GSIs, readers and tutors need a fair contract!

15 Oct

We are rank-and-file members of UAW Local 2865. We are UC Berkeley students and we are educators. We grade essays and lab reports, response papers and midterms; we hold office hours and talk students through difficult philosophical passages, math problems, or even personal crises. We are the teachers who know students by name, recognize individual improvement, and offer career mentorship. We provide the most instructional time on the Berkeley campus.  We are committed to our students, love our research and want to see the UC thrive as a great public university.

And we are paid below a living wage.

Providing outstanding UC-quality education requires that we the university’s primary teachers can afford rent, childcare and medical care. Our union has been in contract negotiations with UC administrators since last spring. Our contract was set to expire on September 30, but the UC administration is stalling and refusing to engage in good-faith negotiations.

It’s not that there isn’t enough money.

At their September meeting, the UC regents approved executive salary increases and bonuses that will bring the total in fiscal year 2010 to an additional annual commitment of $11.5 million. This is about what it would cost to meet our wage demands for all 12,000 GSIs, readers and tutors in the UC system statewide.

Our demands are simple and fair:

We demand a wage increase that isn’t a pay cut.

The union seeks a wage increase to close the gap between our wages and the cost of living in California. Step 1 GSIs at Berkeley make $16,637 a year.  On average, our compensation is $1000 a year lower than at competing institutions. Meanwhile, housing and other living expenses in California are considerably higher than elsewhere. Yet UC administrators offer only a 2% “wage increase” actually below current and projected inflation rates.

We demand a childcare subsidy that actually helps student parents.

Student parents struggle to pay for quality childcare. In Alameda County, the average cost for one month of childcare is $1254. Currently, ASEs only receive $450 per semester for childcare. The union is asking UC administrators to double the childcare subsidy still nowhere near the full cost of childcare –, an increase that would cost UC less than $70,000 a year. But the UC administration is refusing any increase at all.

We demand compensation for union representatives in bargaining.

An effective union needs representatives at the bargaining table. UC administrators claim an “ongoing commitment to working effectively with its labor unions”, yet the UC is attempting to limit UAW bargaining capacity by cutting compensation for our union representatives. The union fought hard for compensation policies that support the ASEs who serve as our local union negotiators. We reject the administration’s plans to cut our current contractual guarantees by 75%.

The rank-and-file members of UAW 2865’s Berkeley Unit have been fighting for a strong contract, and we will continue to fight. Since last spring, we have met with hundreds of fellow Berkeley members in dozens of departments across the campus, as well as in monthly membership meetings, to find out what concerns ASEs have about their working conditions and to decide together what we need from the new contract. We have been present throughout the bargaining process: from public sunshine meetings over the summer to bargaining sessions in September, rank-and-file members have sat across the table from the UC bargaining team and made it clear that we cannot and will not accept a contract that does not meet our basic demands.

If the UC continues with its unfair labor practices, we are prepared to strike. If the contract agreement reached is inadequate, we are prepared to turn it down.

We need a fair contract, and we’re prepared to fight for it.

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