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Bargaining Interlude: Union Power Builds with UCI Action


Before we went to Irvine on June 11, we knew things would be different. First of all, the Local was planning a demonstration to protest reduced appointments for pre-continuing lecturers in the English Department for the upcoming year. Most people lost classes, and a few have not been reappointed.

The UC got wind of the protests, and moved our meetings from the Administration to the Student Center, and I was told to tell “my people” not to go to the Administration building. I found it amusing that anyone in the UC thinks that academic employees are controllable in that manner.

In any case, around lunchtime, protesters arrived in our building, and a functionary asked their chief negotiator, Nadine Fishel, whether she wanted him to call the police. She didn’t, but she was very upset.

As the protesters arrived on our floor, more appeared than I had counted on. I had assumed six or ten protesters; there were twenty-five, with signs and chants and a statement to read.

This was a little tense: there was no way I was going to stand in the way of the protests, but the topic of the police came up again, and the UC team was agitated. I engaged in shuttle diplomacy, to the extent that we arranged a way to complete the protest and move outside. To their credit, Fishel and the others decided to hear the protesters and accept the statement.

On the way out of the hallway, down the exterior stairs, and to a courtyard next to the UCI student commons, I was swept up in the demonstration myself. It felt good not to worry about negotiations, to hold up a “Don’t Target Lecturers” sign, and to shout “WE SAY FIGHT BACK” at the appropriate moments in the chant. This is perhaps the purest form of collective action—exercising our right of speech and assembly, lifting up our voices in a barbaric yawp. 

The rest of the collective action continues, of course. We will continue to negotiate an improved contract, and show the UC that Lecturers are more than just contingent faculty handy for exploitation and short-term fixes.  Lecturers at Irvine will continue to work in alliance with the UAW-represented Graduate Student Employees and enlightened Senate Faculty to keep UCI from making Graduate Students teach classes outside their disciplines because it cannot afford to pay them to teach in their own departments.

But we’ll all remember that day, when we were told in hushed tones that now The Chancellor was aware of the situation. 

Ben Harder 
Chief Negotiator, UC-AFT