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UC-AFT Faculty Bargaining Update #16 UC San Diego March 13


UC-AFT Faculty Bargaining Session #16

March 13, 2020

UC San Diego


Advocating for Teaching Faculty in the Midst of Crisis


Teaching faculty across the UC system are facing new challenges and stressors as the COVID-19 pandemic affects our work and home lives. On Friday, the UC-AFT negotiating team came to the table with A) stories from members about the heroic efforts UC-AFT faculty are making to keep teaching and reaching students during the crisis, and B) proposals to ensure high quality instruction this spring and protect the safety and livelihoods of our members.

The image shows a woman with long brown hair. She is wearing a blue UC-AFT t-shirt and smiling at the camera. She holds a sign that reads, "I am a lecturer. I've been teaching at UCSD for 5 years in 13 classes for DOC. I got my Master's and my PhD from UCSD. I have to apply for my job every year!! Total students: 3,900+ I am on "shaky" ground."The image shows a woman in a blue UC-AFT t-shirt standing in a conference room and speaking with a serious face. People sitting at tables turn to watch her speak.

Advocacy by UC-AFT and our UC union coalition partners had already gotten good results even before bargaining began on Friday. After discussions with the UC Office of the President (UCOP), UC-AFT was able to confirm two important policies: 14-day paid administrative leave for teaching faculty who are not eligible for sick leave or paid medical leave (i.e., most UC-AFT members), and a waiver by all UC health insurance plans of co-pays associated with COVID-19 testing.


Friday’s bargaining began with testimonials from lecturers at UCSD, whose pay goes down when they teach a class for a second time. They spoke about having only $100 a month left over from their salary after paying rent each month, lacking insurance and health care for their newborn infants, and being driven away from the teaching they cherish and the university they love by constant threats of being fired. Their stories highlight how our core goals of improving compensation, workload, and job security will benefit teaching faculty across the UC system.


UC-AFT Pushes for Answers about COVID-19’s Impact on Teaching Faculty


Our volunteer faculty negotiators spent most of the day discussing the move of most UC campuses to remote instruction. Your responses to the survey we sent out last week gave us important insights into your needs and concerns, and we brought those concerns to the table.


UC-AFT proposed that the university take the following actions to help teaching faculty weather the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Provide equipment and home internet access to all students and faculty who need them.
  • Use the first week after spring break (at both semester and quarter campuses) to train faculty in online instruction and help them move courses online. This would replace one week of spring instruction and ensure that students get the most possible out of spring class meetings. This approach has already been adopted at University of Virginia, University of Wisconsin, Duke University, University of Texas Austin and about 20 other Texas colleges and universities, Indiana University, Spelman College, University of Delaware, University of Alaska, University of Wyoming, University of Central Oklahoma, University of Arkansas, Middle Tennessee State University, Northeastern, New Mexico State, Ohio State, and many more. The UC should follow suit.
  • Remove spring course evaluations from consideration in personnel decisions (i.e., reappointment, excellence review, merit review).
  • Ensure that enrollment changes do not result in layoffs for UC-AFT faculty.
  • Protect teaching faculty working in the US on visas from changes in their immigration status.
  • Pay teaching faculty fairly for extra work during this crisis.
  • Return to in-person classroom teaching after the pandemic is over without exploiting the emergency to shift to permanent online instruction.
  • Guarantee that K-12 teachers at the Preuss School, Geffen Academy, and UCLA Lab School receive at least the same pay and accommodations during the COVID-19 pandemic as teachers in the surrounding public school districts.


While we want commitments in writing from the university, we secured two important verbal agreements:

  1. UC admin will honor as of now their recent proposal to grant paid medical leave to teaching faculty with a 66% appointment or higher. This is still short of our proposal for paid medical leave for all teaching faculty, but it shows that our organizing is working.
  2. UC admin will not use lower student evaluation scores against teaching faculty in the reappointment, excellence review, or merit review process.

When UC’s negotiators said that they would be hiring additional TAs to perform some of the extra work required to move classes online, we urged them to reinstate the 82 TAs they recently fired from UC Santa Cruz, who are now being stripped of their health insurance just as a deadly virus is coursing through the population.

We will continue bargaining over COVID-19 issues in the coming weeks. Perhaps the most disturbing thing from our discussion, however, came when we asked a very basic question: “Who is directing the University’s overall response” to the pandemic? UCOP lead spokesperson Nadine Fishel replied, “I don’t have an answer to that,” going on to speculate that it was perhaps President Napolitano. With a leadership vacuum during this emergency, our union’s advocacy for students, faculty, and UC educational priorities will be more important than ever.

Proposals Passed During the Session

The UCOP bargaining team passed two articles to the UC-AFT table team during the bargaining session: Article 36--Past Practice and Article 37--Waiver. Both contained minor changes to existing language. One positive bit of movement from UCOP: they have agreed to our proposal that UC-AFT teaching faculty may be eligible for emeritus status upon retirement.

UC-AFT passed a counterproposal back to the UC’s negotiators for a new contract article on Health, Safety, and Emergency Campus Closures. Our original proposal, which we passed in early January, now looks quite prescient in the way it sets out terms for shifts to online instruction. Our counterproposal continues to look out for the best interests of students and faculty during states of emergency. It also demands a place at the table for Unit 18 faculty in making policies about instruction and pedagogy during crises and natural disasters.

Moving Forward Despite Uncertainty

Bargaining will continue virtually this week due to the threat of COVID-19. We’re seeking ways to keep negotiations accessible to members. This was a real challenge last Friday, when, once again, the negotiators for the UCOP seemed more interested in excluding UC-AFT members and allies from bargaining than in engaging in productive conversations. They had uniformed police posted outside our bargaining room all day and refused to permit more than three observers at a time. Our team was extremely cautious about personal distancing to minimize health and safety risks, but at the same time that UCOP’s representatives said their first priority was protecting themselves, in-person classes were still in session at UC San Diego, the student union building where we were bargaining was open and bustling, and UCSD guidance about in-person meetings clearly authorized a group of our size. We questioned why the health of executives from UCOP was apparently more important than the health of students and faculty. This disparity lays bare the power relations at the UC that we’re seeking to change through this bargaining campaign.

Authors: Erika Strandjord, UC Davis (, Mia McIver, UCLA (