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UC-AFT Faculty Bargaining Update #17 Zoom March 21


UC-AFT Faculty Bargaining Session #17

March 21, 2020


Advocating for Teaching Faculty in the Midst of Crisis

With the entire State of California now under a “stay at home” order, this week was UC-AFT’s first virtual bargaining session convened on Zoom. Berkeley Law lecturer and bargaining team member Ben Brown opened the session with a powerful personal statement that eloquently situated the events of the past two weeks in the context of our ongoing contract negotiations. Central to these negotiations, he described, has been “this basic question of whether lecturers are an integral part of the University or are just fungible employees who can be replaced at any time and who best meet the needs of the University.”

What the COVID-19 epidemic has made clear, he continued, is that without skilled and experienced lecturers--those who are resourceful, creative, and capable of making rapid adjustments to their courses, those trusted by their students to put their health and wellbeing first--the educational mission of the university simply could not continue. After calling on the negotiators from the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to recognize the central role that lecturers play in the educational mission of the UC, Ben had to leave the meeting to go teach his class on Zoom from his back porch.

While the UCOP representatives repeatedly claimed that they agreed with the sentiments Brown expressed, the proposals they submitted were, as Mia McIver described, “wholly insufficient” in addressing UC-AFT’s proposals regarding the University’s COVID-19 response. For example, when pressed to honor a verbal commitment they had made the previous week, that "the one thing we're telling you very clearly is you all have jobs if you were hired for spring,” the UCOP representatives refused put their commitment to no layoffs in writing, saying instead that layoff decisions are left to the discretion of individual departments. We reminded them that faculty members are the ones best suited to determine whether their courses can be adapted to an online format, and that students are desperate for guarantees that the courses they need to graduate will be offered despite the crisis. Our table team reiterated our demands for ensuring the retention of work, avoiding layoffs and reduction in time, and implementing a “soft start” after spring break that would allow faculty additional time for accommodating themselves and their students to online learning.

UC-AFT called on the University to recognize the central role that lecturers are playing in the COVID-19 response by acknowledging the absolute necessity of expanding eligibility for health insurance benefits and paid medical leave to all Unit 18 members. In response, UCOP representatives proposed expanding paid medical leave so that UC-AFT faculty will be eligible with appointments of 66% or higher. (Only teaching faculty with 100% appointments are currently eligible.) While this is a very positive step, it still leaves more than 3,000 UC teaching faculty unprotected if they experience catastrophic illness and require extended hospitalization. Our bargaining team repeatedly emphasized their concern for the needs of our most precarious, most vulnerable members and the insufficiencies of the University’s response in addressing the needs of low-wage faculty who are not eligible for the UC’s health insurance plans.

UCOP's Side Letter Proposal


The day’s proposals focused on a Side Letter Agreement between UCOP and UC-AFT that would address the effects of the University’s responses to COVID-19 and related federal, state, and local mandates and ensure the health and safety of the University community. After surveying our membership about their challenges, experiences, and needs, we presented a proposal to UC admin on March 13th. In today’s session, the UCOP bargaining team passed its own proposal in response. Except for the expansion of paid medical leave, their proposal was largely non-committal. UCOP rejected the following UC-AFT proposals:

  • Tech support, hardware, and other resources for students who need them to participate in online classes
  • Reimbursement for out-of-pocket purchases that UC-AFT faculty make to obtain equipment required for online teaching that the University doesn’t provide
  • Student evaluations for terms of remote teaching should not be used in performance reviews
  • All UC-AFT faculty may exercise academic freedom in teaching as they judge fit during the emergency, especially with regard to course policies and/or pedagogical decisions necessary to foster student learning, and decisions about which course elements should be delivered synchronously or asynchronously.
  • K-12 faculty at the Preuss School, Geffen Academy, and UCLA Lab School should have, at minimum, the same leave allowances and health protections that surrounding public school districts offer their teachers.

Moving Forward Despite Uncertainty


We have no doubt that everyone at UC, including representatives from UCOP, are working hard to adjust to an ever-evolving situation. However, it is clear that layoffs are being considered on many campuses. Better job security is one of our core bargaining demands in our main contract campaign. At this moment, fighting to push back layoffs and reductions in time will A) ensure that the classes our students need won’t be canceled, and B) contribute to greater job security after the crisis is over. To stop layoffs, we need you to make a quick call to a key administrator on your campus --

Authors: Caroline Luce, UCLA ( and Mia McIver (