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Open Letter to UC Administration: We Earned Them--Release Our Merits Now

WeEarnedIt_b_Y.jpgI am a law librarian in the UC Berkeley School of Law.  Our UC librarians are conducting a postcard campaign to protest the unfair and counterproductive tactics employed by the University in current negotiations concerning the bargaining agreement that covers the 343 academic librarians here at UC Berkeley and the other nine UC campuses.  President Yudof and library administrators across the UC system are receiving many of these cards signed by my colleagues. I can’t speak for all UC-AFT represented librarians, but I want to explain why I’m signing and sending this card.

Many University administrators understand and appreciate the contribution of librarians to this institution--to their individual academic units, the UC Berkeley campus at large, and the wider UC system. I personally have worked closely with administrators in my own division, the UC Berkeley School of Law, providing legal research and analysis, not only in support of their individual scholarly and academic research and teaching pursuits, but also on important issues impacting the administration and funding of the Law School, California’s public university system, and indeed the state as a whole.  But right now the University is acting as if my contributions and service mean nothing.

I, along with about one third of my librarian colleagues throughout this campus, have recently undergone the rigorous peer-review process that governs promotion and advancement in the librarian career track. Our merit increases– based on our demonstrated professional performance and contributions to the education and service missions of the library and university system over the past two to three years as well as our promise and potential for further contributions—have already been granted by the reviewers. But now the University negotiators have threatened to withhold the salary increases we have already shown we deserve until librarians agree to a contract extension and give up certain rights pertaining to planned changes in retirement benefits.

WeEarnedIt_f.jpgThis is deeply demoralizing to me. My qualifications as an academic librarian and a legal researcher are strong.  A Brown University graduate, I received my law degree from Harvard Law School and practiced law privately for over seven years before attaining an additional graduate degree in librarianship.   I have served the UC Berkeley School of Law Library as a reference librarian for over five years.  The choice to become an academic librarian represented a significant economic sacrifice on my family’s part, but I willingly made that sacrifice in order to dedicate myself to the teaching and research mission of this institution.

For the University to answer that dedication with this slap in the face is truly offensive, not to mention counterproductive. It is clearly a bullying tactic, meant to divide me and similarly situated colleagues from those of our peers who happen not to be under review at a time when our contract is under negotiation. Instead of making me want to give in to the University’s position on the collective bargaining agreement — instead of causing me to cave in to blackmail — this tactic just leaves me feeling unappreciated, undervalued, and yes, angry. It is an unsavory and utterly unfair measure aimed at precisely those librarians who, by being granted merit increases during this review cycle, have proven our extraordinary contribution to the mission of the University.

What makes the University’s tactics all the more contemptible is that there is so little money involved. The actual amount of the merit raise that I was awarded by reviewers, and that is now being withheld from me in an effort to pressure us all to accept the University’s proposal, is a pittance compared to the kind of salary I could expect (and have commanded) in the private sector — and, more to the point, the amount at issue is meaningless to the University, even in our current budget situation.  It’s not about saving money in tough economic times; it’s a blatant attempt to cut off negotiations and bind all of the academic librarians that serve this University by holding a group of us as economic hostages. Don’t get me wrong: I know I deserve a raise, and I want the money that I have earned. But I’m not going to submit to outright extortion in order to get it.

If you care about fairness and equity, if you appreciate everything that my colleagues and I do for this University, please lend your voice in support of UC librarians. We have earned our merits. Please release them.

Sincerely,

I-Wei Wang

Reference Librarian, UC Berkeley School of Law

Member, UC-AFT Local 1474