Tuesday, February 18

Editorial: Tentative deal between UC and UPTE would sacrifice crucial striking rights

The UC offered employees a pay raise, but it comes at a heavy price.

The University proposed a tentative deal to increase the wages of about 14,000 research and technical workers represented by University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America 9119 on Tuesday.

The offer promises a pay increase of 22% for technical workers and 20% for health care professionals over the next five years. In addition, research and technical workers will be given step pay increases based on performance, while health care professionals will benefit from equity pay increases.

But the UC’s deal has a catch: UPTE members would not be allowed to strike during this five-year time period.

If the UC has proven anything with this proposal, it’s that it’s willing to treat workers wages as bargaining chips if it means saving face for the institution. And despite the UC staying neatly within the law’s jurisdiction, the underlying message is clear – strikes and a living wage are mutually exclusive.

With three strikes in 11 months, it’s no wonder the UC would hope to curb employees’ efforts.

But its solution does not inspire confidence in the University’s values.

Barring these employees from striking for five years eliminates their voices from a necessary conversation with the UC. And the end of that conversation likely means an end to further pay raises.

For each year these employees make a living wage, they are forced to give up their voice – a voice that helped fight for that wage in the first place.

This isn’t the first time the University has helped illustrate just how important it is that employees retain their right to protest. While bargaining began in 2017, the UC continued to filibuster negotiations – a standstill that surely would have gone on if it hadn’t been for the frequent labor strikes.

In the state of California, public employees are legally allowed to go on strike without being fired. Now, the UC has effectively taken those rights away for five years.

The UC’s move to pacify employee qualms with such an offer makes even less sense when considering recent strikes, which have protested unfair labor practices and – more pointedly – UC attempts to intimidate employees on strike.

If the University hopes to decrease the number of strikes in upcoming years, it seems reasonable to work with its employees – not against them.

Instead, it seems intent on delivering ultimatums.

If new issues arise within the five-year period, UPTE workers would be barred from taking proper action. The University might be saving face, but it’s also making necessary progress unattainable for the very foundation of the UC’s progressive technology and research – employees.

Of course, the increase in workers’ wages is a major win for the union in many ways. Increased pay is a first step toward improvement that the UC has every right to be proud of. But the morality of this contract is by no means flawless – something even the UC seems to be aware of, given the University’s own press room fails to mention the no-strike stipulation in their recent offer.

Surely, increased wages are a step in the right direction.

But the caveats are reminiscent of two steps back.

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  • D_Mitchell

    Virtually all union contracts, private or public, feature some kind of no-strike clause for the duration. They are essentially peace treaties. If you don’t know that, you don’t know labor relations. Five years is a longer than average contract, but that length is hardly unique. Why would UC or any employer sign any deal that could be broken at any time?