Why We Strike: A Pattern of Unfair Labor Practices

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Our union, UAW Local 2865, has voted to call for a two-day strike.  On day one of the strike, certain campuses will be striking over unfair labor practices that particularly impact members on their campuses.  On day two of the strike, members will join together, calling for a statewide strike to protest numerous Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs).

UCLA will strike for one day on Thursday, April 3rd over unlawful intimidation of workers and management’s refusal to negotiate over TA/student ratios.

Refusal to Negotiate over TA/Student Ratios and other Mandatory Topics of Bargaining

For contract negotiations, labor law distinguishes between topics that both parties must negotiate over (mandatory subjects of bargaining) and topics that can be negotiated over, but only if both parties are interested in doing so (permissive subjects of bargaining). Most topics that directly affect the working conditions of student employees are mandatory subjects of bargaining, while academic issues such as curriculum choices or students’ course requirements remain prerogatives of management and therefore are considered permissive subjects of bargaining. In the current round of contract negotiations, management has repeatedly mischaracterized issues such as TA/student ratios and the 18 quarter limit on appointments as permissive subjects of bargaining in order to avoid bargaining responsibility.

These issues directly bear on working conditions and management is in violation of labor law by not treating them as mandatory subjects of bargaining.

  • In December, UC management’s lead negotiator asserted that the issue of TA/student ratios (class size) was not a mandatory subject of bargaining, and that she had no interest in negotiating over this issue. Labow law is clear: the ratio of students to teachers (like the ratio of patients to nurses) shapes employees’ workload, and is a mandatory subject of bargaining.
  • At the same bargaining session, management insisted that the 18 quarter rule (which bars graduate students from receiving more than 18 quarters of teaching assignments) was merely a permissive subject of bargaining. But again, labor law is clear: management must negotiate over the terms of employment, including terms, such as the 18 quarter rule, that affect workers’ eligibility for rehire or that limit the duration of their eligibility for employment. The UC Student Workers Union (UAW 2865) has recently filed a charge with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) against management for their refusal to bargain over TA/student ratios and over the 18 quarter rule.

Unfair Labor Practice: Intimidation of Workers

UC administrators are barred by labor law from interfering with collective actions taken by workers, including but not limited petitioning managers, or, under certain circumstances, engaging in strikes. Last fall, on a number of occasions, representatives of UC management unlawfully interfered with our rights to take collective action.

  • On November 20, UC student workers engaged in a one-day solidarity strike with service and health care workers represented by AFSCME 3299, who were themselves striking against unlawful intimidation by UC managers. In the days preceding the strike, management representatives sent misleading and intimidating emails to student workers in an attempt to discourage them from engaging in this protected strike. At UCLA, administrators sent an email warning international student workers that participation in the strike could result in the loss of work visas, which allow them to remain in the country legally. At UC Irvine, graduate division sent emails to teaching assistants saying they were responsible for avoiding “disruption” of classes, while at UC Davis workers were informed (falsely) that participating in the strike was unlawful. At UC Berkeley, a number of chairs sent along this and other misleading emails designed to pressure UAW workers against striking at the encouragement of Vice Chancellor Breslauer. Our union has filed a charge with the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB) over these incidents, and is awaiting a preliminary ruling.
  • On October 29, approximately 50 student workers at UC Berkeley gathered to deliver a letter, signed by 750 workers, to the Graduate Dean about student worker living and working conditions. When those assembled arrived at the Dean’s office, they were met with a locked door and a handful of police officers, who soon began filming those who gathered quietly outside of the Dean’s office. Labor law is very clear: it is unlawful for police officers working for employers to film protected activities undertaken by employees, such as delivering a letter. Similar situations have occurred at most other campuses, whether or not they have been reported to PERB. When police officers film employees, this has a chilling effect on the political activities of those filmed, who may fear retaliation on the job.  Our union filed a ULP charge with PERB and PERB issued an initial ruling stating that management’s acts do constitute an unfair labor practice.

Our Rights, Our Responsibility – We Will Win

Workers have the right to engage in collective actions, up to and including strike actions, to challenge unfair labor practices. Let’s take action together to insist that management end its practices of intimidation and to bargain in good faith!

Contact Information

Website: uaw2865.org

Union facebook for UCLA: facebook.com/UCLAStudentUnion

Statewide union facebook: facebook.com/ucstudentworkersunion

Statewide office phone: 510-549-3863

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