What is UAW 2865? UAW Local 2865, the UC Student-Workers Union, is a labor union that represents over 18,000 Academic Student Employees at the University of California, including Teaching Assistants (TAs), Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), Readers, and Tutors. Our union negotiates a contract that sets the base-level pay, benefits, rights and protections for every Academic Student Employee (ASE) at the University of California. Over the years, we’ve worked together to win many of the benefits we now enjoy, from full in-state tuition remission to health insurance to protections from workplace discrimination.
What is a union contract? A union contract, or “Collective Bargaining Agreement” (CBA), is the legal document that lays out our rights and benefits as student-workers at the University of California. Our contract is the document that we collectively negotiated for and the UC administration agreed to. In it, the UC recognizes our union as a representative body, which means it has to negotiate with us when it wants to make changes to our working conditions. It lays out our rights and gives us an avenue—the grievance procedure—to seek redress from the administration if we face any issues related to our working lives.
Our current contract expires in 2022. That year, we begin a new round of negotiations. These negotiations are one of our major opportunities to come together across each campus and decide what needs to be improved in our working lives.
Can international students participate in the union? International scholars have the same rights as US citizens to join and participate in the union. UAW 2865 has represented thousands of international students over several decades, and not one has ever reported any complications in their visa status from unionizing. Our union advocates for international workers to be able to freely choose their employment and opposes employer control over the H1-B Visa.
What should I do if I have a problem at work? One of our Union’s primary functions is to enforce our contract, which means representing student-workers in a process known as the grievance procedure. We can file grievances—formal notices to the University that our contract has been violated—when we’ve been underpaid, harassed, discriminated against, etc. We can do this on behalf of individuals, groups, or the union as a whole. Once we file a grievance, the affected workers and union representatives meet with the University’s Office of Labor Relations to make our case and discuss proposed remedies.
The overwhelming majority of grievances filed about workload concerns are successful, and they can be filed through an expedited process to ensure a speedy resolution.
If you have a concern about contract violations at your workplace, you should contact a union representative to make sure you preserve your rights in the situation.
Can GSRs and RAs participate in the union? Yes! All graduate students, including GSRs and RAs, can be members. As of now, however, the work performed by GSRs and RAs is not protected by our union contract. Even when not covered by the contract, though, GSRs and RAs who join the union can still vote in union leadership and contract ratification elections.
For years, the University denied that GSRs and RAs were workers and refused them the right to be covered by our collective bargaining agreement. A recent change in California law compels the University to recognize that GSRs and RAs as employees who enjoy the same right as GSIs, tutors, and readers to form a union and collectively bargain. This change in law is only the first step toward winning collective representation for GSRs and RAs. If you are interested in helping to establish collective bargaining for GSRs and RAs, please contact your local campus elected officers.
What does it mean to be a member? Being a member ensures you have a say in what your Union negotiates and how it represents students and student-workers at the UC. Union membership is also a measure of our union’s power—fewer members means a weaker union and, ultimately, a lower standard of living, and conversely more members means a stronger union and the hope of a higher one.
Members set our union’s priorities: bargaining demands and contract ratification are directed by rank-and-file members, who vote on proposals at campus unit membership meetings, online, and occasionally in ballot elections. Rank-and-file members also bring forward many of their own proposals and projects for the union at large to act on.
To become a member of your union, you pay a one-time initiation fee of $10, and when you’re employed in a position covered by our contract (when you’re working as a TA, reader or tutor), you pay a small percentage of your wages in dues that help keep the union strong (currently about 1.44% of your wages). Students can become members even when they’re not currently employed by the University in a position under our contract.
Where do my dues go? Dues provide the financial resources that give our union access to legal advice, experienced staff, office supplies, and other materials necessary to remain a strong collective advocate for student-worker rights.
About a third of our dues supports our local union’s capacity to effectively represent student-workers. This work includes preparing for and engaging in contract negotiations, enforcing the contract and helping student-workers with grievances, educating student-workers about our rights under the contract, and other initiatives that advance student-workers interests. All of these expenditures are determined democratically by members and elected leaders.
Another third of dues money goes into the UAW Strike Fund, which maintains our ability to take strike action and gives us leverage at the bargaining table when we negotiate new contracts.
The remaining share of dues goes to the UAW International Union, which provides us with expertise and support regarding negotiations, contract enforcement, legal matters, health and safety, insurance benefits, political action, and many other issues. Some of this money is used to fund organizing drives for other workers who want to unionize; this is the money that helped incubate graduate student unions at Harvard, Columbia, NYU, the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan.
Any student-worker interested in seeing a detailed explanation of UAW Local 2865’s expenditures may contact statewide union leadership for a copy of the most recent independent auditor’s report.
How can I get involved? There are many ways! Our union holds monthly membership meetings on each campus, which are great places for new members to get familiar with collective bargaining. Statewide committees related to issues like climate change, housing justice, and sexual harassment also exist. Finally, many campuses also host regular organizing committee meetings to help build the union. Contact your local campus elected officers to find out more.