Unionized academic workers have been on strike across the UC system since Monday to protest unfair labor practices and continue to bargain with the university each day of the strike.
Members on strike include graduate student researchers, or GSRs, represented by SRU-UAW; academic student employees, or ASEs, represented by UAW 2865; academic researchers, represented by UAW 5810; and postdoctoral scholars, also represented by UAW 5810.
The university has proposed bringing in a neutral and private mediator, as they acknowledged that significant differences still exist between UAW and the university, according to a statement from the university.
“At this point, the priority should be round the clock bargaining in good faith as opposed to switching to a mediation process,” said UAW 2865 President Rafael Jaime in a press release. “We remain willing and able to meet with the University on an ongoing basis to reach a resolution.”
UAW initially conducted extensive surveys and conversations with its members to identify their top issues, according to Kenzo Esquivel, a fourth year UC Berkeley doctoral candidate and elected head steward of UAW 2865. Now, each unit’s bargaining representatives have been meeting daily with university representatives to negotiate their contracts.
As of press time, some of the items being discussed at the bargaining tables are as follows. These proposals represent the current positions of UAW and the university, which may be more extreme than the final contract language.
In response to the high costs of living in California, higher wages have emerged as one of the key issues driving the strike. In particular, UAW has asked the university to increase wages so that no member would have to pay more than 30% of their salary towards housing, according to a UC website.
UAW groups argue that the wage increases proposed by the university still inadequately account for inflation and cost of living, while a statement from the university claims that the increases would put wages at the “top of the pay scale” for top public research universities. All units still remain in negotiation with the university over compensation.
ASEs are asking for half-time graduate employees to earn a minimum monthly base pay of $4,507 and at least a 10% increase for all ASEs. Currently, the base monthly salary for a half-time teaching assistant at UC Berkeley is approximately $2300.
UAW 2865 also proposed increasing undergraduate tutor and reader wages to at least $25 per hour and $33.50 per hour for group tutors.
For each subsequent year, UAW 2865 has proposed 7% wage increases for all ASEs or the highest local median rent increase at any UC campus — whichever is higher. UAW proposed that these increases would occur in addition to full — instead of partial — tuition and campus fee support for workers with at least a 25% appointment, which equals around 170 hours of work.
A statement from the university has instead proposed a range of 5% to 8.33% increases for various ASE positions, with 3% salary and 3% to 5% hourly rate increases for each subsequent year.
Postdoctoral scholars are asking for a new annual base salary of $70,000 with an additional 8% raise for each year of the contract.
A statement from the university has instead proposed giving postdoctoral scholars an average 8% salary increase in the first year, 5% in the second year and 3% in subsequent years — alongside annual experience-based increases. This would mean that a postdoctoral scholar at the lowest salary level would see a 17.4% increase from $55,632 to $65,331 by October 2023.
GSRs are asking for the same base salary, annual raises and tuition remissions as ASEs. The university proposed increasing most GSR salaries between 9% to 10%, with 3% increases each subsequent year. This would mean that GSRs on the lowest two salary levels would see a wage increase between 17% to 26% in their first year.
Meanwhile, academic researchers are asking for an immediate 10% increase across all their salary scales and 8% increases for each following year. The university has proposed a 4% increase with 3% increases each subsequent year on top of other existing merit-based increases.
Transit and climate justice
In a push to reduce the university’s carbon footprint and move toward more sustainable transportation, UAW is still negotiating with the university to offer fully funded public transportation for all academic workers. Additionally, UAW has asked to incentivize sustainable transportation options like biking through reimbursements and cash incentives.
The university proposed giving pre-tax cards to cover transportation costs along with maintaining annual caps on parking rates for postdoctoral workers and academic researchers. For ASEs and GSRs, who are student workers, the university noted that transit programs already exist for students.
Child care and paid family leave
To provide more support to parent workers, the UAW is currently still in negotiation with the university for higher child care reimbursement rates.
ASEs have advocated for the university to give up to $8,625 per semester for child care expenses. Meanwhile, GSRs have proposed up to $9,000 per semester in childcare reimbursements. Both units have requested full tuition subsidies at university-affiliated child care programs.
The university has offered both ASEs and GSRs $2,025 per semester and $1,305 over summer for child care expenses, which represents a 22% increase from the current contract.
Postdoctoral scholars have asked for reimbursements of up to $5,000 per year for childcare expenses. The university has offered postdoctoral scholars a benefit of $2,500 per year.
Academic researchers are asking for full tuition subsidies at UC childcare programs, or equivalent reimbursement. The UC has rejected this proposal.
In addition to child care reimbursements, the units are also in negotiations with the university regarding paid leave.
Both ASEs and GSRs have asked for 10 weeks of paid leave for pregnancy disability and childbirth, as well as 10 weeks of paid leave for baby bonding and personal and family medical reasons. The university has offered to increase ASEs and GSRs’ paid pregnancy disability leave from six weeks to eight, as well as an increase from four to five weeks of paid leave for baby bonding and personal and family medical reasons.
Postdoctoral scholars have asked for 8 weeks of paid baby bonding and family leave per birth, while the university has proposed just 4 weeks. The university and academic researchers both have proposed 8 weeks of paid baby bonding and family leave per year but have not reached full agreement on other details.
UAW 5810 proposes an increase in the length of initial appointments for post-doctoral scholars from one year to three years.
For ASEs and GSRs, the university and units have reached tentative agreements on proposals that make the university guarantee an appointment to an equivalent role in the event that the original position is no longer available. Academic researchers and the university have agreed to maintain the status quo on appointments.
Academic researchers, postdoctoral scholars and GSRs have reached tentative agreements around improved accessibility and support for disabled workers. Under the tentative agreements, each academic worker requesting an accommodation will now receive temporary work adjustments until the accommodations determination process is completed.
The university has proposed similar disability accommodations terms to ASEs. However, negotiations are still underway for UAW 2865’s proposed guarantees and funding for accessibility, including remote access to work events, captioning and assistive technologies. The unit also proposes readers and paid leaves of absence as accommodations that should potentially be available to disabled ASEs.
Protection of international scholars
Each unit is negotiating with the university to provide broader accommodations and protections for international scholars.
All units ask for better accommodation and paid leave for individuals who need to attend hearings or appointments related to their immigrant status. In addition, the units have asked for the university to assume the recharge and administrative processing fees for student and researcher visas.
UAW has also proposed remitting the nonresident supplemental tuition to ASEs who are nonresidents as part of fee remission for student workers.
Protections against abusive conduct
All units have reached tentative agreements concerning respectful work environments and nondiscrimination in the workplace. The work environment proposal revises the definition of abusive conduct to exclude exercising academic freedom and mere differences of opinion.
No strikes/labor peace
The university is negotiating “no strikes” clauses with the units in which the units agree to no strikes including sympathy strikes, stoppages, or concerted efforts that interfere with the university’s operations for the life of the contract.
“No strikes” clauses are already present in the contracts for UAW 2865 and UAW 5810, which have proposed removing them.
UAW 2865 is calling for the university to defund the UCPD’s budget in an effort to “ensure the safety of all ASEs, particularly those who face discrimination,” according to the proposal. The article was only proposed at UAW 2865’s bargaining table.
In addition, the university is asked to refrain from calling law enforcement to respond to events on campus.