Berkeley – Late yesterday, UAW 2865, the union for more than 19,000 student workers at the University of California, filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge (ULP) against the University of California at the Public Employment Relations Board’s Oakland office. The filing asserts that UC refused to meet and confer with the UAW 2865, the lawful and exclusive employee-chosen representative, to negotiate a Cost of Living Adjustment that has been the focus of actions across the state and a two-week wildcat strike at UC Santa Cruz.  At the same time, UC sought to engage in unlawful bargaining directly with individual graduate students and University funded student organizations, such as the Graduate Student Assemblies and the UC Graduate and Professional Council – neither of which have the legal authority to bargain contractually with UC. 

It’s clear UC wants to create an appearance that it is respecting graduate student employees while avoiding true bargaining where the law requires the parties to stand with equal footing and to act in good faith.

As housing costs have skyrocketed in the Bay Area, student workers at UC, who earn an average of $21,000 a year, have become severely rent burdened, as defined by the federal government. Many spend upwards of 60% of their paycheck on housing. UAW Local 2865 has repeatedly asked UC to bargain so that student-workers may be compensated fairly – but UC has refused.

“The Union has asked for months for UC to sit down and bargain a cost of living increase for the University’s hard-working student employees, most of whom are rent-burdened and experiencing acute economic hardship,” said Kavitha Iyengar, President of UAW Local 2865. “But instead of sitting down with us, UC reached out to various student organizations like the Graduate Student Assembly. While we meet regularly with the GSA and have great respect for their work, the UAW is the organization chosen by academic student employees to represent them in bargaining over issues like cost of living increases and housing stipends—and the university knows it. Only with a union contract can such rights be guaranteed and enforced. The University is breaking the law by trying to unilaterally impose changes to our working conditions without involving the Union.”

UC’s actions underline its hypocritical approach: while repeatedly refusing to bargain with the UAW, their administrators are meeting with others and implementing unilateral changes that do not meet the needs of the academic student employees in a weak attempt to buy them off and deny them their voice through their union.

“We are fighting hard for a #Cola4All – a cost of living adjustment that will provide meaningful economic relief to workers,” Iyengar said. “We have held actions across the state, are working with elected officials, and are circulating petitions and gaining support from many labor and community allies to press UC on this. And we will keep organizing, keep holding actions, and keep speaking up until all of us are paid fairly for our work.”

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