The University of California has reached a tentative agreement with the United Auto Workers Union 2865, representing more than 12,000 teaching assistants, tutors, and readers throughout the university system, including roughly 1,200 at UCSB. That news was announced Monday morning, October 1, just as the union was preparing to strike at campuses statewide after the September 30 deadline came and went without a deal. But according to a UC official, a tentative agreement had been reached.
UAW representative Daraka Larimore Hall confirmed the tentative agreement was signed at about 9 a.m. this morning, after a marathon session that lasted most of the night, and had been intensive since the middle of last week.
No other information about the agreement will become available until the union’s board ratifies the agreement at a meeting in the coming weeks, but Larimore Hall said “both sides are very happy with the agreement.”
On Friday, Larimore Hall told The Independent the two sides were “nowhere near an agreement.” According to officials at the UC Office of the President, the UAW announced at Friday’s bargaining session its intention to strike beginning this week should no agreement be reached over the weekend. “We’re ready to strike if we have to,” said Larimore Hall, who is from Santa Barbara.
He had cited how family-unfriendly the university was for union members. “On many campuses, they don’t include dependent health care coverage,” he said. “At many campuses, there is far from adequate child care available.” Family responsibility is one of the things that really hold people back in their educational careers, according to Larimore Hall.
The UC salary for graduate teaching assistants is also lagging behind, he noted, something the university has recognized as a problem, according to UC human resources and labor relations coordinator Nicole Savickas. At $15,610.50 per academic year, teaching assistants earn roughly $4,800 less than is needed to meet the average cost of living for a graduate student. “A number of employee groups do face lags in market competitive wages,” she said Friday. The university is working “as hard as they can” to resolve the problems faced by these groups. She did point out, however, that academic student employees have comparable wages to those offered by other public research universities.
Last week, the UAW filed several unfair labor practice charges against UC, most of them encompassing two main issues: that the university was stalling and not giving vital information needed by the UAW to negotiate, and that the bargaining team UC was sending to the table didn’t have the appropriate power to bargain. “It’s a waste of time for us,” Larimore-Hall said.
In response, Savickas said that part of the problem in responding to the UAW’s request is that the union has submitted more than 100 information requests, some of which are for data the university doesn’t keep track of. She also said the university’s bargaining team has the full authority to negotiate.
With Monday’s announcement-and the avoidance of a strike that would have affected almost all UCSB students, who rely on teaching assistants for a hefty chunk of their education-it seems that the UC and union managed to negotiate a contract they both could handle.