UC student-workers represented by UAW 2865 celebrated Tuesday night after agreements with the UC administration were made and their anticipated all-day strike was canceled.
In their agreement with UAW, the university agreed to no longer underpay undergraduate teaching assistants (TAs), to back pay $6,000 to each underpaid TA, to reduce workload from 13.5 to 10 hours — specifically for those working in the art department — and to establish a joint Labor Management Committee to oversee workload concerns.
The student-workers, particularly graduate TAs, were fighting over an excessive workload of 13.5 hours dedicated to classroom time each week — lectures and sections included. Having to remain under the legal 20 hour weekly work limit gives little time for TAs to prepare for such work.
“There was one class in particular where the professor wanted the TA to be in class for 13 and a half hours, but that wasn’t taking into consideration the weekly readings TAs need to do, planning lectures, and all of that, so it was really impossible to attend to all student feedback,” said undergraduate writing assistant Angeline Vu. “It was really impossible to keep within the legal limit of 20 hours. The problem was raised last year and the UC has still not addressed it.”
The TAs also expressed concerns about the hiring of undergraduates to fill graduate student teaching positions. Because of their inability to unionize, undergraduate students are paid much less than their graduate counterparts, despite their workload being more or less the same — jobs entail assisting professors in classrooms, teaching discussion sections and grading student work.
“Graduate students aren’t trying to be greedy, they’re just not being paid a lot,” Vu said. “They want to be able to live decent livelihoods but also address the concerns and needs of every student. That’s kind of impossible with the way things are currently done.”
According to an article on UAW’s website, “Victory! Management Caves, Strike Canceled,” agreements were made after two months of discussion with UC management and one year after filing the workload grievance.
“We filed the workload [grievance] last spring,” said graduate student and UAW 2865 advocate Josh Brahinsky. “We tried to resolve it with them in an informal way. We thought, ‘well let’s just not fight about it, let’s just talk it through.’ We talked it through — we thought they were going to fix it, but they just made it worse.”
UAW intended to demonstrate their grievances in a picket line from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 7. UAW urged those in support — including AFSCME service workers and members of Autonomous Students — to show up from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Afterward, UAW planned to show solidarity with Autonomous Students by rallying against Napolitano’s presidency at 2:30 p.m.
UC management gave in to all of UAW’s demands around 6 p.m. Tuesday night.