Early in the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 17, UC-AFT faculty received the news that their planned two-day strike was canceled due to the tentative labor agreement reached by the union president, Mia McIver, and the UC Office of the President following 2.5 years of stagnant bargaining.
In the face of high job insecurity, insufficient pay, and allegedly confusing contracts, the UC-AFT has been attempting to get the UCOP to reach a new labor agreement since April 2019. The union had advocated for an agreement that would provide clearer guidelines for the University’s reappointment processes, increase salary and benefits, and create a uniform workload, among other things.
A number of UC San Diego lecturers previously expressed to The UCSD Guardian their feelings that the University viewed them as expendable, economic tools who would be extracted for labor only to soon be churned out of the system in favor of younger, more robust Ph.D. graduates. In the years of recent bargaining, the UCOP proposed solutions in contract negotiations that UC-AFT faculty would not accept due to significant caveats they saw — which included the potential for disqualification from the proposed strengthened reappointment process.
Because UC-AFT felt their insufficient contract negotiations had reached a stalemate, the union passed a 96 % majority vote in June 2021 to collectively strike at any given moment.
The historic agreement that came early on in the morning of the planned strike meets the aforementioned concerns of the faculty and, if ratified, could significantly diminish the precarity of a lecturer’s employment with the University.
Contract clauses included in the tentative agreement as outlined on the UC-AFT website are as follows:
- Transition plan to 2022-23 appointments
- Increased job stability
- Outlined pathway to senior continuing lecturer
- Statement of interest for available courses
- Specific and transparent performance review criteria
- Defined workloads
- Increased compensations and bonuses
- Timely and more specific appointment letters
- Credit toward continuing for summer session teaching
- Expanded eligibility for paid medical leave
- Increased support for unit members with children,
- Expanded retirement and health benefits for Summer Session lecturers
- Stronger health and safety provisions
- Professional development funding
- Release time for stewards
- Online instruction protections
If ratified, the agreement’s job stability provisions will go into effect on July 1, 2022.
Dr. Brie Iatarola, a lecturer from the Communications, Environmental Studies, and Warren College Writing Program Departments, felt relief upon reading the email she received at 4:30 a.m. that morning that announced the agreement.
“I was relieved when I heard the news of the agreement,” Iatarola said. “I am optimistic about the future for UC lecturers. I also feel I must remain vigilant and proactive due to potential challenges of implementing these changes across the UC system.”
Iatarola believes that much of the external pressure and the planned strike were what led to the UCOP’s ability to finally reach an agreement with the union.
“The outside political pressure from state representatives, viral Op-Eds, and social media campaigns gained traction during a critical time of bargaining [led to the decision],” Iatarola said. “A two-day unfair labor practices (ULP) strike with final exams on the horizon is not an ideal situation for anyone in higher ed. I think UCOP’s Labor Relations team realized the union, lecturers, students, and community members had already mobilized and were not leaving the bargaining table quietly.”
Although the picket line was called off on that Wednesday, UC-AFT nevertheless decided to gather, flipping their planned What began as a strike turned into a celebration for the UCSD community. Gathered outside of the Gilman Parking Structure at the south end of Villa La Jolla Drive, students, instructors, and supporting community members gathered to eat cake, rally, and commemorate their newfound secure labor agreements.
However, other instructors, such as Iatarola, chose to return to their students that they had initially intended on not seeing that day due to strike plans.
“I chose to hold my New Media, Youth, and Democracy class,” Iatarola said. “My heart felt the need to be with these students that day. The emotional impacts from this experience have been hard to navigate. I’m still attending town halls to make sure I have secure grounds for a celebration.”
In order for the contract to be ratified, a vote will be held amongst dues-paying union members from Nov. 29 at 8 a.m. until Dec. 3 at 4 p.m. Multiple UC-AFT town hall meetings will be held until the vote closes in order to assist union members in making a fully-informed decision in their vote.
Photos taken by Mila De La Torre for The UCSD Guardian