Eleven thousand University employees will soon decide between unionization and continuing to fly solo.
On Wednesday the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) will send ballots to administrative professionals throughout the UC system offering the choice between the status quo of no representation or joining the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union. These employees, who include accountants, statisticians, customer service representatives, counselors and more, will have until March 3 to return the ballots.
UPTE, which already represents about 10,000 UC technical, research and medical professionals, will assume representation rights over the administrative professionals if a simple majority of the votes are cast in favor of unionization.
There are currently different opinions about how the vote will play out.
“I am extremely optimistic [that voters will choose unionization],” Lisa Kermish, UPTE systemwide vice president, said. “We are the last big group of non-academic staff that is not with a union. And people should realize that now is not the time to hang out by themselves in this bad budget climate.”
Farfalla Borah, UCSB employee and labor relations representative, said it was “hard to say” how the voting would go, while Sue Cross, acting president of UPTE at UC Irvine, said, “It will be kind of close, but we will definitely win.”
UC’s official position on the vote is that it neither endorses nor opposes union representation.
“Our goal is to get as many people to vote as possible,” Borah said. “The more people who vote, the clearer the mandate is.”
Should administrative professionals choose unionization, the negotiation of a new contract with UC would be “the first order of business,” Cross said. The union would send out “bargaining surveys” to members to determine the issues most important to them in negotiations, and Kermish said “bargaining conferences” to the same effect would be held at UC campuses, possibly beginning in April or May.
PERB called for the election after receiving about 5,000 “request cards” from administrative professionals. The cards, which were circulated by UPTE, only requested a vote and did not specify how a person intended to vote.
Cross said she has been hosting workshops at Irvine about pay structures, job security and how unionization might change them as part of what she called a grassroots campaign in favor of unionization.