UC-AFT Rallies on Library Walk for Better Lecturer Working Conditions

Members of UC-AFT, a union representing lecturers and librarians throughout the University of California system, rallied in front of Geisel Library on Feb. 3, 2020 in response to the expiration of their employment contract with the university of Jan. 31. This expiration has led to approximately 6,500 lecturers across UC campuses, including about 500 UC San Diego lecturers, to be currently working without contract. 

UC-AFT began negotiations with the UC administration for a new employment contract in April 2019. However, the new contract was not finalized before the previous one expired. 

Stacy Steinberg, a lecturer with the UCSD Analytical Writing Program and member of the San Diego UC-AFT collective leadership team, stated at the rally that the UC administration shared with UC-AFT a proposed contract with a slight salary increase the night before the former contract expiration. She claimed that accepting this offer would require UC-AFT to neglect many of their key demands.

“Their ploy is to divide us by using this sad salary offer as a wedge to force us to abandon our commitment to crucial improvements in job security, workload and academic support,” Steinberg said. “This will not work. Solidarity defeats precarity.” 

The UCSD Guardian contacted the UC Office of the President for comment on contract negotiations, including the offer made to UC-AFT on January 30. 
“Our lecturers play an essential role in supporting the University’s educational mission, and our goal is to reach an agreement on a multi-year contract that includes fair pay and excellent benefits, and recognizes their contributions and is in line with other labor agreements,” the statement read.

Protestors outside of the Chancellor’s Complex. Tanya Bharatula // UCSD Guardian

UC-AFT is currently negotiating their new contract to demand greater job stability for non-tenured track lecturers and an increased amount of full-time positions. The union also requests improved working conditions for lecturers, including higher salaries to meet cost-of-living, better health care, and longer paid leave for both new parents and to work on research projects.

According to a UC-AFT statement released to the Guardian, over two-thirds of lecturers have to reapply for their positions on an annual basis. The 2018 median salary for a UC lecturer was $19,900 per year. 

Alison Black, a lecturer in the UCSD Educational Studies department and co-chair for the San Diego UC-AFT chapter, echoed the union’s contract demands in her speech at the rally. She also highlighted the issue of gender inequality among tenured professors at UCSD. 

“…tenure track faculty are almost 75 percent male on our campus, and the majority of female faculty at UCSD and across the UC system are non-senate faculty lecturers,” Black said. “We are simply asking for the UC to expand our family leave and health benefit access to have similar, if not the same, leave options and benefits that all those mostly male senate faculty currently have.”

Dr. Jade Power-Sotomayor, an assistant professor for UCSD Theater and Dance, also spoke at the rally, reflecting on her time as a lecturer. Power-Sotamayor explained that at the time her first child was born, she had not been teaching at the university long enough to qualify for the six weeks of paid maternity leave allotted to lecturers. As a result, she had to apply for unemployment after her child’s birth. 

Diamond Brandon, a representative from the office of Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, who represents California’s 80th State Assembly District, attended the rally on Gonzalez’s behalf to support the demonstrators. 

“This has been an ongoing problem across California,” Brandon said to the Guardian. “We value workers, and everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Once the rally in front of Geisel Library ended, the demonstrators marched down Library Walk with signs, singing the words “solidarity forever, the union makes us strong” to the tune of “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” They finished marching at the Chancellor’s complex, where they continued to sing and chant. 

Organizers of the rally passed out flyers with the phone numbers for UCSD Chancellor Khosla, UC President Janet Napolitano and Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Simmons. The demonstrators concluded their rally by calling these numbers in front of the Chancellor’s complex to voice their concerns. 

Paulina Gonzales, a UCSD lecturer who has taught within the Analytical Writing Program for the past four years and has been its curriculum coordinator for the last two, shared her reasons for protesting with the Guardian in front of the Chancellor’s complex.

“I really do believe our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions,” Gonzales explained. “I want to fight for living wages and stable employment.”

For the time being, all lecturers working outside of contract will continue working under the conditions of the expired contract, as is required by law. UC-AFT is continuing with negotiations for a new contract with the UC administration, although an official signing date has yet to be released.

Photo by Tanya Bharatula for the UCSD Guardian.