Many of you have already heard that this last Tuesday, the UAW and the UC reached a tentative agreement with the UC on the contract protecting GSIs, readers and tutors working throughout the UC system. The union has sent out an official email to members, telling us what a great contract this is and recommending that we ratify it when it comes to a vote at the end of the month. Yet there is by no means consensus within the union about the strength of this contract: some members of the bargaining team who were present at the agreement even refused to sign it. While this contract does make some modest gains, it is, in many ways, quite simply not good enough. That is why rank-and-file members of UAW Local 2865 are voting NO on this contract agreement – and why we encourage you to join us in voting NO as a call for both a stronger contract and a stronger union.
Beginning last spring, members of the Berkeley unit of the union met in department and membership meetings to talk about what we needed from the new contract. Several key demands came out of these meetings: full fee remission, a real wage increase, better childcare subsidies, improved job security, dependent health insurance. Rank-and-file union members intervened in the bargaining process regularly during the last few months to ensure that our bargaining team knew it had the support of its members to take a strong position on these demands – that these were the things we needed and were prepared to fight for. There is some progress toward some of these demands in the new contract. The childcare subsidy is up to a maximum $2400/year from $900/year, and yet compared to actual costs of childcare (which are often $12,000/year or more), these gains are clearly inadequate. Most of our other demands were conceded in negotiations, including full fee remission, a real wage increase, and better appointment security.
Voting NO on the contract means, then, voting against an agreement that is weak on the core demands of union members – but it isn’t only that. Much more than the intricacies of this or that article, the problem with this contract lies in the campaign our union has run to get it. Aside from cryptic emails to membership that raised more questions than they answered, and a dead-on-arrival “Report Card” campaign, the union leadership chose not to use its resources to mobilize union members to fight for a strong contract, and in fact did everything they could to make it difficult for union members to organize ourselves. The leadership is right to praise the members for “holding hundreds of departmental meetings to discuss bargaining demands and prepare to strike if needed…attending delegations to bargaining and to key administrators; participating in grade-ins and other actions highlighting our contract campaign and the struggle for quality education around the state.” What that email doesn’t tell you is that those efforts all arose from the initiative of rank-and-file members, without the support of the leadership. This is largely because they saw it as a foregone conclusion that concessions (like our pay cut “wage increase”) were inevitable given the financial state of the UC. They entirely adopted the administration’s logic about the management of the university’s resources, rather than advocating for a prioritization of the teaching mission of the UC – and therefore of the teachers who make that mission happen. They went into the bargaining process prepared to concede rather than fight, and so preempted union members from fighting for what we believe this contract needs to defend: both our own working conditions and the future of working and learning in the UC.
For all of these reasons, we are voting NO on the contract agreement. We are voting to send the union and the UC back to bargaining because we think we can win a better contract, and because we want the chance to fight for one.