Resolution to Achieve Unit 18 Strike Readiness

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Whereas, at the University of California, UC-AFT Unit 18 lecturers are 6,800 teaching faculty who are dedicated to educating UC students and shaping the next generation of citizens, scholars, and leaders; and

  • UC lecturers are public servants as well as skilled and experienced teaching professionals who provide crucial mentorship and support to UC’s most marginalized and historically underserved students.

  • UC lecturers teach one-third of undergraduate hours systemwide--everything from Art History to Zoology--on every UC campus and in nearly every school and department; in small, discussion-based classes and in giant lecture halls; in labs and in the field; in first-year undergraduate core courses, graduate-level seminars, and professional clinics.

  • UC lecturers are highly educated and extensively trained, typically with the same credentials and experience as their tenure-track faculty colleagues.

  • UC lecturers are majority women, far more likely to be women than ladder-rank (tenure-track) faculty at the UC, and more likely to be people of color than ladder-rank faculty.

 

Whereas, despite their contributions to the University, UC lecturers are often treated like second-class citizens, deprived of the dignity and respect they deserve; and

  • UC management employs most lecturers on short-term, part-time, benefits-ineligible contracts without a process for evaluating their work or renewing appointments before 18 quarters/12 semesters of teaching in the same department or program.

  • The average UC lecturer teaches less than two years, most UC lecturers teach a year or less without being rehired or even evaluated, and many are arbitrarily pushed out of the University regardless of performance, resulting in extraordinarily and unnecessarily high turnover rates.

  • About 40% of pre-six lecturers are not renewed year-to-year.  About ¾ of pre-six lecturers who were teaching five years ago are no longer on payroll.

  • UC lecturers perform large amounts of unpaid academic work that is typically expected of instructors in a university community but that UC management refuses to compensate.  Expecting labor to be performed voluntarily de-professionalizes faculty work.

  • UC management pays lecturers a median annual salary of $19,067, despite the fact that UC campuses are located in regions with some of the highest costs of living in the country.

  • The starting salary for a full-time UC lecturer at six UC campuses is in the low-income bracket for one-person households set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

  • UC management excludes most lecturers from Social Security, depriving them of our nation’s foremost safety net for retirees, for those who develop a long-term disability, and for those who survive a family member.

  • The low-paying, part-time, benefits-ineligible work offered to lecturers means California taxpayers are subsidizing the UC through public assistance programs including food stamps, unemployment insurance, and Covered CA health plans.

  • Lecturers report feeling anxiety, depression, and despair over the way they are treated by UC management.  Some have even been hospitalized for mental health treatment after losing their jobs without being given a reason why.  

  • Lecturers, whose full-time teaching loads are typically more than twice as heavy as those of tenure-track faculty, have been responsible for ensuring instructional continuity throughout the COVID-19 crisis, often without the child and family care benefits and other accommodations that have been extended to tenure-track faculty. 

  • UC lecturers enable socio-economic mobility for our students but are often prevented by our current working conditions from attaining similar stability and prosperity.

 

Whereas UC-AFT’s bargaining proposals will improve the quality of education for UC students by increasing faculty equity; and

  • Research demonstrates that the exploitation of contingent faculty labor undermines the quality of education for college and university students.

  • Students deserve faculty who can dedicate their full attention to teaching instead of constantly scrabbling to find other jobs or worrying about whether they will be able to pay rent or afford child care or health insurance next month.

  • Excellent instruction cannot be achieved when teaching at the UC is a revolving door that ushers faculty in one year and out the next.  Universities that care about teaching value the experience and institutional memory that enable instructors to build long-term mentoring relationships with students.  

  • Education is at the heart of the UC’s mission, lecturers are dedicated scholar-teachers primarily responsible for instruction, and UC management has declared that instruction is essential work at the UC.  Our working conditions must reflect our integral role in our University. 

  • By virtue of our primary role as educators, lecturers are often the faculty who develop the closest relationships with first-generation and historically-underrepresented students, providing advice and guidance to demystify the university’s norms and helping them navigate their journey to graduation.  Arbitrarily letting lecturers go leaves our students hanging.

  • Our proposals for job stability are based on proven-effective systems that already exist at every California State University campus and every California Community College.  There is no excuse for UC management not to meet the industry standard that is already universal in the other two sectors of California’s public higher education system. 

 

Whereas members of our campus communities recognize that our bargaining proposals will lead to a better UC; and

  • Our job stability proposals are supported by UC students, including more than 2,500 signatories to a petition for the stable workforce required for a high-quality student experience.

  • Letters asking UC management to address lecturers’ concerns about job stability have been signed by California legislators including Assemblymembers Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, Lorena Gonzalez, Eloise Reyees, and Senators Lena Gonzalez, Connie Leyva, Richard Pan, and Nancy Skinner; as well as by organizations such as the San Diego Labor Democratic Club and the Coalition of Union Women San Diego Chapter.

  • Our contract campaign is supported by considerable resources from our state and national affiliates, CFT and AFT, who are investing heavily in contingent faculty equity.

