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UAW 2865 alleges unfair labor practices, 13 labor law violations against UC Regents

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Since mid-February, UC Berkeley and UAW 2865 have negotiated staffing levels, wages and tuition remission for the approximately 700 undergraduate ASEs in campus data science and electrical engineering and computer sciences courses.


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APRIL 12, 2023

The California Public Employment Relations Board, or PERB, received an unfair labor practice, or ULP, charge Friday against the UC Regents from UAW 2865, the union representing more than 36,000 academic student employees, or ASEs, across the UC system.

The charge alleges that the university has violated the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act, or HEERA, on at least 13 accounts.

Since mid-February, UC Berkeley and UAW 2865 have negotiated staffing levels, wages and tuition remission for the approximately 700 undergraduate ASEs in campus data science and electrical engineering and computer sciences, or EECS, courses. While parties have reached a consensus on some matters, these negotiations have also left both sides frustrated — with many labor policies still up in the air.

The union’s charge alleges the campus made “predictably unacceptable” contract offers and has “surface bargained,” or negotiated with no intention of seeking a collective resolution, among other HEERA violations.

On March 24, however, UAW 2865 put forth what it calls its “last,” “best” and “final” offer to campus.

The offer lays out three different roles for undergraduate staffers in EECS and data science: undergraduate course staff, or UCS, 1, 2 and 3. Starting fall 2023, UCS1s would make about $22.69 per hour, but UCS2s and UCS3s working eight hours per week could expect a monthly salary of approximately $1,075, under the union’s supposal.

And even though the union’s labor contract would entitle the 350 spring 2023 EECS and data science ASEs to full tuition remission, UCS2s and UCS3s would see their tuition remitted between 40% and 100%, depending on the number of hours worked.

The university will consider the offer, UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in a March 27 email, notwithstanding campus’s looming $82 million deficit and the ongoing budgetary woes in the EECS department and Data Science Undergraduate Studies.

Compared to the union’s offers, UC Berkeley’s most recent supposal imagines a lower-cost model of undergraduate labor in EECS and data science courses.

The March 21 campus offer secures a $22.69 hourly wage for those in the course staff, or CS, 1 position, while the higher-ranked CS2 and CS3 positions would earn monthly salaries of about $680 and $1,020, respectively, for eight-hour work weeks starting October 2023. The offer does not provide for additional fee remission, but these ASEs could opt to receive some portion of their compensation as remission.

Staffing and hiring levels, as well, remain a source of contention. While earlier campus supposals had bargained for nonbinding staffing increases, the most recent campus and union offers would both boost staff hours per course enrollment by about 15% from 2022-23 levels.

The union’s supposal would, however, also require a 15% increase in the cumulative hours worked by UCS2s and UCS3s, specifically — not just any undergraduate or graduate ASE. This policy could pose a problem when undergraduate enrollment shrinks in computing courses, and the need for undergraduate labor declines.

“The university’s proposals to a) eliminate fee remission, b) lower wages, and c) not provide any guarantee of staffing increases is predictably unacceptable,” UAW 2865 head steward Tanzil Chowdhury alleged in an email. “The fact that none of those core tenets have changed since the University’s first proposal is indicative of their unwillingness to bargain.”

The university maintains that it has bargained in good faith with the union, according to Gilmore.

Further, associate teaching professor Josh Hug, a member of the campus bargaining team, said he has made it a goal to forge a collective resolution with the union and that his time investments are a testament to it.

“I promise I have not been surface bargaining. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have gone to months of meetings and made myself utterly miserable in the process,” Hug said. “I don’t even know what it would mean, or what I would stand to gain by going to meetings for months, without intending to get somewhere.”

The union claimed the university’s alleged behavior during these negotiations constituted “bad faith” bargaining, but a ULP charge is not a finding of wrongdoing. Rather, it marks the beginning of a review process, UC Office of the President spokesperson Ryan King said in an email. And this process, King added, can often be settled.

Hug — who has taught at UC Berkeley for several years and received a 2023 Distinguished Teaching Award — emphasized the unique challenge of bargaining for labor models which are far more conservative than ASEs’ expectations.

“This is probably one of the hardest things I’ve done the whole time I’ve been here,” Hug said. “Asking someone ‘how much of your compensation are you willing to give up?’ is very hard.”

Hug added that he does not take the ULP charge “personally,” but said the bargaining process has made him question: “Which things do people really mean seriously, and which ones are just legal posturing?”

This charge, Chowdhury alleged, should compel the university to come to the bargaining table “in good faith,” as each side of the bargaining table envisions a vastly different future for undergraduate labor in EECS and data science courses.

Both the campus and the union have suggested that a mediator facilitate further bargaining, but the parties have not mutually decided upon a mediator.

Contact Cameron Fozi at  or on Twitter


MAY 23, 2023