Clerical union fights for higher wages

    Negotiators for the Coalition of Union Employees labor union and representatives from the UC Office of the President held their first-ever meeting at the UCSD campus on Oct. 26 and Oct. 28.

    As part of an ongoing statewide effort to replace its contract, C.U.E.’s bargaining team, representing 18,000 UC clerical workers, met with UCOP in a room adjacent to Porter’s Pub. The old agreement between the union and the university expired on Sept. 30.

    “This is the first time in history that we’ve had contract negotiations on the UCSD campus,” said Denise Carignan, C.U.E. Local 5 vice president and an administrative assistant at UCSD School of Medicine. “Having negotiations on campus gives UCSD employees a chance to see the process of bargaining and to meet with the leadership of C.U.E and UCOP.”

    C.U.E and UCOP met to discuss proposals for a new contract for clerical workers, who have not received raises in several years, according to Sally Hampton, a library assistant at Geisel Library and former C.U.E Local 5 president.

    “The last good contract we got was back in 1994,” she said. “The pay situation at UCSD is absolutely horrible.”

    According to Carignan and Hampton, C.U.E hopes to negotiate a new contract that addresses three primary issues: wages, benefits and parking.

    “Since we aren’t getting cost-of-living increases, and parking and vanpool fees are going up, it means that we’ve actually been getting a pay cut over the last couple years,” Carignan said.

    Cost-of-living increases have also been a major point of contention between C.U.E. and UCOP bargainers, according to a UCOP statement.

    “Systemwide salary increases for employees have been the most difficult area of discussion because the 2003-2004 state budget, as well as the 2004-05 budget proposal, provides no state funding for salary increases,” the statement said.

    UC officials’ position that no money currently exists for wage increases has frustrated C.U.E. employees, according to Carignan.

    “There’s always more money for new buildings, faculty raises and new projects, but there’s never ever any money for pay raises for us,” she said. “The staff is overworked and underpaid, and morale is low.”

    Since the September expiration, clerical workers have been in “status quo” mode, meaning that “all terms and conditions of employment embodied in the contract remain in effect as the status quo,” according to a UCOP statement.

    The logistics of bringing contract negotiations to the UCSD campus were not easy, according to Carignan and Hampton.

    Carignan said that UCSD Labor Relations did “as much as they could” to prevent the negotiations from taking place, including initially arguing that no rooms were available to use at the time.

    Director of UCSD Labor Relations Michael Melman said that having labor negotiations at well-equipped UC offices in Oakland’s Kaiser Center would be more beneficial to “all the parties involved.”

    “The time and effort it takes to travel to campuses all across California is counterproductive to reaching a quick, appropriate resolution,” he said. “Because of ongoing academic and research purposes, it’s often very difficult to set aside rooms.”

    UCSD is the only campus in the UC system where unions must go through Labor Relations to reserve a room, according to Hampton.

    “Labor Relations made reservations for the meeting to take place in a room that was moldy, dirty, with the video games and pizza calls. You couldn’t hear anything. It was very inappropriate,” she said.

    Readers can contact Edward Janowicz at [email protected].

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