Berkeley members passed the following resolution at the monthly membership meeting on August 31, 2010.
GSIs, readers and tutors are responsible for most of the undergraduate teaching at the UC; our duties include preparing and delivering lectures, leading discussion and lab sections, teaching languages and lower division courses, grading papers and holding office hours. In many cases, classes are designed entirely by graduate students. Our work is an integral part of the teaching and research missions of the university.
Yet, we continue to be overworked and underpaid, thus compromising the quality of our teaching and research. Additionally, we face challenges in our everyday lives trying to pay our rents and keep up with the high cost of living in California –especially in the Bay Area—for which our wages are hardly adequate.
In a congressional hearing held in April 2010 to examine why the UC and postdoctoral researchers had not reached a contract after more than a year of negotiations, Representative Miller (D-CA) and Lee (DCA) agreed that $37,000 was not a living wage for postdocs living in the Bay Area, especially those supporting families. Many GSIs make less than $16,000 a year. Last year we received no wage increase.
Further, given the cost of rent in the area, many ASEs find themselves spending more than half of their income on rent. The US Department of Education recommends that rent should not be more than 25-30% of a person’s income.
Despite our low salaries, ASEs are still required to pay a percentage of fees every semester or quarter. The UC raised fees twice last year, huge professional fees are being added to many schools, and brand new fees are being created, like the “BSpace fee.” At Berkeley this year, GSIs have to pay more than $310 in fees for the fall semester, up from about $280 last year. ASEs organized with the UAW in Massachusetts have won an article that guarantees that the university cannot unilaterally impose new fees on graduate students without negotiating with the union.
Those of us with dependents are disproportionately affected and are often forced to choose between our studies and being able to support our families. As we are shut out of subsidized childcare on campus, grad student workers face childcare costs that average more than 75% of a GSI’s wages. Childcare for an infant on campus costs $1815 per month, and subsidized spaces for student parents have been cut. In Alameda County, childcare costs (according to the California Budget Project) are $1254/month.
In surveys carried out by the UAW, the university, and the graduate assembly, ASEs at UC Berkeley have repeatedly raised these same concerns: the absence of meaningful support for childcare and dependent healthcare; the high cost of living, especially the cost of housing; and low wages.
Because we are committed to offering quality education to our students and because we need to support ourselves and our families, we need a contract that includes these benefits and protections:
− Wage increase for all ASEs adjusted for year-to-year inflation.
− Housing subsidy with the goal that no more than 50% of our salary goes towards rent.
− Full fee remission of all current and any future fees for all ASEs
− Childcare subsidy for all ASEs with children, covering the full cost of childcare.
− Dependent healthcare premium remission for all ASEs with dependents.
− Our right to respect other union’s picket lines.
− Protection of our appointment security and non-discrimination for political affiliation, union activity and membership in the union.