UAW Local 2865 Responds to Numerous Reports of Workplace Intimidation

Graduate students hold a sympathy strike with AFSCME during last quarter’s strike.

Graduate students hold a sympathy strike with AFSCME during last quarter’s strike.

The Union for Teaching Assistants, Tutors, and Readers at UCSB — or UAW Local 2865 at Santa Barbara — will strike today in front of Davidson Library in protest of alleged unfair labor practices, such as worker intimidation toward TAs and other UC employees by the UC Office of the President.

The graduate student union, which is a part of the national United Auto Workers union, voted to call a two-day strike, with the first day of protests featuring campus-specific unfair labor practice protests and the second day featuring a statewide strike protesting claims of alleged unlawful worker intimidation and TA-student ratio negotiations. UCSB will only be striking today, with protests solely concerning worker intimidation. The demonstrations come in light of the largest union of UC workers, AFSCME 3299, deciding to vote in favor of a contract agreement with UC leadership on Friday, following a two-year-long labor dispute. UAW protests at other UC campuses are gaining momentum, as 20 undergraduate students were arrested at a protest yesterday at UC Santa Cruz, where graduate student TAs represented by UAW are also striking.

Union Chair for UAW 2865 at Santa Barbara Robert Ackerman said UC teaching assistants, tutors and readers statewide have been subject to unfair labor practices “over the past several months,” citing examples of cases in UC Irvine in which TAs were told protests “were responsible for disruption of classes,” and in UC Santa Cruz, where he claims a TA was told by the writing program director that “if they held a protest, they would never TA again.”

“One other example is, at UC Berkeley, a number of department chairs sent emails claiming that they want to pressure UAW to stop protesting, at the encouragement of the Vice Chancellor,” Ackerman said, “Because of instances like this, we filed unfair labor practices with Public Employment Relations Board.”

But according to UC Office of the President spokeswoman Shelly Meron, UCOP is not responsible for the intimidation claims made by UAW Local 2865 workers and the administration is “disappointed” that union employees have decided to strike.

“Our message is if anyone feels there has been intimidation in any way, the way to get that resolved is not though the picket line but through the Public Employment Relations Board,” Meron said.

Some classes, such as English 101, will be canceled today as a result of the TA strike. According to English 101 professor Aranye Frandenburg, the strike aims to bring attention to the fact that graduate students throughout the UC make less money and have “harder, more inconsistent” workloads than their peers at other research universities.

“It’s worth canceling class because history has taught us that union and unionizing activity is one of the few ways to get UCOP’s attention that really works,” Frandenburg said. “The UC system would collapse without our brilliant, hardworking, underpaid graduate students.”

According to Meron however, UCOP does not think the strike is going to “resolve issue on the table,” especially in light of ongoing negotiations between UAW Local 2865 and the university.

“We’ve been negotiating with UAW since July 2013 so we’ve made offers at table that have included wage increases, health care subsidies and extended leave,” Meron said. “So we’re committed to working with issues with them and looking forward to reaching an agreement with them soon.”

According to Frandenburg, students should support the protest and the push for better treatment of their TAs, tutors and readers.

“If the undergraduates have ever had a great TA who gave them their all, they should support this strike in every way they can, by observing picket lines and attending the rally,” Frandenburg said. “We are all in the same boat.”


Photo by Peter Vandenbelt / Daily Nexus

A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, April 3, 2014 print edition of the Daily Nexus.