Oakland, CA – UAW 2865, the union that represents more than 19,000 academic workers at the University of California, faced off with University of California administrators in a hearing Tuesday, December 1, at California’s Public Employment Relations Board at 10am. At issue are what the union alleges were the university’s illegal actions to circumvent their collective bargaining relationship. After astronomical increases in the cost of living for academic workers and a lack of regulations in California’s housing market, the university failed to address the cost of living crisis for academic workers, and a wildcat strike at UC Santa Cruz ensued. In an attempt to resolve its dispute with wildcat strikers, the university met directly with workers and with a third party, bypassing the union and offering workers inadequate housing stipends that were outside the guarantee of the union contract.
“The university’s actions in response to the strike grossly violated the rights of their workers by disrespecting their democratically elected representative – the union,” said Kavitha Iyengar, President of UAW 2865. “As union members, we must hold the university accountable for the hostile actions they took against our union, and that means demonstrating that the university must bargain with the union over issues related to housing.”
The hearing represents a continuation of the fallout from the wildcat strike. Earlier this summer, after marathon negotiations and pressure from thousands of members of UAW 2865, the university agreed to rehire 54 workers who were fired in the spring for their role in the wildcat strike.
The current conflict is the latest struggle for better working conditions for academic workers, a fight that has become more urgent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Improving our living conditions has always been a struggle for ASEs, but with remote learning at UC, our living conditions are literally our working conditions, and they are our students’ learning conditions,” said Gaby Barrios, the union’s Sergeant-at-Arms. “We will keep fighting to hold UC accountable to its workers and students, and to win high quality benefits, but we can only do this by taking mass collective action. That’s how we got our co-workers their jobs back this summer and that’s how we’ll win a more equitable university.”