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UAW Strike Solidarity Guidance

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Updated 12/05/2022
Since June 2021, our siblings in
UAW 2865, UAW 5810, and SRU-UAW have been bargaining for a fair UC. These unions comprise 48,000 of our UC co-workers: academic student employees (also known as grad workers, GSIs, teaching assistants, tutors, and readers), graduate student and post-graduate researchers, and post-docs. Their core demands include fair compensation, sustainable transit incentives, better support for parents and families, expanded rights for international scholars, more job security, and improved accessibility to retain disabled workers. You can learn more about the coordinated UAW bargaining campaigns here.

Over the past months, UC admin has committed numerous unfair labor practices impacting each of the respective UAW units and their ability to continue bargaining for fair contracts. UC’s unlawful actions include making unilateral changes to working conditions without negotiation, refusal to provide necessary information for negotiations, and obstructing the bargaining process. UAW units have filed more than 20 charges of unfair labor practices with the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB).

The actions of UC management have left our sibling UAW units no option but to fight back to protect their rights and win the university they envision. In a ballot that closed on November 2nd, UAW workers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike.

UC-AFT stands in solidarity with UAW 2865, UAW 5810, and SRU-UAW. UAW members are in a situation similar to the one UC-AFT faculty faced a year ago: having bargained hard with ambitious demands for a long time against an employer that has repeatedly broken state labor laws. UAW members’ choice to escalate their fight instead of giving up resembles the decision UC-AFT faculty made. Many of the demands put forward by UAW members are crucial priorities for UC-AFT members as well. Plus, a rising tide floats all boats. Improved working conditions for one set of workers can be the basis for improving working conditions for other workers. We are part of the same labor movement and share a common interest in labor and education justice with our UAW siblings. Direct action such as a strike can lead to more equity for all UC workers.

UC-AFT's Expressions of Solidarity
November 4 strike sanction letter to California Labor Federation
November 10 letter to Letitia Silas (UCOP Labor Relations)  outlining UC-AFT position and rights on Workload and Academic Freedom
November 29 letter to President Drake calling for immediate action to meet the demands of the UAW workers
December 1 cease and desist letter to UCOP demanding a retraction of extension of service period
December 5 letter to Gavin Newsom demanding immediate action with the Regents
December 5 press release on letter to Gavin Newsom

How You Can Express Solidarity with UAW
UC-AFT members should not attend or participate in any unassigned university activities during the strike. Assigned duties, in most cases, are limited to classes and office hours. Participation in nearly all other activities on campus (seminars, talks, department meetings, etc.) is unnecessarily crossing the picket line. Spend this time on the picket line instead! Most crucially, follow the guidance on rights and responsibilities below. If you have questions about this, get in touch with the UC-AFT Field Rep assigned to your campus.

 

If you've been asked to assume any new work before or during the strike, please complete this form.

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Guidance on Rights and Responsibilities

Following the guidance below will ensure that your rights are upheld and that you are protected from any disciplinary action the university may threaten. If you have TAs/Readers for your courses and you utilize this guidance, notify the UC-AFT staff member on your campus immediately.

 

Do not offer your labor to lessen the impact of the strike. The university is preparing to offer UC-AFT members compensation to perform struck work. You have the right to refuse to perform struck work and UC-AFT supports your choice to do so. Your obligation to submit grades as the instructor of record does not extend to an obligation or responsibility to perform struck work.

  • You have the right to refuse to do struck work (the work clearly assigned to your TAs and/or Readers. Refusing to perform this work is legally protected under the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA).
  • You also have a right to be compensated for any additional work that is assigned or expected of you. This includes additional work that you might share with TA’s, and/or struck work that was clearly assigned to TAs before the strike.
  • You have the right to maintain and uphold reasonable accommodation agreements during the strike.

Define Your Work Assignment in the Following Three Categories:

  • Work you normally do for the course (you must continue to do this!)
  • Work that is assigned to TAs in responsibility statements or other documentation
  • Work that overlaps with you and the TA's where the amount of work between you is what varies

Once Your Work is Clearly Defined

You should inform your department that you will not perform the struck work assigned to TA’s identified in ii. above, which may include not submitting grades. See sample language below.

