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UAW 2865, campus enter mediation over computing course staff as pressures mount

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More than one month after the initial push, campus and the union mutually agreed to bring on Darrell Steinberg as a mediator.


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Senior staff

MAY 03, 2023

To grease the wheels on months-long contract negotiations, UC Berkeley and UAW 2865 have picked a mediator: Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg.

UAW 2865, the labor union representing about 700 undergraduate computing course staffers and more than 36,000 student workers across the UC system, met campus at the bargaining table in mid-February. Months later, those contract negotiations are still unsettled — though hopes of mitigating staff overwork in campus electrical engineering and computer sciences, or EECS, and data science courses run high.

For weeks, parties continued to envision divergent models of wage, fee remission and staffing increases for these 700 workers, sparking the union’s mid-March push to bring on a neutral, third-party mediator to ease negotiations.

More than one month after the initial push, campus and the union mutually agreed to bring on Steinberg as a mediator April 25, according to UAW 2865 unit chair Tanzil Chowdhury.

This would not be Steinberg’s first run with the union and the UC system. Not only is the mayor a former member of another UAW local branch, he also mediated contract negotiations between the UC system and UAW 2865 in 2022.

The decision comes amid unfair labor practice allegations against the university, pressure from elected officials, concessions by both sides of the bargaining table and hiring obligations for upcoming EECS and data science courses.

On April 19, State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-9, penned a letter to UC President Michael Drake, Chancellor Carol Christ and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Benjamin Hermalin. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín followed suit, sending a similar letter to the three administrators April 25.

In their letters, Skinner and Arreguín urged administration to reach a “fair” deal with the union, noting cases of overwork and understaffing of EECS and data science undergraduate workers.

“In a survey sent to ASEs, 51% of respondents reported working an average of 30% over their paid appointment hours in order to manage their workloads, extending their office hours and staying late to try to help underserved students,” Skinner said in the letter. “Currently, EECS and Data Science students routinely wait for hours to receive help in office hours, prompting courses to limit each student to 10 minutes of support in an effort to help as many students as possible, and thus impacting students who need support the most.

The academic student employee, or ASE, survey respondents consisted of 87 undergraduate and graduate EECS and data science course staffers.

Arreguín also recognized undergraduate EECS and data science course staffers for proposing wage and fee remission models that — for the sake of reserving funds for staffing increases — shave off some entitlements from UAW 2865’s current statewide contract.

Late last year, UAW 2865 members across the state ratified their current labor contract with the UC system. Come October 2023, campus teaching assistants should expect between $1,560 and $1,650 per month, depending on salary increment, for 10-hour work weeks — in addition to full fee remission and a planned 16.7% salary increase the next academic year.

Under EECS and data science course staffers’ so-called “last,” “best” and “final” offer from March 24, those working the undergraduate course staff, or UCS, 2 and 3 positions 10 hours per week could expect about $1,350 per month and a 7.5% wage bump the next academic year. UCS3s would receive full fee remission, but the lower-ranked UCS2s working ten hours per week would see half of their fees remitted.

Cuts to wage and fee remission aside, this offer would require campus to increase staff hours per course enrollment 15% from 2022-23 levels — as well as the combined staff hours worked by UCS2s and UCS3s.

“While instructional workers shouldn’t have to take lower pay and benefits in order for their employer to adequately staff instruction, I commend the TA union members for their steadfast commitment to their students and quality of instruction,” Arreguín said in his letter.

In response to letters from Skinner and Arreguín, UC Berkeley spokesperson Janet Gilmore maintained that campus has approached the bargaining table with offers to address concerns of understaffing and overwork. Gilmore added that campus is driven to negotiate in good faith with the union, despite allegations that campus has acted otherwise.

Chowdhury said in an email union members are “appreciative” of the support. It has become clear to many, Chowdhury added, that working conditions among EECS and data science ASEs have left parties “desperately” in need of a deal.

UAW 2865’s “final” offer and campus’s latest offer were separated by about one month — as well as an unfair labor practice charge filed against the UC Regents from the union and Skinner’s letter.

Under UC Berkeley’s latest offer from April 21, UCS2s and UCS3s working ten-hour weeks could expect around $1,200 and $1,350 per month, respectively, starting October 2023 and a 7.5% wage bump in October 2024. These UCS3s would receive full fee remission, but UCS2s would have to dig into their salaries to shoulder their tuition and fees.

While UAW 2865 sees campus’s April 21 offer as a considerable step toward the union’s position, the offer makes no promises on increasing staffing levels, which is a key objective of these negotiations.

In an April 9 interview, associate teaching professor and member of the campus bargaining team Josh Hug considered hiring for EECS and data science course staffers the “absolute” deadline to reach an agreement with the union. Otherwise, campus would have to default to the UC-wide labor contract — which establishes costlier standards for wage and fee remission than those proposed by either party in these negotiations.

Without an agreement, course administrators may decide to hold off hiring until undergraduate labor costs become clear.

Mediation is scheduled for next week, according to a message from associate teaching professor John DeNero to a Slack group about EECS and data science staffing negotiations.


Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg is a former member of UAW 2865. In fact, he is a former member of another local UAW branch.

Contact Cameron Fozi at  or on Twitter


MAY 08, 2023