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Important information about UC-UAW negotiations

The University has learned that the United Auto Workers (UAW) is attempting to organize another strike among graduate teaching assistants, tutors and other academic student employees (ASEs) for the first week of December.

It is important that the entire UC community understand fully the University’s positions in these negotiations – especially concerning the issue of “sympathy strikes” – as well as UC’s efforts to reach a fair contract and the facts about the union’s accusations of UC bad faith bargaining and unfair labor practices.

Campus preparedness in the event of a strike
The University very much regrets the union’s choice to ask our employees to consider participating in another illegal pre-impasse strike, especially one at this time of year when a strike would seriously disadvantage hard-working UC students who are in the midst of exams.

UC wants to assure our students, faculty, staff and the public that all UC campuses have contingency plans in place to deal with strikes and to help ensure that instructional activities, as well as general University operations, will continue with as little disruption as possible.

Clarification about “sympathy strikes”
Once a contract is in place, UC has an obligation to provide – without interruption – the agreed upon salaries, benefits and other terms of employment, and ASEs have an obligation to deliver – without interruption – the services they have been appointed to provide.

All UC labor contracts contain standard “No Strikes” prohibitions against virtually all manner of strikes, including sympathy strikes – members from one union joining “in sympathy” in the strike of another union. The “No Strikes” provision represents the union’s promise of labor peace during the contract.

UC’s lecturers, librarians, police officers, service and patient care employees have all agreed that their “No Strikes” provisions prohibit sympathy strikes. Thus far, the UAW has not agreed to an explicit prohibition against sympathy strikes, which UC believes undercuts the promise of labor peace.

UC has a long tradition of supporting fully the civil expression of individual views and there is nothing in the University’s standard ‘No Strikes’ provision or its current proposals that prohibit ASEs from joining in any demonstrations or picket lines they choose on their own personal time.

UC’s efforts for a fair and expeditious agreement
For the past seven months, UC has been working diligently with the UAW to try to reach a fair agreement, and one that maintains UC’s practice of providing ASEs with some of the best terms of employment in all of higher education (see below). These efforts have included participating in several voluntary mediation sessions. But an agreement requires compromise from both sides.

Clarification of unfair labor practice charges and claims of UC bad faith
The UAW attempts to justify its strike activity, as well as its accusations of University bad faith bargaining, by citing various unfair labor practice charges (ULPs) it has filed.

The mere filing of ULPs does not represent actual wrongdoing or provide a legal justification for striking, and there is no limit to the number of ULPs a union may file or any requirement to demonstrate their validity in advance of a hearing before the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). Since a hearing may not happen for many months – if at all, since charges are often settled or withdrawn once the parties reach agreement – some unions use this as a tactic to attempt to vilify an employer, gain public sympathy, and pressure an employer into agreeing to union demands.

Only PERB has the authority to determine the validity of ULPs and the legality of any strike based on them, and UC is confident the UAW’s allegations will fail scrutiny if they are ever reviewed by PERB.

The union also attempts to portray UC as irresponsible or deceitful by accusing the University of sending negotiators to the table who lack sufficient authority. All UC negotiators are fully authorized to negotiate labor contracts on behalf of the University. As is customary in bargaining, both sides consult often with their respective organizations about offers the other side is making, and both sides must obtain membership approval before any agreement can be finalized. This regular constituent consultation is a normal part of the process – and something the union itself engages in – and any attempt to portray this as anything else is misleading.

UC’s response to other unions joining in a UAW strike
Since all UC contracts prohibit strikes, which UC maintains includes sympathy strikes, any unions or their members who strike will be in violation of their contract and state labor law, and UC will vigorously pursue enforcement of the contract and the law. If other UC unions participate in a sympathy strike and attempt to disrupt UC’s service to the public, including its educational programs and health care services, UC, as it has previously, will take all appropriate legal actions, including filing unfair labor practice charges, and seeking injunctions and monetary damages against striking unions.

Current ASE compensation & opportunities among the best in higher education
UC values highly the many contributions that its 13,000 teaching assistants and other instructional assistants make in helping UC faculty fulfill the University’s instructional mission, as evidenced in part by the fact that their salaries, benefits and professional opportunities are among the best in public higher education:

Salaries: Minimum of $14,200 for a nine-month work year at a 50% time appointment (20 hours/week);

Free Health Benefits: UC currently pays 100% of the health insurance premiums for any graduate student TA working a minimum of 25% time, saving graduate student employees $685-$1600/year;

No Fees: UC currently pays 100% of the education and registration fees for any graduate student TA working a minimum of 25% time, saving graduate student employees approximately $5,200 each academic year;

World-class learning: Chance to work with faculty at the world’s premier public research university.

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