On Tuesday’s bargaining session, while the UC was dragging its feet in responding to previous proposals, Bargaining Team members introduced new articles which would improve the working conditions of Academic Student Employees (ASEs) and contribute to a revitalized academic and working environment for all. 

Limits on class sizes

Bargaining Team members reintroduced a new Class Sizes proposal to ensure we can offer the high quality education our students deserve. Nine fellow TA’s from seven UC campuses shared their experiences around this issue. That so many instructors across disciplinary divides share similar concerns about outsized classes is testament that ASEs and undergraduate students alike suffer from UC’s reluctance to work towards reasonable class sizes. Yesterday’s powerful testimonies demonstrated how inflated class sizes contributes to:

  • An erosion in the quality of class instruction, as TAs are forced to choose between student engagement and timely completion of their work duties
  • Undergraduate disillusionment with their educational experiences, as crowded learning environments leave little room for guided learning opportunities
  • Frustration in TAs who are asked by faculty to pare down instruction to a bare minimum and thus are unable to provide tailored education opportunities, for example: advice on grammar, style, study methods, testing strategies.
  • Increased ASE and undergrad student exposure to COVID, due to limited spacing and mandatory return to in-person instruction
  • Overworked TAs that must put in additional labor to provide an untenable number of students with appropriate instruction and useful feedback

ASEs are demanding that departments set upper limits on class sizes and ensure that ASEs are directly involved in this decision-making process. The article would hold the UC accountable to provide the necessary resources for larger classes and would empower ASEs to report class size-related issues.

Relocation benefits

In addition, Bargaining Team members proposed a new Relocation Benefits proposal. The demands are short and sweet: the UC must commit to offering a lump-sum of $5000 for incoming graduate students to help support their move to work in or around campus. This figure matches the relocation benefits offered to UC’s Lawrence Berkeley Lab (LBL) employees. The ball is now in the UC’s court: will they put their money where their mouth is and support the academic workers who drive their research and educational mission? 

UC’s Proposal

UC proposed a Respectful Work Environment article similar to an article they proposed to UAW 5810’s postdoctoral researchers. We believe this is clearly in response to our own Anti-Bullying proposal. There are aspects of UC’s proposal that require review. In particular, we must ensure that reporting and resolution processes are fair and accessible to all ASEs. Nevertheless, this movement on the UC’s side is a positive step forward towards establishing improved workplace standards for academic workers.