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UC-AFT Teaching Faculty Bargaining Update October 22, 2021


Thank you for contributing to our contract campaign. The progress we have made would not have been possible without your commitment to fight for the dignity and respect your colleagues, your work, and our profession deserve.

On October 22, we met with management to hear their presentation of their October 11 proposal. Our team used the session to point to specific areas of the proposal that must be improved before we can accept a deal. Letitia Silas, UCOP's Director of Labor Relations, was present at the session. This is the first bargaining session she has attended. We also had over 350 members and allies in attendance.

We have come a long way since negotiations began in April 2019. You can read the full list of gains at the end of this email. Even with these improvements, there’s still work left to do. The proposal we recently received from UCOP falls short in many ways (see details below). Here are the most important things to know about our contract campaign at this moment:

  1. Our informational pickets were successful in motivating President Drake’s administration to improve their proposals on job stability and release time for UC-AFT stewards. This is a win.
  2. The Office of the President (UCOP) still hasn’t moved significantly on the other 12 of the 14 issues at the core of our bargaining impasse. In particular, they continue to refuse a fair, clear, enforceable workload definition, and their compensation proposal amounts to a pay cut given high inflation. Under UCOP’s proposal, the majority of our members would still make salaries below the low income level. Details below.
  3. With respect to job stability, there are loopholes, exceptions and ambiguities in management’s proposal that may result in continued unjustifiable churning. Under management's current proposal, current pre-continuing UC-AFT faculty could also be churned at the end of this year before the new job stability system is implemented.
  4. Good faith bargaining is the way to avert a strike. We’ve called on UCOP to schedule an open bargaining session for this Friday, October 22, or to propose another date. We need an opportunity to ask questions about unclear elements of UCOP’s proposal, achieve full understanding of ambiguities, understand their intent, and obtain a record of bargaining notes that can be used for future contract enforcement. (Recent communications have been going through our state-sponsored mediator, and we haven’t been dialoguing directly with President Drake’s representatives.) Even more crucially, we need a bargaining session so UC-AFT members like you can see and respond to the underlying proposal itself. Your bargaining team depends on your input and needs your feedback on whether the proposal meets your needs. President Drake’s negotiators have thus far refused to schedule a bargaining session.
  5. Unless they agree to bargain in good faith, President Drake’s administration is violating their legal obligations. A take-it-or-leave-it proposal in which an employer does not provide union members the opportunity for further bargaining is illegal. Their proposal was also an exploding proposal, meaning that it had an arbitrary expiration date. President Drake’s representatives made a paltry, one-time $500 ratification bonus dependent on our accepting the whole contract on a short timeline. Withdrawing proposals in the absence of external necessity is regressive bargaining and a violation of the duty to bargain in good faith. Finally, they violated their obligation to participate in impasse procedures in good faith by passing on an the record proposal outside of mediation against our wished and communicating directly with our members about it.
  6. If President Drake’s administration continues to stonewall bargaining, they may violate their duty to bargain in good faith. We could file Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charges (in addition to the multiple ULPs already filed) and potentially strike over their refusals to bargain in order to motivate them to come to the table.

On October 11th at 10 PM, exactly 36 hours before our informational pickets were set to begin on every UC campus, President Drake’s chief negotiator, Nadine Fishel, emailed us management’s first binding proposal since mediation began in June. Everything discussed or exchanged in mediation is non-binding, and correspondingly there are strict confidentiality requirements to allow the two parties to work things out. Management evaded those confidentiality expectations and wriggled around mediation by sending us a proposal on the record, including a demand that we accept it by 5 PM on October 15th lest an offer for a $500 one-time signing bonus be withdrawn. The following day, Letitia Silas, President Drake’s Director of Labor Relations, emailed our entire bargaining unit to try to convince our members that management’s proposal should be accepted as-is.

President Drake’s proposal represents real progress on 2 of the 14 issues that form the crux of our bargaining impasse: job stability and release time for UC-AFT stewards. That said, there are 12 outstanding contract articles, including our top priorities workload and compensation, that are important for a fair contract and on which UCOP has offered little to no movement since we declared impasse in May. There are also bad faith defects in management’s bargaining tactics that are preventing us from reaching agreement.