  • As public servants, UC lecturers build bridges between their universities and their surrounding communities and contribute to local economies. As the state’s third largest employer with a responsibility for fostering the public good, UC should be a leader in providing stable working conditions that permit teaching faculty and our families to establish roots in cities and neighborhoods close to UC campuses.

 

Whereas, after two years of bargaining and escalating actions to amplify our demands, UC management has largely ignored our core bargaining priorities; and

  • Our bargaining priorities were determined with the input of more than 1,000 lecturers, and thousands more have articulated our demands directly to UC management in the two years since, the most expansive membership engagement in UC-AFT history.

  • Lecturers have pursued every opportunity to make our case to UC admin’s key decision-makers. During the past two years, thousands of lecturers have mobilized across the state to demand job stability, fair workloads, and appropriate compensation, holding large in-person and online rallies; email, phone, and postcard campaigns; virtual pickets; car caravans; and lobbying the UC Regents and the legislature.

  • At in-person bargaining sessions, dozens of lecturers have shared powerful testimonies of desperate experiences, including those of homelessness, losing health insurance while facing serious illness, and wage theft.

  • During COVID-19, hundreds of lecturers have regularly packed the Zoom room to capacity during online bargaining sessions to demand job stability, fair workloads, and appropriate compensation.

  • Lecturers on the UC-AFT negotiating team and bargaining observers have primarily experienced unresponsiveness, contempt, or outright hostility from UC management’s executives and lawyers throughout negotiations.  

  • After two years of bargaining, UCOP negotiators have never brought a single proposal to the table for a lecturer rehiring process, and have retracted the only proposal they made on performance evaluations for lecturers in their first 18 quarters/12 semesters.

  • Lecturers have proposed multiple ways to solve the problems of high turnover, uncompensated workload, and low wages, and have actively sought ways to reconcile interests and meet in the middle, while UCOP’s executives and lawyers have declined to acknowledge the problems we have presented, let alone compromise to find solutions.

  • Lecturers have been working without a contract for more than a year, since our previous contract expired on January 31st, 2020.

  • UC management has seized on the COVID-19 crisis to deepen and intensify the already-urgent problem of gig economy teaching jobs. Since the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, there have been 2000 lecturer dismissals, including non-renewals of early-career lecturers and layoffs of established lecturers, despite public pledges from the UC not to conduct layoffs amidst the crisis.

 

Whereas the University can afford to prioritize faculty equity and student success but thus far has chosen not to, instead sacrificing its educational mission; and

  • A budget is a statement of priorities. The UC’s budget ought to demonstrate that providing UC students with instruction, mentorship, and support from faculty with stable, well-resourced jobs is one of the University’s top priorities.

  • The need for excellent teaching at the UC is not short-term or temporary.  Teaching faculty positions shouldn’t be, either.

 

Whereas their failure to even acknowledge that high teaching faculty turnover rates are a problem makes it abundantly clear that UC management is not sufficiently motivated to reach an agreement simply through negotiations at the bargaining table; and

  • UCOP’s negotiators are in denial. They have provided a range of hollow excuses for why they don’t want to provide increased job stability for lecturers, including:

UCOP’s excuse

Our response

Some lecturers prefer to teach part-time and intermittently.

This is the same argument that gig companies such as Uber and Lyft make.  The UC should not be a gig university.  Most of our members would accept full-time, ongoing work if it were offered. Our bargaining proposals provide ample opportunity for those who want to teach part-time or intermittently to continue doing so.

Some lecturers earn income outside the UC.

Yes, because UC admin doesn’t provide adequate wages or stability to make teaching a viable career.  Even those with professional practices outside the University care about their teaching, invest enormous time and effort in developing their classes, and would welcome the opportunity to continue teaching if it were offered.

Some classes are taught only once.

Yes, and sometimes these classes are taught by tenure-track faculty. There’s nothing incompatible between job stability for lecturers and one-off classes. Like tenure-track faculty, lecturers who teach one-time-only classes are also qualified to teach other classes.

Some fields and disciplines need a variety of diverse perspectives.

All fields and disciplines need a variety of diverse perspectives. This doesn’t mean that lecturers should be constantly churned out.  This logic, extended, would mean that UC admin is anti-tenure and is seeking to refresh all faculty periodically.  Providing students with diverse perspectives should be the task of all faculty, not just the contingent faculty who are most vulnerable and under-resourced.  UC management should invest in creating stable job positions for the faculty from the most diverse backgrounds: lecturers.

Some lecturers seek to balance family and work obligations by only teaching part-time.

If they do, it means that UC admin does not provide adequate family-friendly policies and accommodations.  A better solution would be to end the structural misogyny that makes lecturer positions, where women faculty are over-represented compared to the tenure-track, so much worse than ladder-rank positions.

Lecturers are temporary substitute teachers for tenure-track faculty who are away on leave or sabbatical.