 

You should inform the department that any additional work they expect of you that is associated with the overlap area in iii. will need to be documented in a new assignment. You are under no obligation to accept a new assignment. Any new assignement that you choose to accept must be compensated. See sample language below.

 

Documenting Additional Work for New Assignments

Documentation should include the following: description of all new duties assigned, who assigned the work, date of the assignment and completion, the time required to perform the work, any agreement on mitigation or compensation of the increase in work, and any objection you have, including your physical and mental ability to complete the work.

 

Formal documentation of the new assignment from the chair or dean should be in the form of an amended appointment letter including relevant details of the new assignment and compensation.

 

Here’s language you can use to inform your department you are asserting your rights under HEERA with respect to struck work (ii.):

 

"Dear Chair,

I’m submitting this statement on the guidance of my union, UC-AFT. I have cc’d my union rep to ensure that this communication is documented, that my rights are upheld and my responsibilities as faculty are met. I understand that the Unit 18 contract prohibits sympathy strikes, and that I am required to continue to perform my regularly assigned job duties during the UAW strike. However, I have not waived my basic right to support another union by refusing to perform struck work, which is protected under HEERA Section 3565. For my Chemistry 101 course, TA's are assigned to teach sections and grade weekly student work, two papers, and a final exam. I will not teach sections or tabulate grades for student work that would have been graded by TAs. In addition, I cannot make evaluations of student work by criteria directly reflective of course performance without the labor and product of my TAs/Readers. To do so would be a violation of my academic responsibility obligations under Article 3 of the Unit 18 MOU, as well as a violation of my academic freedom guaranteed by Article 2 of the MOU and APM 010.”

 

Here’s language you can use to inform your department that any required, additional, overlap work (iii.) must be documented in a new assignment and compensated:
 

"Dear Chair,

I’m submitting this statement on the guidance of my union, UC-AFT. I have cc’d my union rep to ensure that this communication is documented, that my rights are upheld and my responsibilities as faculty are met. I understand that the Unit 18 contract prohibits sympathy strikes, and that I am required to continue to perform my regularly assigned job duties during the UAW strike. However, I have not waived my basic right to support another union by refusing to perform struck work, which is protected under HEERA Section 3565. And, I am aware of my right under Article 24 of the Unit 18 MOU to be compensated for all assigned work.

 

For my Sociology 101 course, TA's are assigned to grade half of the mid-term papers. All mid-term papers have been submitted and half remain ungraded. These papers are the only basis I currently have for grades in this class. I cannot make evaluations of student work by criteria directly reflective of course performance without the labor and product of my TAs/Readers. To do so would be a violation of my academic responsibility obligations under Article 3 of the Unit 18 MOU, as well as a violation of my academic freedom guaranteed by Article 2 of the MOU and APM 010. If the department wishes to have the remaining mid-term papers graded by me, per Article 24, I will need a new assignment in writing and appropriate compensation.

 

Please advise at your earliest convenience.”

 

Here’s language you can use to inform your department that your TA’s provide protected reasonable accommodation support:

 

"Dear chair,

I am a person with (a) disability(ies) protected under Title I & Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. I have relied on collaboration with my teaching assistants in order to complete tasks for which I would otherwise need reasonable accommodation, including record-keeping and grading. The absence of teaching assistants while the term is in progress functions as a loss of disability access. If I were to attempt to complete all grading and record-keeping work normally assigned to teaching assistants based on my current syllabus, it would pose a significant challenge and hardship. In the absence of labor and product and collaboration with TAs, I will not be able to complete the course as designed. Please advise."

 

Additional Guidance

If you feel compelled to do TA/Reader/struck work, or to modify your course structure or method of evaluation in light of the strike, according to our contract, your added workload must be mitigated (reduced within that same course in other ways by your supervisor) or compensated.

  • Remember: you are the instructor and you have academic freedom. Any changes you make to your course are up to you. You are not required to make changes.
  • Remember that any changes you make need to be in line with the expectation that you are evaluating students fairly and with non-arbitrary standards, according to Article 3 of our contract.

Ensure that You are Protected. Communicate with UC-AFT staff.
The university’s failure to negotiate in good faith and to reach agreement with UAW before the end of the term has put many of us in a nearly impossible situation. UC-AFT is working hard to communicate your rights and responsibilities during the strike. Given the pressure and complexity of this moment, it is essential that you communicate with UC-AFT staff any questions or concerns you have about your situation. If you feel threatened in any way by your department or division, please get in touch with us immediately.

