Teaching assistants, readers and tutors across the UC system struck Friday after last-minute contract negotiations with the University failed.
Ten thousand such employees belong to the United Auto Workers union. All academic student employees (ASE) first unionized under UAW in 1999. The three-year contract formed, then ended on Sept. 30, after six months of negotiation failed to produce an extension.
On Sept. 26 union negotiators sent an email to members saying, “all the campus teams will be sending their representatives to marathon negotiations.” UAW Local 2865 spokeswoman Beth Rayfield declined to provide specifics but said common issues such as wage and health care were topics of negotiation. Those negotiations failed, and the strike was on.
A moderate crowd of union members rotated in and out of a protest in front of Cheadle Hall at UCSB all day Friday, but it remained unclear if any classes were cancelled because of the strike.
Rayfield said all ASEs would return to work Monday, but would remain mobilized for a possible future strike.
“We had a strong majority action,” Rayfield said. “We want to send the University a message that they need to honor the law.”
Rayfield was referring to the 64 unfair labor practice charges the union filed with the state’s Public Employee Relations Board on Sept. 25. The union charges that the University bargained in bad faith and engaged in tactics including surface bargaining, making regressive proposals and failing to schedule sufficient bargaining dates.
“The law requires that sides make an equal amount of movement on issue, and it doesn’t work if only one party is willing to move,” Rayfield said. “There are also incidents of both sides agreeing on an issue at one bargaining session, then coming back later having changed their minds.”
Judith W. Boyette, associate vice president for human resources and benefits at the UC Office of the President, said in a statement, “UC has been working hard with the United Auto Workers … on a fair contract that continues to give our teaching assistants the best possible terms of employment within available resources – resources that have been significantly constrained due to the current state budget deficit.”
Boyette also said in the statement that the UC has contingency plans in place to ensure that any union action would not disrupt university operation or instructional activities.