The University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, organized rallies Oct. 13 and Oct. 14 in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union building at UC Berkeley calling for job security and fair salaries.
UC-AFT represents more than 6,000 teaching faculty in the UC system. Since April 2019, UC-AFT has been in negotiations with the UC administration for a new contract ensuring job stability, improved compensation and a more reasonable workload for lecturers. On Monday, the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, presented a formal proposal to the union members to address lecturers’ demands, but some members of the union remain unsatisfied by this proposal.
This week, UC-AFT organized rallies on nine UC campuses to call on UC President Michael Drake and the administration to take action. The purpose of the rallies is to gain publicity, put pressure on UC officials and educate students about the issue, according to Mary Kelsey, one of the rally organizers and a campus lecturer in the sociology department.
At UC Berkeley, about 300 people attended the Oct. 13 rally, according to David Walter, co-chair of the UC-AFT Bay Area chapter and a campus lecturer in the comparative literature and English departments. More than 100 people were present at the peak of the Oct. 14 rally.
UC-AFT members as well as students and representatives from other Berkeley and UC organizations, such as the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and the Young Democratic Socialists of America, spoke at the rallies. Participants chanted slogans such as “UC-AFT faculty demand job security,” “43% of the work, 13% of the pay,” and “End unpaid work now!”
“The University of California highly values our lecturers’ hard work and dedication to the University and its students,” said UCOP spokesperson Ryan King in an email. “We recognize their many contributions and the critical role they play in teaching our students and advancing UC’s education mission, and share their desire to reach an agreement that allows for their continued positive impact on our campuses.”
However, Kelsey alleged the actions of the UC administration indicate a lack of understanding and “respect” for the work of lecturers.
Kelsey said much of lecturers’ work, including advising and writing letters of recommendation, goes unpaid.
Joanna Reed, a lecturer of 13 years for the campus sociology department, emphasized that lecturers lack job security for their first six years working for the school. AT the rally, Reed said that even she has to rely on financial support from her spouse due to the low salary given to lecturers. The median salary for UC lecturers is less than $20,000, according to a UC-AFT press release.
Reed celebrated the provision in the UCOP’s new proposal for longer reappointment periods for lecturers.
“A regular lecturer has no job security and is paid on a continuous basis,” Reed said at the rally. “We won the right to a continuing appointment, which is a pathway to make it easier for earlier career lecturers.”
Many students who attended the rallies said they support the cause because lecturers are vital to the university and their own education.
Anthony Migliacci, a campus junior, said at the rally that some of the greatest classes are taught by lecturers, but they are still treated like “second-class citizens.”
“If the university values education, they will treat (lecturers) fairly,” said Aileen Wu, a campus freshman, at the rally.
Like Migliacci, Wu added that two out of the four classes she is taking this semester are taught by lecturers, and they always try to get to know the students and make sure the students’ questions are answered.
Negotiations with UCOP are currently at an “impasse,” Walter said at the rally. The union filed for an impasse after a “historic” vote from 96% of members to authorize a strike, according to its website, and it is currently involved in mediation. He added that the union is prepared to strike if necessary.
“We hope not to get to the point where we need to go on strike,” Walter said at the rally. “Students will understand — no one wants to, but we are ready.”