved this issue to our satisfaction,”” Schwartz said.

    Casey agreed, saying, “”We’re overall extremely pleased to have reached an agreement without having to strike.””

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