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Bargaining Update #4: April 30 and May 1


Present on Thursday, April 30: Annapurna Pandey, Santa Cruz; Jon Lang, Berkeley; a visitor from Davis, and I (Benjamin Harder, Riverside, Chief Negotiator)

The meeting was short again because the UC had to break at 4:00 PM for a conference call about a different union negotiation (we wish the campus doctors good luck with their own contract). To be fair, the their team offered to meet us again at 6:00 PM, but we decided against that.

That was probably for the best. In the morning, UC attempted to settle Article 5—Unit Definition with current contract language, but that doesn’t work for us because of a decision made buy California’s Public Employee Relations Board. In short, PERB has told the UC and us that we should use arbitration to settle disputes when UC misclassifies a lecturer as being a different kind of employee. Therefore, we would prefer to add binding arbitration to this article.

We gave them our proposal for Article 22—Merit Review Process. We are attempting to get clearer standards for what constitutes something deserving of a larger than base merit. The UC resisted this concept, maintaining a ‘we know it when we see it’ definition of ‘outstanding’ would be sufficient. We will wait for the UC’s answer in their own proposal. In short, we want language in merit that follows the excellence review language for determining merit, and has clearer language for evaluating what type of excellence deserves larger than base merits.

We were able to reach a Tentative Agreement (TA) on Article 3—Academic Responsibility, an article that outlines our responsibilities as faculty in the UC. The language just updated lists of people against whom we should not discriminate, according to current state and federal law.

After that, however, the UC gave us the first counter proposal for Article 7a, the article that governs Lecturer appointments during the first 18 quarters or 12 semesters of their jobs.

By the way, if your department chair or MSO or any officer of the University has told you that Lecturers cannot work 18 quarters, or 12 semesters, please let your local Union membership know. If someone has told you that Lecturers cannot work 20 years (or longer) that person is either lying to you or admitting that your department is violating our contract.

In any case, we had proposed language strengthening the connections between Lecturers and their departments, even when the Lecturers are just starting their employment. For a detailed discussion of that language, see Bargaining Update #2. The UC spent the rest of our time in the afternoon telling us that everything we want to do to improve the contracts and lives of pre-continuing Lecturers is impossible, misguided, and occasionally morally suspect.

The clearest moment came via an obviously rehearsed sentence paragraph from one of their team. To paraphrase, the UC believes that the fundamental disagreement between the UC and the UC-AFT concerns what is “normal” for Lecturers. The Union believes that it is normal for an academic to get hired into a program with ongoing need, prove him- or herself excellent, and then become a continuing appointee. On the other hand, the UC believes that it is normal for a Lecturer to get hired into a program with ongoing need, prove him- or herself excellent, and then NOT EVER get continuing status. That is, the UC thinks it is normal for highly qualified, excellent academics to teach for one, two, or a few years and then be replaced by others.

Here is the big problem; years after all evidence has shown that modern American Universities, even those vaunted “R1 Institutions” are absolutely dependent for their very functioning on non-tenure track academics, UC wants to pretend that we are a fad that will one day go away. If that does not happen, if the conditions that require the employment of non-tenure-eligible academics continue, then the UC (all or in part) would prefer those non-tenure-eligible academics to be absolutely contingent.

By 4:00, the ugly truth had been made sufficiently clear, and we stopped for the day.


Present on Friday, May 1: Ben Harder, Riverside, Annapurna Pandey, Santa Cruz, Nuno Sena, Merced; Bob Samuels, Santa Barbara, Michelle Squitieri, Berkeley (taking notes); a visitor from Davis

In the morning, we continued hearing about the UC’s refusal to entertain most of our concerns. It graciously “gave” us current contract language (CCL) that provides some guidelines for the re-hiring of pre-continuing lecturers. It acknowledged that learning the night before classes begin that one has a job might make it more difficult to do that job well. More importantly, the UC did understand the problems in benefits and planning that are caused by late appointment letters. We had very clear, compelling stories about the financial problems facing those with late notice, and the UC understood. On the down side, they only offered to meet and discuss significant problems, not to actually address the underlying causes of the delays. Still, there seems to be some possibility for traction there.

Bob Samuels gave a rather impassioned and detailed overview of the numbers of pre-continuing Lecturers at UC (roughly 60%) and their importance to our contract negotiations. I pointed out the terrible disincentives to teach well when one knows he or she will soon get thrown away like a disposable parity product. In short, I discussed the ways in which I would refuse to be an excellent instructor. We broke for lunch shortly after.

In the afternoon, we discussed, very politely, the UC’s ideas about why pre-continuing Lecturers (the UC hates that term, preferring ‘pre-six’) must remain completely contingent, undirected, unsupervised, and without mentorship. We promised to get back to them on their ideas next bargaining session.

We closed by beginning to discuss our proposals for re-vitalized rules about being compensated for all of the work the UC assigns us: Article 24—Instructional Workload. We are proposing technical changes so all campuses can average workload across quarters or semesters (this will allow many members to more closely reach 100% when some of their classes are credited with more working hours. We proposed giving the UC more flexibility to adequately compensate our teaching, specifically by allowing Lecturers to ‘bank’ credit for service performed for Departments and take that credit in the form of future course releases, and even paid leave.

At 3:30, we broke for the second day. We will pick up negotiations on workload and other central employment issues on Monday, May 11, in San Diego.


Afterwards, Bob Samuels and I met with Vice President for Human Resources Dwaine Duckett, Director of UC’s Labor Relations Department Peter Chester, and the UC negotiator for Unit 18, Athena Buenconsejo. 

We met with them because Dwaine Duckett invited us to meet. He, as a UC VP, wanted to get a sense of the tone and progress of the negotiations. UCOP has noticed that our contract expires on June 1st, and decided that we won’t be finished with negotiations by that time. They proposed extending the contract through the summer (until September 30).

Also, Duckett asked us for our bargaining priorities. Bob spoke again for better appointments and stability for pre-continuing lecturers. As you all know, that is our number one bargaining priority. I spoke for a bit about improved benefits for part-time employees, our second priority. I also spoke a bit about our third priority, shared governance, which encompasses integration with the departments, decision-making opportunities, and more credit for the service work we do.

I asked them what their priorities are. Duckett spoke very generally about labor peace and quality of higher education. Chester mentioned having a longer contract. Buenconsejo mentioned their team’s interest in clearer, more logically streamlined contract language. 

No agreements were made, but the negotiating team and the bargaining committee will explore our options for a short-term extension of the contract.