The University of California and the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), a union that represents one third of all lecturers in the UC system, avoided a strike on Wednesday morning by coming to a tentative new labor agreement Wednesday morning.
UC-AFT, which represents 6,500 lecturers and non-tenured professors, had been threatening to conduct a two-day strike starting Wednesday, with more to possibly follow, which would have marked the first union actions by teachers on UC campuses in 20 years. For several years, the union had been asking for higher pay, paid family leave, online instructor pay fixes, and job protection measures. Lecturers had accused UC of not bargaining in earnest due to the process having gone on since the late 2010’s. UC denied these claims, noting that the process took time and that issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic had significantly delayed talks in the last few years.
A call for a strike in mid-November by union members, eating into crucial end of semester classes, led both sides back to the bargaining table this month. On Wednesday morning, with a strike only a few hours away, a tentative deal was finally reached.
According to the agreement, lecturers and non-tenured professors will get a new five-year contract. All bargaining unit members will see a pay increase of 7% 60 days following contract ratification, with an additional 1.3% pay increase in the first year. In the next 3 years there will be 3% increases with a 4% increase added on in the final year of the contract. A one-time $1,500 ratification bonus will also be given to all covered professors.
UC-AFT professors will also receive job protection measures, along with considerations to move up part-time professors for larger assignments over outside hires. A 4-week “family care and bonding” paid-time off will also be issued.
“The new contract provides greater transparency and fair assessment of workload assignments, workload summaries by department, and includes the creation of an academic panel to address workload issues,” said UC Executive Director of systemwide labor relations Letitia Silas on Wednesday.
The UC-AFT and members celebrated the agreement on Wednesday, marking it as a win and holding several victory rallies at UC campuses across the state.
“STRIKE IS OFF–We have a tentative agreement. #TeamUCAFT has won transformative and groundbreaking improvements in crucial areas, including job stability, workload, and compensation,” tweeted the Union on Wednesday.
STRIKE IS OFF–We have a tentative agreement. #TeamUCAFT has won transformative and groundbreaking improvements in crucial areas, including job stability, workload, and compensation. #WeTeachUC #FacultyEquity #StudentSuccess pic.twitter.com/tDLwkO7tLT
— University Council – AFT (@UCAFT) November 17, 2021
“The lecturers, who teach one-third of the system’s credit classes, secured a contract that is fair to them and good for their students,” added American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten in a statement later on Wednesday.
A 30% pay increase over 5 years
While the agreement was seen as positive by many on Wednesday, many, including some affected professors, noted that this is more like a five-year respite than a victory..
“A lot of the things were needed, and having, what, 25%-30% higher pay in five years, that’s a good thing,” said ‘Angela’, a UC Irvine instructor who wished to remain anonymous to the Globe on Wednesday. “But a lot of us are worried at what comes in five years time. A lot of lecturers who really pushed for this may not be asked back. Not as retaliation, because that would be illegal, but for sudden performance drop offs.”
“Or people like me. UC is now in a position where they can say ‘Look at what we gave you five years ago. We’re hurting now.’ or something to that effect. We asked for a lot, got it, but may now be screwed over in 2026.”
“Legally we don’t have to be in a union, but they make you jump through hoops not to be a member. I mean, I am glad for the extra pay, but a lot of us would rather negotiate individually rather than like this. If you say anything about right to work in California you’ll have a dozen people screaming at you though.”
A ratification vote by the UC-AFT over the new contract is expected later this week.