This post was updated Aug. 15 at 5:53 p.m.
University of California student workers held a rally Tuesday to put pressure on the University to accept their demands for their new contract.
Roughly 100 people from United Auto Workers Local 2865 and its allies set up tents and banners outside of Murphy Hall to demand proper compensation, sexual harassment policy changes and immigrant protections.
UAW Local 2865 represents more than 17,000 Academic Student Employees throughout the UC including teaching assistants, tutors and readers.
Half an hour into the demonstration, the protesters occupied the second floor of Murphy Hall to convince Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Scott Waugh to accept their demands. Campus police guarded the entrance to Waugh’s office but were there as a neutral party, UCPD said.
The protesters walked out once a representative from Waugh’s office said he would not meet with them. Jonathan Koch, UAW 2865 campus chair at UCLA, said Waugh later met with a few of the union’s representatives but was not supportive of their proposals.
UCLA Spokesman Ricardo Vazquez said UCLA administrators are continually trying to attend to student issues on campus.
“Provost Scott Waugh (and other administrators) met with several members of the union to hear their concerns about the economic pressures they face and ways the campus can provide support to Academic Student Employees,” Vazquez said.
The student workers’ current contract will end Aug. 24, after a deadline extension from June.
The UC Office of the President is proposing a 2 percent annual wage increase for the next four years. Annual inflation in California is 3.4 percent, according to UAW 2865’s website.
Alli Carlisle, a Ph.D. candidate in Spanish and Portuguese at UCLA and Bargaining Team Co-Chair, said the University is effectively offering a wage decrease.
“We need more than that,” Carlisle said. “It’s not being greedy; we need to be able to live.”
The minimum monthly pay for teaching assistants at the UC is up to $1,161 lower than at peer institutions, according to UAW 2865.
Sexual violence and sexual harassment issues
The UC proposed that the University and UAW form a committee to discuss sexual violence and sexual harassment issues. Carlisle said that while the committee is a step in the right direction, the committee is only an advisory committee and does not have the discretion to change policies and practices.
Carlisle added student workers are currently able to settle sexual harassment complaints by filing a grievance with the University. However, she said the University now wants any grievance related to sexual harassment to wait until a Title IX investigation is completed before the grievance is allowed to continue.
Carlisle said the grievance process should not be put on hold given that the Title IX office is not reliable.
“That’s unacceptable to us because Title IX has had a lot of problems, and we’ve seen a lot of situations in which Title IX has not brought people justice,” Carlisle said. “We’re not going to get rid of a procedure that we currently have to get justice for our members.”
Kelly Roso, a PhD candidate in Italian at UCLA and UAW member, said the women who claimed that former UCLA history professor Gabriel Piterberg had harassed them in 2013 had filed a complaint with UCLA’s Title IX office but were not informed about the University’s decision to issue Piterberg a temporary leave while retaining his tenured position. Piterberg was suspended by the University in 2015 and returned to teaching at UCLA in 2017 amidst protests by students groups on campus. The University ended Piterberg’s employment in March after a 2017 Title IX investigation had found Piterberg to be in violation of the University’s SVSH policy.
“If the person who has made (a sexual harassment) complaint doesn’t even know what’s being done to prevent it from happening in the future (or) doesn’t know what’s happening to the professor, you can’t say justice has been served there,” Roso said. “They’re just left with more uncertainty, especially when the harasser is someone who holds a position of power over them.”
UC spokesperson Danielle Smith said the UC strives for fair procedures and is continually trying to use input from students and other stakeholders to address sexual harassment issues.
“UC is committed to pursuing contract provisions that align with the University’s system-wide sexual violence and sexual harassment policy, which outlines a transparent, consistent process to ensure fairness in investigating and adjudicating cases,” Smith said. “Our (sexual violence and sexual harassment) policy was shaped with the input of student leaders serving on a presidential task force.”
Smith added that the UC created a student advisory board earlier this year to help the University address sexual violence and sexual harassment issues.
Koch said the UC is trying to roll back on immigrant protections in the current contract. For example, the University wants to discontinue the Instructional Opportunities Committee, which created a pilot program that allowed undocumented graduate students to receive fellowships and teaching opportunities, Koch said.
Smith said the UC is committed to protecting the undocumented community by offering legal services to undocumented students and banning campus police from detaining individuals based on suspected undocumented status or engaging with federal immigration authorities, as per the University’s Statement of Principles in Support of Undocumented Members of the UC Community.