The critical role played by University of California lecturers was reaffirmed on Wednesday in a tentative labor deal that averted a massive strike and widespread class cancellations – instead sparking cheers over what the union called the “best contract” in its history.
The 6,500 teachers teach a third of the bachelor’s programs and are praised by campus members as indispensable partners who provide teaching, do research and supervise students, often spending extra time helping with assignments or writing letters of recommendation. But they are non-employed and had been working without a contract for 20 months as they pushed for better job security, pay rises and family leave benefits.
On Wednesday, after marathon negotiations that ended at 4 p.m., they finally got what they wanted. The agreement provides four weeks of paid full-time family leave, new re-employment rights that will allow those with good job evaluations to retain their positions and workload requirements that will be more transparent and consistent, according to Mia McIver, chair of University Council-AFT.
Teachers receive an average salary increase of 30% over the five-year contract: a salary increase of 7% 60 days after ratification of the contract and annual salary increases of 3% for the next three years and 4% in the last year. Also included in the increase are credit increases, a change to a new salary scale and a $ 1,500 signature bonus for each teacher upon ratification.
“It’s the best contract in UC-AFT’s history and among the best nationwide for conditional faculties,” McIver said.
UC President Michael V. Drake praised the agreement and the role that teachers play in comments Wednesday at the Regent Council meeting.
“It’s a very positive development for our entire community, especially the students we serve,” he said. “This contract honors the crucial role our educators play in supporting UC’s educational mission and delivering high quality education and training. It also means more job security and other important benefits for our valued educators. We are grateful to have this agreement in place and look forward to working together in the future on our mission. “
The protracted labor dispute had brought union members to the brink of a strike at all nine university schools, with hundreds of faculty members expressing solidarity with teachers and being prepared to cancel classes. Instead, teaching continued, and the triumphant celebrations unfolded – including one at UCLA’s Bruin Plaza. The event started with a performance by UCLA’s student baile folklórico group before a number of union representatives spoke to the audience for about 30 minutes.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers with 1.7 million members, AFL-CIO, led the crowd to a cheer from “UC-AFT,” while attendees clapped and gnawed pizza delivered by the union.
Heather Holdo and Sara Barclay, both sophomores, showed up for the convention together. “If you have educators who stay with you for extended periods of time, some students may be inclined to continue in that area if they know they have someone they trust and really listen to and look up to,” he said. Barclay. “Bonds are created.”
That’s exactly what happened to Breeze Velazquez, president of the UCLA Undergraduate Student Assn. Advice. She remembered a teacher during her sophomore year who took extra time to help guide her as she struggled to decide on an academic path and write a final semester paper.
“I was really scared,” Velazquez said, “but she sat with me for an hour and I got an A in class.”
She added that as a low-income student, she understood the difficulties faced by educators, who earn a median income of $ 19,000 annually and work multiple jobs while trying to teach, research and, for some, raise families.
For Elise Bell, a second-year lecturer in linguistics at UCLA, the greater job stability will help deepen the teaching experience she and her colleagues can provide students. It will also allow them to get to know their students better, she said, so they can write letters of recommendation – a personal victory at the top of her list.
“Students will benefit from many years of experience that educators will now be able to build,” she said.
For John Branstetter, a fifth-year UCLA speaker and president UC-AFT Los Angeles, local 1990, the preliminary agreement means that he can finally sleep – and relax – instead of looking for a job, now that he is finally sure that he will be re-employed. He said he was up all night waiting for the message of a settlement and is excited about it.
“It’s a huge win for us as a union. It’s a huge win for me personally,” said Branstetter, who currently works three jobs. “It literally means I can keep my job – for the five years on At UC, I never had to worry about being re-employed, “he said.
In June, 96% of teachers voted to approve a strike after the union filed two allegations of unfair work practices. These charges have been resolved by the preliminary agreement.
Access to paid family leave was a top priority for teachers. UC launched a new policy in July that provides eight weeks’ leave for 70% of the salary of eligible employees to care for a seriously ill family member or bond with a new child. However, most educators, the majority of whom teach part-time, would not meet the policy eligibility requirements to be on the job for at least one year and 1,250 hours. UC agreed to extend the benefits to all teachers for four weeks at full pay.
UC also agreed to increase job stability, a key union requirement. Currently, educators must work six years before moving into a more senior status with better pay, benefits and security, but the union argued that UC is holding them back from reaching that milestone by not evaluating them adequately. UC agreed to one-year, two-year and three-year contracts – with performance appraisals at each stage.
“We’re getting feedback like never before,” McIver said. “We think this will really bring stability to the teaching workforce.”
The new re-employment rights of the proposed contract will also mean that a teacher with good evaluations does not have to seek a job every year.
The news that the union had finally secured these long-sought rights was bittersweet for Peter Weiss, a teacher at UC Santa Cruz, who this year learned he would lose a chemistry class he had taught for 10 years. Weiss estimates he has taught about 12,000 science, technology and math students at UC Santa Cruz. His students have launched one change.org petition, with nearly 2,500 signatures so far, asking the chemistry department to keep him.
“It does not really change anything from me, specifically, because I have already been replaced and my classes have been given to a permanent faculty now,” Weiss said of the proposed contract. “This victory came a little too late for me, but I’m really excited to be a part of the movement and optimistic that good things will happen to me.”
The educators had gained broad support for their cause across the UC system. Constance Penley, a UC Santa Barbara professor who chairs the Council of UC Faculty Assns., Said more than 800 permanent faculty members had pledged solidarity with teachers, and most of them were prepared to honor the strike by canceling the teaching. The support from permanent faculties to their teaching colleagues is unprecedented, she said.
“Lecturers on our campuses are an integral part of our ability to deliver high-quality education, which is a signature of the University of California,” Penley said.
She added that labor disputes at UC are being replicated on campuses across the country, setting in motion a national movement to increase permanent faculties instead of relying on educators who lack the same level of pay, benefits or job security.