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Rights and Responsibilities Q&A

Q: I read a Faculty Association communication that said all faculty are allowed to strike under HEERA. Is this true?

A: No. Our UC-AFT Unit 18 contract includes a no-strikes clause that explicitly prohibits “sympathy strikes.” But we can and should support striking workers by joining their picket lines when we are not teaching or performing our assigned duties. For other ways to support the strike, read more at fairucnow.org.
 

Q: Do I have to do the work that my TAs aren’t doing right now?

A: No. And you should not. Performing the work of a legally striking worker is scabbing. If your supervisor, department chair, or administrator tells you to do additional work, see the Guidance on Rights and Responsibilities above.
 

Q: Can I say no to my supervisor if they assign me more work to complete the quarter/semester?

A: Yes. If your department or library suggests that you voluntarily do more work than usual because colleagues are on strike, you may decline. If you are directed by a supervisor to perform additional work that is not part of your normal assignment, you should ask to have the new assignment detailed in writing, and you should inform your supervisor of their obligation to mitigate the increase in work. Then, complete this form and get in touch with your chapter’s field representative immediately about the workload increase.
 

Q: What do I do if I have student papers/ exams that were completed before the start of the strike that still need to be graded but my TA(s) are on strike?

A: Do not grade them. A strike is meant to show the work that is not being done. If TAs were assigned to this course and would have graded the papers if not but for the strike, you should notify your department that TA work is piling up and papers are going ungraded. You should also inform your class that untimely grading is one of the impacts of the strike, which they can learn more about at fairucnow.org
 

Q: When I talk to my students about the impacts of the strike on timely grading or other aspects of the course, can I also talk about the reason for the strike?

A: Yes. When explaining impacts to your course from the strike, you can direct your students to fairucnow.org for information about factors motivating the strike.
 

Q: Can I put my class online and/ or make it asynchronous for the rest of the quarter/semester?

A: Maybe. Campuses have varying published policies about changing the modality of a class from in-person to zoom (synchronous and/or asynchronous). You should check with campus policy before making this change.
 

Q: Can I delete or remove assignments or requirements from my course?

A: Yes. Academic Freedom allows us to make decisions about our courses. You have the right to reject management recommendations for modifications to your pedagogy and technology. You also have the right to modify your courses in ways that reflect the chaotic circumstances on campus. Lack of TA support, noise, low attendance, and stress experienced by students are all legitimate reasons for modifications to a course, including canceling graded assignments. These kinds of changes are protected under academic freedom. Please use the following text to communicate with your chair.
 

Dear Chair,

TAs assigned to my courses are exercising their protected right to participate in a legal strike. Assignments submitted by students are now delayed and may not be graded and returned to students. Given the circumstances, I will exercise discretion as faculty and utilize protections afforded through the principles of academic freedom to modify grading and assignments as necessary for the remainder of the strike or term. This could include removal of assignments from my syllabus, withholding grading of assignments submitted or other choices I deem necessary.
 

Q: Can I cancel my final exam?

A: Maybe. In most cases, faculty have discretion to design and implement courses, including the assignment and weighting of final exams. In addition, some large courses require a proctor for a certain number of students. If your TAs are your proctors, and they are on strike, this could mean that offering your exam would violate policy. This issue should be raised with your supervisor or department chair. Please use the following text to communicate with your chair.
 

Dear Chair,

TAs assigned to my courses are exercising their protected right to participate in a legal strike. My course is enrolled with 500 students. Current policy and the logistics of grading will not allow me to offer a final exam as indicated in my syllabus. Given the circumstances, I will exercise discretion as faculty and utilize protections afforded through the principals of academic freedom to modify grading and assignments as necessary for the remainder of the strike or term. This could include cancellation of the final exam for this course.
 

Q: Can I refuse to complete and/or submit my course grades?

A: If you have grades to submit because your course does not rely on TAs to produce them, you should submit them to avoid discipline. If TAs have not provided grades for your course due to the strike, you should notify your supervisor or department chair that you will not be able to submit grades because you do not have them.