While this is occasionally the case, most lecturers are not substitute replacements for tenure-track faculty.  Instead, UC management uses new lecturers to replace other lecturers whom they’ve churned out. Our bargaining proposals include provisions for legitimate short-term teaching needs. UC admin has rejected these proposals. 

Lecturers already have job stability because they are eligible for continuing appointments after teaching 18 quarters or 12 semesters in the same department.

UC admin doesn’t regularly allow lecturers to accumulate 18 quarters or 12 semesters of service, meaning only very few lecturers (about 8%) ever get the chance to be considered for a continuing appointment.  Most lecturers are churned out of UC teaching long before reaching that threshold.  Also, continuing appointments aren’t a gift bestowed by UC management. Lecturers had to go on strike in 2002 in order to win them.  Continuing appointments have been essential for alleviating precarity for many lecturers, but UC admin’s desire to avoid continuing appointments has also made precarity worse for pre-six lecturers. Now is the time to bring equity to the most contingent early-career teaching faculty.

 

  • UCOP’s repeated blaming of lecturers for our own precarity (i.e., explaining it away as a matter of individual preference), instead of partnering with us to tackle the problem, is a sign of their indifference and intransigence.  The exploitation of contingent faculty labor is a structural problem. It is not about individual choices.  When 40% of pre-six lecturers are turned over annually, the problem is systemic, regardless of whether individual faculty members are involuntarily dis-employed when their short-term contract ends, quit because of the rage they feel over the lack of respect and dignity, or are strongly incentivized to search for work elsewhere because it’s an open secret that they won’t be permitted to stay on longer than a year or two.

 

Whereas UC lecturers are unionists who join together in solidarity through UC-AFT to defend public higher education, combat the relentlessly deprofessionalizing forces of contingent and precarious academic labor, and engage in collective action to secure improvements to our working conditions and our students’ learning conditions; and

  • UC-AFT members believe in practicing democracy in the workplace and in our union.

  • UC management should afford every worker dignity and respect.

  • As academic workers, the fundamental source of our power is our ability to collectively withhold our labor, which is central to the functioning of our University.

  • UC-AFT members hold the power to determine whether to authorize a strike.

  • Maintaining a workforce of highly contingent and precarious gig employees is convenient for UC management because it deprives workers of the ability to build power over time to make changes to their working conditions.  Lecturer job stability is a pre-condition for winning future improvements to wages, benefits, and other areas of our union contract.

 

Whereas lecturers are able to strike legally, and UC management is prohibited by law from retaliating against workers exercising their legal right to strike, and a strike authorization vote and, if necessary, a strike, could create the power necessary to win job stability, fair workloads, and appropriate compensation;

  • .A strike is a short-term sacrifice that workers make to achieve long-term improvements to their working conditions.

  • In bargaining with other UC unions, UCOP labor relations has historically refused to shift their bargaining positions unless and until workers strike, pushing AFSCME 3299 members to strike six times to end outsourcing, forcing UPTE members to strike multiple times to protect their retirements, and harshly punishing members of UAW 2865 for striking to demand a cost of living adjustment.

  • Lecturers do not seek to harm students or deprive them of instruction.  Instead, we are calling attention to the way that the current system is failing students now.  We demand that those systems change.

  • We recognize that, in the event of a strike, risk would not be evenly distributed.  Our unity is our strength. Pre-six lecturers and continuing lecturers must be united to protect each other from possible illegal retaliation from UC management.

  • The best way to avoid a strike is to prepare for one, because a sufficient demonstration of power and unity could motivate UC management to make the changes we’re calling for without a strike.

 

Therefore, be it resolved that UC-AFT elected leaders and rank-and-file activists work to achieve strike readiness; and

Be it further resolved that UC-AFT commit resources to organizing with the goal of achieving strike readiness among Unit 18 lecturers, including building a Contract Action Team network and strike preparedness teams on every campus; and

Be it further resolved that lecturers educate, organize, and activate each other to confront the challenges ahead; and 

Be it further resolved that UC-AFT work with other CFT and AFT local unions to build networks of solidarity nationwide with other academic workers; and 

Be it finally resolved that this resolution be broadcast to our union coalition partners, UC management, and the public as a declaration of our will and intent.

 

Adopted April 1, 2021 by the UC-AFT Executive Board and the Unit 18 Faculty Bargaining Team

 

UC-AFT Executive Board

Mia McIver, President

Katie Arosteguy, Vice President for Grievances

John Rundin, Vice President for Legislation

Daniel Schoorl, Vice President for Organizing

Miki Goral, Secretary-Treasurer

 

UC-AFT Unit 18 Faculty Bargaining Team

Ben Brown, UC Berkeley

Veronica Christie, UC San Diego

Kat Lewin, UC Irvine

Alison Lipman, UCLA

Matt Oliver, UC Davis

Mia McIver, UCLA

Neil Schaefer, UC Santa Cruz

Stacy Steinberg, UC San Diego

Tiffany Page, UC Berkeley

Stephanie Wilms Simpson, UC Riverside