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Editorial: UC must increase transparency, stop deferral of labor disputes

By Editorial Board

Nov. 1, 2015 11:42 p.m.

Following last-minute meetings, the lecturers’ union and the University of California finally reached an agreement.

Sort of.

One day before their Halloween deadline, the University Council-American Federation of Teachers and the UC agreed to extend their contract until Dec. 10 with an additional round of bargaining coming up in a few weeks.

University representatives, both in negotiations and with the media, are not nearly transparent enough to ensure a fair bargaining process. The public knows little about what is going on in these meetings outside of UC-AFT’s Twitter and Facebook posts. Even the union has been left in the dark. As of Thursday night, union bargainers say they had yet to receive the UC’s salary proposal; although on Friday, they said they eventually were offered a single 1.5 percent salary increase for the next five years.

It is in both sides’ best interest to ensure that the November negotiations lead to a lasting contract rather than repeated extensions; it is unlikely that either side wants an extended labor dispute. But this month we’ve seen evidence of how unwilling a partner the UC can be in such negotiations.

UC-AFT alleges that the UC representative repeatedly showed up late to meetings and treated its members with disrespect. It also claims that, two days before the deadline, UC lawyers didn’t even show up until 9 p.m. Members of the union have said they feel that the UC’s representatives have met them with condescension and an air of superiority rather than a willingness to bargain, a feeling that is certainly justified if the UC did in fact barely give them the time of day during their three scheduled days of negotiations. Under such conditions, it’s no wonder the two sides weren’t able to draw up a new contract.

This may be the continuation of an unwelcome trend. Last month, the UC extended its contract with the postdoctoral workers union rather than reaching an agreement on a new contract. Deferring labor disputes does little to solve them.

To make matters worse, the UC has provided little more than public relations quotes to those that aren’t sitting at the table. When pressed for answers to specific questions, UC spokesperson Kate Moser declined to comment, saying instead that the UC hoped to reach an agreement. The University owes the public an explanation.

Even if it may not seem immediately apparent to some, students have a stake in these negotiations as well, making the University’s gross lack of transparency all the more repugnant.

When lecturers are treated with disrespect and aren’t allowed a fair shot to fight for better pay, improved job security or more benefits, many of them must devote more of their energy working at and commuting to other schools to make ends meet rather than focusing solely on their work here. Such a practice is not uncommon among part-time lecturers and adjunct professors.

About 1,200 lecturers taught at UCLA alone last year. If the UC has no problem using their labor, it should have no problem negotiating with them as equals either.

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