Union calls eleventh hour strike by University of California professors

University of California Los Angeles (Flickr views / Thanks (21 million+))

On Wednesday morning, the University Council-American Federation of Teachers union called off a strike by more than 6,000 University of California (UC) professors on nine college campuses just hours before the two-day walkout began.

Following the model established in recent weeks for more than 32,000 healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente and 60,000 entertainment workers at the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees, the union justified the abandonment of the strike by announcing that ‘a provisional agreement had been reached with management.

The union has released few details on the alleged deal, but says “this contract revolutionizes the first six years of a lecturer’s career at UC.” The union’s statement cites supposed improvements in job security through multi-year contracts with an improved review process, as opposed to the current unvarnished casual work arrangement. There is no mention of an improvement in wages, benefits or working conditions.

UCSD rally (credit: WSWS)

This is an abject betrayal by the speakers, who voted 91% to authorize the strike against the UC administration. Lecturers are non-tenured professors who teach almost half of all courses in the UC system, including undergraduate and graduate courses. Although they have a doctorate. academics with as much talent as full and tenure-track professors, they are paid an average of $ 19,000 per year in salary, of which 35 percent have no health insurance and many rely on food stamps or food. other government aid to get by.

Speakers were not given the opportunity to study the proposed deal or decide for themselves whether to accept it and call off their strike.

The very fact that UC-AFT called the strike “unfair labor practices” tied the hands of the workers. Strikes for unfair labor practices cannot require management to “bargain in good faith”, making it impossible to claim wages, benefits or working conditions. Once the university offered a deal, “thus negotiating in good faith”, UC-AFT had a legalistic excuse to call off the strike.

This betrayal is all the more important since the doctoral students and the post-docs both proceed to strike authorization votes until Friday, November 19. refusal to acknowledge their recent union with Student Researchers United-UAW. The conditions for many students and post-docs are similar to those faced by teachers.

Dante at UCSD rally

Dante is a freshman who heard about the rally from his teacher. He came to show his support for professors and other staff by saying, “When staff and students are not guaranteed a job next year, it doesn’t bode well for the quality of my education. . The university should provide them.

He noted how the UC administration would withdraw a housing allowance for personal assistants that would have removed at least 30 percent of their living expenses. Child care, Dante noted, was also particularly expensive for families, costing college daycare at least $ 1,500 a month.

Tragically, Dante lost his father, a NASSCO shipyard worker, to COVID-19. “COVID has led to an increasing polarization of society,” he said, “We see who it touched the most and who it touched the most, mainly the poor and the working class. ”

Marcus and George also heard about the protest from one of their teachers and came to show their support. Marcus said, “It’s incredibly unfair that they don’t get tenure just because they’re a lecturer. George added, “If anything, there should be careful scrutiny of top executives and how much they’re paid.” The UC system has been abusing students and faculty for a long time. “

The two students went on to list the school’s myriad problems, including faulty infrastructure, internet at water fountains, capacity limitations in cafeterias and gymnasiums, and small teams in many university departments.

George noted how COVID has changed the quality of his education, saying, “It has certainly decreased since the pandemic, it seems less and less effort is being put into classrooms and courtyards.”

William O’Brien, a 35-year retired UC San Diego literature professor, spoke to the WSWS about the speakers’ struggle. “It’s a big little battle in the bigger one, which is the brutal corporatization of the university,” he said. “Public institutions want to limit and eliminate full professors and replace them with underpaid professors. The university is filling up with part-time workers who do not receive benefits and earn slave wages. The university also knows how to use the union against the workers. After a while, a teacher may rightfully become eligible for job security, but what the university does is hire them right below that and then let them go.

O’Brien referred to a longtime friend who has a PhD. and struggled as a speaker for 25 years. “She has 2-3 jobs on different campuses and doesn’t know if she has a job semester to semester. This is horrible. “In addition to the precarious situation in which the speakers find themselves, he also noted, they often have to constantly travel by public transport or by car.

“The current strike is a fight against the corporatization of the university, which increasingly exploits low-paid workers. Any action against this, including the current strike, is welcome. Speakers deserve more, more than they ask for.

It is no coincidence that unions at the University of California, Kaiser Permanente and the entertainment industry are calling off strikes at the last minute on the basis of vague tentative agreements. Grassroots workers at farm equipment maker John Deere continue their strike after rejecting two contracts backed by their union, United Auto Workers (UAW).

The unions clearly fear that once the strike goes on, they cannot stop it until the workers read and vote on a full contract.

To move this struggle forward, UC speakers must recognize that UC-AFT, like the UAW, IATSE and the rest of the unions, is on the leadership side. We call on UC speakers to form a grassroots committee to fight for their demands. Such a committee should reach as broadly as possible researchers and academic workers, as well as workers in healthcare, entertainment, manufacturing and logistics.


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