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UC-AFT in the Library--The Role of the Union in Peer Review and Professional Status


How do you tell a LAUC member from a UC-AFT member?  

Administrators aside, it's virtually impossible to distinguish between LAUC members and union members. That's because the majority of UC librarians are in both organizations. Both organizations work on issues that are important to individual librarians and to the profession. In the initial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), ratified in 1984, the UC-AFT agreed to leave the administration of the peer review process under the purview of LAUC. Following the ratification, LAUC charged several committees to investigate and make proposals for changes in the Academic Personnel Manual (APM) that would reflect what had been bargained and agreed to in the MOU. In 2000, sections of the APM that applied to peer review were then moved into the MOU as Appendix E. In December 2013, UC-AFT ratified a new contract, which once again modified peer review procedures in the MOU (Article 5), including the elimination of the “distinguished step.” Now any librarian can advance through the entire salary scale without having to pass a “barrier.”  As a result, campus academic personnel staff and local LAUC committees have been working on updating local review procedures.

Despite the fact that the peer review process and the basis for peer review committees is established in the Unit 17 MOU, many librarians feel that peer review is not a union matter. This isn't surprising since LAUC committees have been responsible for administering the peer review process for decades. LAUC oversight isn’t going to change, but it is time for librarians to take wider a view of the role of the union with respect to peer review and professional status.

As part of UC-AFT's You See (UC) Democracy? campaign, librarians around the state are beginning to identify issues that the union can work on that are important to their colleagues. Not surprisingly, the peer review process is a huge issue for most librarians. When asked, librarians want to know how to prepare materials, how much preparation time is adequate, how little preparation time is acceptable, how to talk to review initiators about progress during the review period and while preparing materials, and how to handle a review when your relationship with your review initiator is strained.

LAUC provides workshops on peer review on most, if not all of the UC campuses. These are valuable forums for librarians, but they can't cover all the questions that librarians have about the process, materials preparation and troubleshooting. In addition, many librarians aren't comfortable being candid about their personal situation when there are supervisors in the room. The UC-AFT has long been a resource for librarians who want to discuss their individual situation with someone who can offer advice. UC-AFT bargaining team members, stewards and campus representatives welcome the opportunity to help librarian colleagues prepare their review packets.  UC-AFT can sponsor brown bags and workshops about peer review to offer a venue that may be more open than the LAUC/administration workshops.

One of the barriers to more LAUC and UC-AFT collaboration is the fear that the library administration will not appreciate union involvement. This may be true on some campuses. Where it is true, it is a problem that all bargaining unit librarians need to face collectively. The fact is, UC librarians are lucky to have two professional organizations they can utilize to advance their professional status and promote the profession. On campuses where it is a problem, let’s make efforts now to improve communication and collaboration with LAUC. It could make a real difference in the effectiveness of both groups, and on relationships between librarians, the UC-AFT and library administrators. There are some big differences between LAUC and UC-AFT, but that's not a problem, it's an asset.