UC management claims to be among the top three of the public Association of American Universities (AAUs) for how well it compensates lecturers. It’s not quite clear what that means, since this is data President Drake’s negotiators have never presented in bargaining. If they’re pointing to annual full-time minimum salaries, their claim may be true in absolute numbers, but it’s likely nowhere near true if you factor in cost of living. Consider the annual minimum salary of $51,000 for lecturers at the University of Michigan, a close comparator for the UC as a multi-campus public research institution where lecturers are unionized in their own bargaining unit and are eligible for continuing appointments (after 4 cumulative years of service, compared to our 6). A lecturer in Berkeley would need to earn $115,000 to have purchasing power equivalent to that of a lecturer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Our current minimum annual full-time salary is $56,945, which, given the incredibly high cost of living in the state of California, qualifies lecturers as Low-Income for a household of one person (and Very Low-Income for a household of 4 people) in 6 of the 9 counties where UC campuses are located.

It’s even more instructive to look at actual earnings. More than half of all UC lecturers make under $20,000 a year. An independent salary analysis by CalMatters found that the average annual gross salary for UC lecturers, including Continuing Lecturers, was a paltry $32,000. By comparison, Assistant Professors at the UC typically earn around $110,000 on average, according to the AAUP’s annual compensation survey.

Our last cost of living increase was on July 1, 2019. At that time, we received 3% from the Office of the President even though our contract called for parity with tenure-track faculty, who received 4%. (President Drake’s administration has not yet corrected this wage theft, although we’ve worked hard to reach a settlement so that our members will receive back pay.) With zero raises in 2020, and zero raises in 2021 thus far, and 3% annual raises through the end of their proposed contract, management’s proposal does not keep up with inflation. For comparison, Social Security increased their Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) by 5.9% this year. The Los Angeles area consumer price index for all items has increased 4.6% in the last year.

In that context, President Drake’s offer will amount to a pay CUT in real terms. We won’t agree to a contract that puts our members further and further behind financially.

We’re demanding that our first raise after ratification of our contract be significantly higher than 3% to account for UCOP’s delay in getting it to us when nearly every other worker at the UC received at least 3% on July 1 of this year. We won’t let management’s stalling at the table cost us money.

Management does include several other increases in their proposal, including lifting the salary minimum 5% and shifting to a salary scale that will result in variable increases for individuals that average 1.3% across the bargaining unit. These are helpful, but they’re not enough to close the gaps we’ve identified. They were also part of management’s proposals prior to impasse and do not reflect any recent movement.

Furthermore, the state legislature and governor gave the UC a 5% increase in permanent, ongoing funding this year. The President and Regents then turned around and raised students’ tuition. President Drake’s negotiators aren’t pleading poverty. They’re not saying they can’t do better; they’re saying they don’t want to. We demand that these significant additional revenues be channeled toward our University’s core educational mission, which means providing sustaining wages for teaching faculty.


UC admin has agreed to post information about departmental workload policies on campus websites. This is an important development that meets a very basic employment need: establishing clear workload expectations. We welcome this improvement, but it is not the problem we set out to address in these negotiations with respect to workload. We need three contractual improvements on workload to reach agreement:

1) Full enforceability of the workload article, which means the ability to file an arbitrable grievance when the work involved in teaching a course is undervalued (and a lecturer is therefore underpaid) or when workload creep increases duties without increasing pay. Such grievances need to be eligible for binding arbitration so that, when we cannot resolve disputes informally or through the grievance process, a neutral third party can do it for us. Otherwise, UCOP will simply deny that there’s a problem and that’s the last word on the matter. Arbitrability of grievances is a standard element of strong union contracts.

2) A clear, specific, and consistent definition of what constitutes a course worth one Instructional Workload Credit (IWC) as well as criteria for when courses will be valued at more or less than one IWC.

3) Clear and robust descriptions of what work in addition to classroom teaching responsibilities will be compensated through course equivalencies or other means.

Our members regularly experience workload creep and perform uncompensated service and professional development work. UCOP has refused for two and a half years to agree to common sense improvements that would simultaneously reduce this exploitation and improve students’ educational experience through fair lecturer workloads.

