UC lecturers are preparing to strike in response to the university’s reluctance to meet lecturers’ demands for increased job security, fair wages and adjustments to their workload. With two years of bargaining behind them and a year and a half since their contract ended, members of the UC American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) are frustrated with the negotiation process.
Three virtual bargaining sessions occurred between the UC Office of the President (UCOP) and UC-AFT in April, two of which ended with UCOP negotiators leaving negotiations before they were scheduled to end. At the April 16 and 22 bargaining sessions, UCOP was scheduled to address UC-AFT’s concerns over proposed items, but according to UC-AFT Santa Cruz Field Representative Jeb Purucker, the university did not propose anything close to a compromise.
“We’re realizing after the last few bargaining sessions that management is just as dug in as they’ve ever been,” Purucker said. “They’re not going to concede meaningful job security to lecturers unless we are prepared to escalate things.”
Job security has been a pivotal bargaining point since lecturers’ contract expired a year and a half ago. It is the one article in the contract that the UC-AFT table team negotiators have refused to budge on.
Under their expired contract, lecturers that teach at the UC for less than 6 years, or 18 quarters, can lose their jobs with little notice, and are never guaranteed a job. UC-AFT organizer and continuing lecturer Roxi Power said that 75 percent of lecturers fall under this category.
UCOP introduced the 1-1-2-2 job security proposal in Nov. 2020. At the time, the proposal was seen by UC-AFT as a step toward an agreement on job security, but the union voiced a handful of concerns over its lack of rehiring and re-appointment guarantees. The majority of lecturers teach at a UC for one year or less, and would never be eligible for a two-year appointment.
In the most recent bargaining sessions, UCOP did not address any of these concerns, and re-proposed the 1-1-2-2 plan with very minor adjustments. Because of UCOP’s reluctance to change their proposals, union members are wary that the final contract proposal UCOP offers will leave out UC-AFT’s core demands.
With the current article proposals, UC-AFT will likely reject a final contract proposal from UCOP at this time, triggering an impasse — a state of negotiations where no viable agreement is made.
“At this point, the parties have been bargaining for a full contract for roughly two years and this latest offer is one of numerous proposals UC has made to UC-AFT,” said UCOP spokesperson Ryan King in an email. “The University is doing everything possible at the bargaining table to reach an agreement quickly, but a contract also requires the partnership of union leaders.”
UC-AFT has reiterated that their requests are industry-standard across the UC and CSU system. However, Jeb Purcuker said that UCOP lead negotiator Nadine Fishel told UC-AFT that UCOP’s priority is having a flexible workforce that is only employed when they are teaching a course.
Purucker described UCOP’s final response during Thursday’s bargaining session as the Zoom version of storming out of the room.
“[Lecturers] need to see that their employer is willing to invest in the workforce long term, and to commit to the university’s teaching mission,” Purucker said. “It’s insulting to someone that dedicates their life to teaching undergraduates.”
UC-AFT sees striking as a last resort. However, members of the union believe that after multiple attempts by the university to ignore lecturers’ needs, it may become necessary.
While the strike hasn’t been declared yet, union members are in the planning process of circulating a strike pledge to gauge support from lecturers.
“You always have to be prepared for the most powerful statement and action,” lecturer Roxi Power said. “Even if you don’t use a strike as a work disruption, it does affect students’ lives, it does affect the institution’s life, and nobody goes into this lightly.”