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UC lecturers begin 2-day strike

By Shane Nelson

Oct. 13, 2002 9:00 p.m.

Lecturers plan to strike at five University of California
campuses today and Tuesday protesting their lack of job security
after more than two years of unresolved negotiations.

Though the lecturers’ first-ever multi-campus strike will
not directly affect UCLA, union leaders say there is a possibility
of one in the coming months.

All campus divisions of the UC American Federation of Teachers
voted to strike over the summer, but lecturers at UCLA have decided
to wait to see what happens before acting, said Elizabeth Barba,
UC-AFT’s Los Angeles press aide.

“It is not if, but when,” Barba said, referring to a
possible strike at UCLA.

UC San Diego will hold a one-day picketing today in support of
the strikes.

If the bargaining process goes into a lengthy impasse, then the
strikes could go on indefinitely, she said.

Though the UC and UC-AFT have successfully negotiated a variety
of points including instructional support issues, location of
personnel files, and parental leaves, they have not agreed on the
job security issue.

“The UC continues to offer the lecturers’ union the
best wage proposals it can, given the limited state funding it is
receiving due to the current $24 billion state budget
deficit,” said UC President Richard Atkinson in a
statement.

“I want to assure our employees, students and the public
that all UC campuses have a contingency plan in place to help
ensure that university operations will continue with as little
disruption as possible,” he said.

Lecturers, along with clerical workers and nurses, went on
strike at UC Berkeley earlier this year from Aug. 26-28.

The implications of a systemwide strike could be significant.
Though lecturers make up about 12 percent of all faculty, they
teach about 25-30 percent of all classes ““ undergraduate and
graduate ““ according to the UC Office of the President.

Some say UCLA could feel an even larger impact than other
campuses. The university’s 400-600 lecturers, depending on
the quarter, teach 50 percent of undergraduate classes, Barba
said.

UC lecturers, whether long- or short-term, can work full-time
and receive regular employee benefits. Additionally, the UC offers
three-year renewable contracts to longtime lecturers, after six
years.

The UC says it has this system in place to compete for faculty,
including lecturers, on a national basis and tries to offer
salaries, benefits and working conditions designed to attract
talented recruits.

But current lecturers say UCLA is one of the worst campuses to
get a contract renewal.

“Lecturers get let go before they have the opportunity to
receive job security. No one seems to make it to their sixth
year,” said Robert Hennig, a political science lecturer and
member of the UC-AFT bargaining team.

Both sides say the discord is due to the other side bargaining
in “bad faith.”

The UC maintains UC-AFT strikes are illegal and filed a formal
complaint with the Public Employment Relations Board for the August
strikes at Berkeley. The union did the same against the
university.

In September the UC presented a settlement offer to the union
that gave several concessions, including greater job security for
senior lecturers, more benefits for part-time lecturers, higher
minimum salaries and improved layoff rights.

But UC-AFT rejected the offer because it felt that the job
security concerns were still not adequately addressed.

The Coalition of University Employees, which represents the
UC’s 18,000 clerical workers, plans to engage in sympathy
strikes at the Davis, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz
campuses, said CUE President Claudia Horning.

UC-AFT representatives are meeting with the UC in Sacramento on
Tuesday. Further negotiations are scheduled for Oct. 21.

University officials condemn the strikes, saying they only
aggravate contract talks and delay settlement.

“The appropriate place to resolve differences is at the
bargaining table, not the street corner or campus plaza,”
said Gayle Cieszkiewicz, executive director of UC labor relations,
in a statement.

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Shane Nelson
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