Employment stability

Labor Relations claims that UC admin is nearly unique among comparison universities in offering the stability of the continuing appointment to lecturers. But according to our analysis of the data provided by the university, since we won Continuing Appointments in our 2003 contract, only 7-8% of teaching faculty hired have attained Continuing status. Independent analysis from CalMatters confirmed what we have repeatedly told UCOP representatives: the average term of service for a UC lecturer is two years, more than half of all lecturers are never rehired after their first year teaching. We set out in these negotiations to stabilize teaching faculty and improve the number of lecturers who have access to longer teaching career pathways.

After two and a half years of negotiating, management finally accepted something similar to our initial proposal:

Initial appointment: One-year appointment with review by department chair prior to reappointment;

Second appointment: Two-year appointment with the same appointment percentage in each year and a review during the second year of the two-year appointment;
Third appointment and all following pre-six appointments: Three-year appointment that, with some important exceptions, will generally have the same appointment percentage guaranteed in each of the three years and a review. [Our reading of the proposal is that the two-year appointments will also be subject to the same exceptions as the three-year appointments, and it’s not clear why Silas doesn’t disclose that in this summary.]

Most, but not all, Pre-Six Lecturers who make it past their first year and are then reappointed again will receive an academic review with a reasonable standard of teaching effectiveness. We will have priority for reappointment if they are deemed effective and there are classes available for them to teach. Instead of a 6% increase in the third year of teaching, we would receive 3% increases every time we’re reappointed. If we are not reappointed and our department hires a new lecturer instead, we will receive a written explanation for why we were not re-hired.

Management’s job stability proposal has moved closer to what we’ve been fighting for. However, in important areas of the proposal, President Drake’s representatives insert giant loopholes that must be closed. They introduce exceptions whereby they can appoint lecturers for less than the full 2 or 3 years, which means they will have no further obligation to review the lecturer or consider them for reappointment. They propose to deny someone reappointment if another lecturer is supposedly more qualified, but they don’t define what counts as qualifications and they won’t have to justify their judgment, meaning this is ripe for abuse and can be used as a pretext to perpetuate churning. They also propose to deny someone reappointment for reasons that involve "programmatic need or change," which could be interpreted broadly. And they are offering no further protections beyond what exists in the current contract (very little) against replacing a lecturer who has received raises with someone cheaper.

Gains by UC-AFT in this Contract...or, as UCOP would put it self-servingly…

Other highlights of management’s proposal

Specific and transparent performance review criteria: We have proposed, and UCOP has partially accepted, more specific review criteria and transparent standards for the excellence review, merit review, and the promotional review to Senior Continuing Lecturer.

Timely and more specific appointment letters: Management agreed with us that they ought to provide appointment letters by a firm date. In addition, the appointment letters will have increased specificity regarding pay amounts and pay periods. However, President Drake’s negotiators have rescinded their previous, fully enforceable commitment that all appointment letters will be issued by May 1 on semester campuses and June 1 on semester campuses. Because they are now seeking exceptions to those dates, we no longer have confidence that their proposal will result in guaranteed timely appointment letters that give us enough time to plan our classes and our lives.

Credit Toward Continuing for Summer Session Teaching
We proposed that all Summer Session teaching be eligible for service credit toward Continuing Appointments. UCOP agreed to count Summer Session courses when a lecturer does not teach in every term of the regular academic year immediately prior to the summer session.

Expanded eligibility for paid medical leave: After a shameful incident in which UC Irvine admin denied a distinguished Continuing Lecturer paid medical leave to have a brain tumor removed, management agreed to extend paid medical leave to all bargaining unit faculty with appointments of 66% or greater. This is an improvement from the 100% eligibility threshold in current contract language, but UC admin’s pervasive use of part-time and unbenefitted appointments means that most UC-AFT members may never be eligible for paid medical leave, even under this improved provision.

