University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, has filed a cease and desist letter against the University of California Office of the President, or UCOP, regarding the university’s offer to compensate Unit 18 members who volunteer for “extra grading work at the end of the semester.”
According to the letter, UC-AFT received an email from campus assistant vice provost Heather Archer laying out a plan allowing academic units to offer additional compensation to Unit 18 faculty — based on a calculated hourly rate — for this work. Archer noted in this email that other university campuses will be implementing similar plans.
Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore confirmed that Unit 18 lecturers have received this offer, which she said will provide additional assistance grading and is part of the university’s attempt to mitigate the impacts of the strike.
“The university is trying in a number of ways to undermine the potential impact of the strike on final exams and grading,” said James Vernon, chair of the Berkeley Faculty Association. “Our own campus has encouraged faculty to downgrade the academic requirements of their classes and to revise final assignments and exams so there’s less grading to be performed.”
The cease and desist letter further alleges that payment schemes or calculations for performing struck work that are made directly to UC-AFT members are “unlawful direct dealing.” UC-AFT demanded in its letter that the university cease implementing these plans and said it would take necessary legal action if the university did not withdraw its offers by Dec. 9.
Assigning struck work to the members of Unit 18 interferes with members’ rights under the Higher Education Employee Relations Act to refuse said work, according to the UC-AFT letter. The action is also a contract violation, as it is an attempt to circumvent the contract and bargain directly with unit members, according to UC-AFT Unit 18 grievance steward David Walter.
“Although we haven’t taken any legal action right now, this could result in a substantial grievance that could get the university in big trouble,” Walter said. “We haven’t heard from them in response to our cease and desist letter; they’ve been silent.”
UCOP has not respond to a request for comment as of press time.
Walter noted that many of the unit members have thanked UC-AFT for being so aggressive against the university’s offer. He said using lecturers to replace striking workers is a “cheap strategy,” adding that most unit members recognize the problematic nature of the offer.
Lecturers within the unit feel pressured, Walter commented, as they care deeply about their students. He noted that lecturers have been educating students about how the university is responsible for these decisions, and believes there is solidarity between students and lecturers on the issue.
“We need to run this back up the channel and hold the administration responsible for making these thoughtless decisions that they perceive as solutions,” Walter said. “It is clear that they are out of touch with the students and the teachers on the ground doing the real work around here.”