UC Librarians Bargain with University for New Memorandum of Understanding

A Bargaining Committee for Unit 17 in the University Council American Federation of Teachers is currently in the process of negotiating for a fairer Memorandum of Understanding. The MOU is the contract between UC Office of the President and Unit 17 of UC-AFT that explains employees’ salaries, abilities, and rights during an employment period. After a prevailing number of 11 bargaining sessions so far, librarians and faculty across the ten University of California campuses are meeting with UC negotiators in order to discuss amending a variety of 13 propositions presented by Unit 17’s Bargaining Committee.

UC-AFT is the union consisting of more than 3,000 faculty members and 300 librarians at the ten University of California campuses who strive for better wages, working conditions, and academic freedom rights. Unit 17 of UC-AFT is the sector specifically made of more than 350 librarians from these UC campuses. Through a Bargaining Committee that was created in October 2016, Unit 17 has been focused on improving their Memorandum of Understanding with UCOP.

The current MOU in debate originally went into effect on Oct. 1, 2013 and expired Sept. 30, 2018. With a total of 34 articles, seven appendices, and six side letters, the MOU is a list of contracts between UC-AFT and UCOP ranging from employee salary to holidays and sick leave.

Between October 2016 and February 2018, the Unit 17 Bargaining Committee curated a list of proposals to present to UCOP. On April 2, 2018, both UCOP and Unit 17 proposed their own amendments to the current MOU in attempts to negotiate a more agreeable contract.

The Bargaining Committee’s list of proposals represents areas of focus in the bargaining session, based on current articles in the current MOU. The proposals consist of a variety of issues including housing benefits, academic freedom, salary, corrective action, work arrangements, and professional development.

The Bargaining Committee presents these proposals to the UC system negotiation team in attempt to legally amend the articles for future Memorandums.

“The goal of the Bargaining Committee is a fair contract for UC librarians that ensures adequate compensation and respect as academic appointees of the University of California,” UC San Diego Supervisory Archivist Laurel McPhee said. “In this round of bargaining, our focus has been on securing academic freedom, improving salaries to be more equitable with our peers at other universities,closing the salary gap with comparable campuses, ensuring adequate professional development support, and myriad other issues to strengthen our contract.”

The UC administration has rejected several of their proposals regarding housing benefits, corrective action, and professional development. UC-AFT is currently waiting on the university’s responses pertaining to temporary appointments, new assignments, and family and medical leave.

UC-AFT and UCOP are also working towards a salary proposition that is agreeable to both parties. The Bargaining Committee argues that librarians in the California State University system are paid 25.5 percent more than those in the UC system.

Unit 17 argues that salaries should coincide with the United States annual inflation rate of 2.7 percent.

In a blog post regarding fairer salaries, UC-AFT wrote, “According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, that $21,000 minimum salary in 1977 is the equivalent today of over $90,000.[1] That is obviously no longer the minimum offered in UC librarian job descriptions. Our recruitments start at the Assistant level, for those without experience, at $49,000. For librarians with experience, recruitments often start at the Associate level, at $54,700. That’s over 30 percent less than this 1977 posted salary.”

According to a flyer that was handed out on the Nov. 2 Bargaining Session at the UCSD campus, the Bargaining Committee claims that due to the inflation rate, $21,000 in 1977 is equivalent to $54,000 in 1995. This 1995 salary number is close to the starting salary for librarians this year.  

The Unit 17 MOU depicts a minimum starting annual salary of $46,164 for Assistant Librarians.

During the bargaining session on Nov. 2, UCOP presented a second-salary proposal. Though given a seven-day period to reject or accept this University of California’s counterproposal, the Bargaining Committee rejected the proposal that same day.

“[UCOP] essentially held their same position from prior bargaining sessions on all other articles,” McPhee stated.

According to the UC-AFT blog, UCOP’s counterproposal included a “4-year contract with a 3 percent raise 90 days after ratification, and an additional 3 percent raise on July 1st of 2019, 2020, and 2021.”

“[The University of California’s] goal is to reach a long-term agreement with UC-AFT that recognizes the dedication and contributions of our hard-working librarians with fair pay, continued quality health benefits and excellent retirement benefits — and one that is supportive of their essential role,” UCOP Director of Media Relations Claire Doan said.

The next bargaining session has not been announced. See UC-AFT’s timeline and overview of the previous bargaining sessions here.


photo by Tyler Faurot