University Council-American Federation of Teachers, or UC-AFT, librarians held a public sunshine event Tuesday, inviting public input and kicking off negotiations with the university.
UC-AFT is a labor union composed of librarians and non-Senate faculty, also known as lecturers, according to campus librarian and UC-AFT Bay Area Chapter Co-chair Timothy Vollmer. The union represents about 6,350 members and works toward fair treatment, adequate compensation and robust worker protections by negotiating collective bargaining agreements. Unit 17, which represents the librarians of UC-AFT, currently has a contract up for negotiation.
“Improvements in our next contract (including on compensation, workload, and other crucial issues) means that workers will be better able to support themselves and their families living in California, and we’ll be able to grow and thrive as professionals too,” Vollmer said in an email. “The better librarians are supported, the better we can serve this huge campus with the resources and information and guidance they’re looking for in their teaching and research.”
The sunshine events are legally required public input sessions that initiate the contract bargaining process. Tuesday’s session was the second of two such events — the first was held Sept. 19 — both of which took place over Zoom. Librarians and lecturers shared their experiences with current working conditions and elaborated on desired outcomes for the upcoming negotiation, Vollmer said. The public was invited to comment on the existing UC-AFT contract and the proposed changes.
At the event, speakers addressed the ongoing concern of “dwindling” funds for the UC libraries at Berkeley. A report from the Joint Academic and Administrative Work Group on the University Library, submitted June 30, recommended that campus reinvest in staffing, collections and library spaces and provide an additional $32.5 million to campus libraries.
Campus Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Benjamin Hermalin noted in an administration response Sept. 19 that it is “not feasible” to increase library funding by that amount due to campus’s current budget situation.
In bargaining for their new contract, Vollmer noted, librarians are asking for improved compensation — due in part to California’s high cost of living — and seeking protections against increased workloads amid “chronic understaffing” of libraries. Vollmer said librarians hope for academic freedom, continued flexible work arrangements, stronger protections against discrimination and expanding access to professional development funding.
Unit 17 will continue to attend rallies and events to spread information among members and “provide solidarity and mutual support where (they) can,” Vollmer said.
“UC-AFT continues to grow our ranks and create a more participatory organizing movement,” Vollmer said in an email. “We’re seeing a resurgence in the power of workers to demand — and win — better pay and improved working conditions. UC-AFT shows solidarity with the labor organizing efforts of other unions on the UC campus and in the bay area.”