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Petition calls for negotiations with UAW Local 2865

By Benjamin Genta

May 29, 2014 12:34 a.m.

The original version of this article contained information that was unclear and has been changed. See the bottom of the article for more information.

More than 400 faculty members at the University of California have signed on to a petition calling for UC officials to negotiate fairly and sincerely with teaching assistants and other student academic workers who plan to strike during finals week.

The petition, sponsored by the UC Santa Cruz Faculty Association and started about a week ago, calls for UC President Janet Napolitano to negotiate in good faith with student academic workers who recently threatened to strike if they do not reach a new contract with the UC.

The United Auto Workers Local 2865, a union representing teaching assistants and other academic workers, is demanding smaller class sizes, equal access for undocumented workers and higher wages.

Brooke Converse, a UC spokeswoman, said the University thinks it has offered teaching assistants a substantial financial package. She added that it is prohibited under federal law to hire undocumented workers.

Tobias Higbie, an associate professor of history at UCLA who signed the petition, said he is mostly concerned that the quality of teaching at the UC may decline during the strike because teaching assistants help instruct students and work closely with them on coursework.

The union is asking for a 5 percent salary increase for workers in the 2014-2015 academic year, with 5.5 percent increases the following two years. During the latest negotiation, the UC offered workers a 4 percent increase for next year and 3 percent for the following two years.

Chris Connery, a member of the executive board of the UC Santa Cruz Faculty Association, said he thinks a number of faculty members signed the petition because the current working conditions for academic workers have negative effects on undergraduate education.

“We are dismayed by the failure of the University leadership to come to an agreement with the Student-Workers union,” the petition says. “Increasing class sizes and inadequate graduate student support are issues that concern us all.”

In April, Converse said the UC and graduate student workers discussed issues that are not usually covered in labor negotiations, such as reaching a tentative agreement to create more all-gender bathrooms on UC campuses.

The union and the University are negotiating from Wednesday through Friday. In a town hall meeting on Wednesday held by union members, some individuals said negotiations with the UC are currently in process and an agreement may come in the near future.

Jessica Rett, an associate professor of linguistics at UCLA who signed the petition, said she thinks that while the University has worked well with unions in the past, officials have not done so in this case.

The union is planning to hold a “Day of Action” on June 4, where its members will rally in front of the Powell Library.

Contributing reports by Joseph Vescera, Bruin contributor.

Correction: Converse said the University thinks it offered teaching assistants a substantial financial package and they discussed issues in April not usually covered in labor negotiations. She said it is against federal law to hire undocumented workers.

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