Letter to the UC Bargaining Team

After members attended the September 22 and 23, 2010 bargaining sessions and saw firsthand the UC’s dismissive treatment of its teachers, 134 Berkeley members signed the following letter to the UC’s bargaining team.

To the UC negotiators,

We are rank-and-file members of UAW Local 2865. We are – besides students at the University of California, Berkeley – educators. We grade essays and lab reports, response papers and midterms; we hold office hours and talk students through a difficult philosophical passage, math problem, or even personal crisis. We are often the only teachers who know students by name, who recognize individual improvement, who suggest career opportunities or graduate programs. We provide the biggest percentage of instructional time on the Berkeley campus.

And we are paid below a living wage to do this.

No matter how much we love our students, no matter how much we love our research, no matter how much we want to see the University of California thrive as a great public university, we know that we (as ASEs) and the university cannot continue to provide the outstanding education it has for so many years if its primary teachers are not able to make rent, to find childcare, or to afford medical care.

Last week many of us attended two bargaining sessions between the UAW 2865 and the UC Office of the President. We were shocked and saddened by the lack of respect for our work and our dignity as instructors demonstrated by the offers made by the UC bargaining team. This included a “wage increase” that is less than the projected increase in cost of living over the next three years and thus, effectively a wage decrease. We were also infuriated by the inability or unwillingness of the – amply paid – UC bargaining team to recognize the realities of living on a $14,000/year income and their feeble excuses for the university’s recent decision to spend $11.5 million on executive bonuses. This amount is almost precisely the cost of increasing GSI salaries by those percentages requested by the UAW: 7% in the first year, followed by 3% cost of living increases in the next two years.

Although we cannot travel to Los Angeles, we want to express our continued solidarity with our bargaining team in the final days of negotiation and our insistence that our next contract respect the essential work that we do as Academic Student Employees. This includes, but is not limited to:

* A wage increase that isn’t a wage decrease, and that moves us closer to a living wage for the Bay Area.
* Full fee remission – we will not pay to work! This means remission must include campus fees and that the University must be precluded from inventing new fees for ASEs without negotiating remission with the UAW.
* More subsides for childcare. The current subsidy – $450 a semester – is simply insulting to ASE parents who must pay more than their income – $1800/month – for infant care at the Berkeley campus.
* Protection of our health care benefits: Any changes should be the subject of negotiation, and not unilateral action on the part of the University.
* Protection of our union rights and access, including compensation for our bargaining representatives.

We have seen first-hand how the UCOP conducts bargaining with its teachers, and you have seen that ASEs care deeply about and are willing to fight for a fair contract. We hope such a contract can be agreed upon in the coming week. But we also are ready and willing to continue to stand up for ourselves and will not accept a contract that does not demonstrate respect for the work that we do. We may not be in the room, but we are watching and waiting, and – most importantly – ready to act.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

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