Increased support for unit members with children: UCOP’s communications trumpet their expansion of Active Service-Modified Duties from two quarters/two semesters to three quarters/two semesters. While this is indeed an improvement for lecturers who are preparing to welcome and/or caring for a new child in their family, it is basically a correction of a previous inequity that provided a full academic year of ASMD for lecturers at UC Berkeley and UC Merced (semester campuses) and only ⅔ of an academic year for lecturers at every other quarter campus. The expansion of ASMD eligibility to include children of any age and the increase of paid childbearing leave from 6 weeks to 8 weeks mirror what Academic Senate faculty have received. Thus we are happy that, in this area, UCOP is responding to our call for non-tenure-track parity with tenure-track faculty. However, equality does not always generate equity. The new Pay for Family Care and Bonding program was offered to us in a take-it-or-leave-it fashion without an opportunity to bargain over its appropriateness and applicability for lecturers. (See the discussion of the failure to bargain in good faith above.) While this benefit is generally a positive development, it is only open to those lecturers who have worked 1,250 hours in the past year and are eligible for federal Family and Medical Leave, which excludes most lecturers. President Drake’s administration unlawfully refused to negotiate over details that would have guaranteed effective implementation for UC-AFT members. Now that the academic year has begun and lecturers are attempting to take advantage of the program, they are being denied their full rights because of UCOP’s refusal to bargain.

Expanded retirement and health benefits for Summer Session Lecturers: After pressure at the table from our bargaining team, UC agreed to treat all lecturers across the state equally by expanding retirement and health benefits for Summer Session Lecturers:

Summer session earnings for eligible Lecturers will count toward contributions made by UC and the Lecturer to UC's Tax-Deferred 403 (b) Retirement Plan.

UC has agreed to pay the UC employer portion of the health benefits premium during the time an eligible Summer Session Lecturer is on pay status.

Stronger health and safety provisions: At our insistence, UCOP agreed to add a new Health, Safety and Emergency Conditions article to our contract, outlining the rights and responsibilities of management and workers in the event an emergency is declared.

Professional development funding: Management has agreed to increase the contribution amount to the annual pool from $200 per FTE to $250 per FTE. However, they refused to budge on instituting a new cap on year-to-year rollovers of unused professional development funds. Rolling over remaining funds from one year to the next allows for larger grants and projects to be funded, including course release for lecturers working on major scholarly projects. The rollover cap does not exist on most campuses now. The addition of a cap is a takeaway on most campuses.

Additional enhancements for Continuing Appointments:

UC has accepted our proposal to strengthen the career pathway by creating a timeline for promotion from Continuing Lecturer to Senior Continuing Lecturer. Upon promotion to Senior Continuing Lecturer, lecturers will receive a minimum 9% increase.

Note that Silas’s letter claims that UCOP has agreed to longer notice times for Senior Continuing Lecturers in the event of layoffs. This is false. Management’s proposal is for 12-month notice, the same notice period that Continuing Lecturers have now.

Failure to Bargain in Good Faith?

Employers have a duty under state labor law to bargain in good faith. Violation of that duty can be the subject of an Unfair Labor Practice allegation that the employer has broken the law.

There are several elements of UCOP’s proposal that don’t pass the good faith test. First, it was an exploding proposal, meaning it had an expiration date without a strong foundation in some external necessity for the deadline. Once employers put proposals on the record, those proposals are binding and cannot be rescinded without incurring the risk of bad faith, regressive bargaining. Exploding proposals are threats to bargain regressively, i.e., to take previous binding commitments off the table.

Second, President Drake’s representatives have refused, despite three requests on our part, to schedule a bargaining session to discuss the proposal. Take-it-or-leave-it bargaining that deprives a party of the opportunity to ask questions, achieve understanding, and present a counterproposal does not meet the legal standard of good faith.

Third, Silas’s summary represents UCOP’s proposal as more favorable than it actually is. It’s simply not true, for example, that their proposal provides a longer notice period for layoff for Senior Continuing Lecturers. Such misrepresentations may indicate a pattern of bad faith.

Because management passed this proposal via email at 10 PM and has refused to schedule a bargaining session to discuss it, we don’t actually know what they intend in some of these areas, how the proposed new systems will work, or whether we can trust that our contract will be enforceable. Under no circumstances do we want to be in a situation where superficial changes to contract language don’t result in real changes to our working conditions. We will not agree to these terms until we know for sure that UC admin will fulfill their promises and that our members can rely on that commitment.

And that is the most important reason why we need a bargaining session: so UC-AFT members can see and hear the actual proposal first-hand and judge for themselves whether it meets their needs. A bargaining session would function somewhat like a straw poll in which members who attend and observe could share their input on whether they’d like the bargaining team to recommend ratification to the membership.