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Additional Guidance on How to Support UAW Workers on Strike

We may:

Respect the picket line as long as we do not cancel class or interfere with the operations of the administration. We can join the picket line for short or long lengths of time if we are not failing to complete our own work. Or, we may respect the picket line by not being present on campus at times that we are not scheduled to perform assigned duties (such as attend meetings, teach, be on reference, etc.)

If teaching, hold class on the picket line or in another alternate location, as long as accessibility is assured for all students.

Exercise our first amendment rights to free speech by wearing a union button and t-shirt or discussing our own union membership.

Exercise our protected academic freedom, which UC-AFT members have fought for and won, to discuss working conditions at our campuses.

Donate to the UAW Hardship Fund. Academic workers have the right to strike, but UC also has the right to withhold their pay when they withdraw their labor. For underpaid and rent burdened academic workers, just a few days without pay can be devastating. UAW has worked hard to build up a Strike and Defense Fund so they can provide support to members who experience emergency financial hardship due to lost pay. But they need our support! Help them provide financial support to members in need by donating at: https://givebutter.com/uc-uaw

 

Find other creative, active, and legal ways to express your support for our colleagues in the UAW locals–and we strongly encourage you to do so.

We should:

Support the right of TAs and other academic workers to engage in lawful collective action.

Express solidarity with our siblings of UAW. Tag them in social media posts and use these hashtags: #FairUCNow, #UCUnionsUnited, #solidarity.

If you teach, teach the issues, much as you would any other important current event that you might address in your class. If you don’t usually talk with your students about current events, consider chatting with them after class time is over. You can hold space for students to ask questions and talk about their own struggles at work.

Let students know that you will not penalize students who choose not to cross the picket lines, and that there will be no negative consequences for respecting their conscience.

We should not:

Question or challenge the right of UAW members to strike. Do not ask your TAs if they plan to strike or monitor their strike activity. Do not threaten or intimidate UAW members. Do not attempt to prevent, disincentivize, or interfere with fellow workers taking lawful steps to exercise their protected rights. Do not retaliate against any UAW member.

Take up any work that is not being done by striking workers. Acting in solidarity means allowing the work stoppage to have its intended effect of revealing how the university administration relies on the missing labor. Though it may seem helpful to fill a gap that is left when someone is out on strike, in fact it undermines the action and can lead to conflict and resentment. Unit 18 faculty, for example, should not teach discussion sections they do not usually lead or reassign evaluation and assessment to undergraduate students if striking TAs are unavailable to grade. Replacing a striking worker is called scabbing. Don’t scab.

Both Unit 17 librarians and Unit 18 faculty have negotiated workload protections into our respective collective bargaining agreements. Workload for UC-AFT members is generally delimited by statements of responsibility (Unit 17) and appointment letters (Unit 18). Generally speaking, these protections prevent UC admin from assigning extra work on an ad-hoc basis.

If your department or library suggests that you voluntarily do more work than usual because colleagues are on strike, you may decline. If you are asked by a supervisor to do additional work that is not part of your normal assignment, you should ask to have the new assignment detailed in writing, and you should inform your supervisor of their obligation to mitigate the increase in work. If your supervisor persists with an explicit instruction to perform additional duties, document the request including all new duties and complete the task as directed. Then, get in touch with your chapter’s field representative immediately about the unauthorized workload increase.

We must:

Abide by the terms of our contracts, particularly Article 35 (No Strikes/No Lockouts) in the Unit 18 faculty contract and Article 27 (Concerted Activities) in the Unit 17 librarian contract.

Respect the rights of all striking workers to withhold their labor.

UC management might choose to discipline you if you:

Call in sick if you are not in fact sick during a strike.

Refuse to do your assigned work during a strike.

Encourage others to cancel class during a strike.

Engage in a strike, sympathy strike, stoppage or interruption of work, or other concerted activity that interferes directly or indirectly with university operations.

Things to think about:

How can we end the prohibition, imposed on UC-AFT members by UC management in our collective bargaining agreements, against engaging in collective sympathy actions when our fellow UC workers need our solidarity?

How can we bargain in coalition with other academic workers to combine and multiply our power, much as UAW workers have done?

Let us know immediately if you exercise your rights in accordance with our contract and state law and experience any intimidation or retaliation. It is illegal for an employer to retaliate for communicating about or participating in union activities, and UC-AFT is deeply committed to preventing and fighting back against retaliation.