Tuesday, May 22 , 2018, 2:04 am | Fair 53º


Striking Teaching Assistants, UC System Expected to Reopen Talks Over Alleged Unfair Labor Practices

Union representing 13,000 student-workers at UCSB, other campuses strike out in systemwide protest

Teaching assistants at UC Santa Barbara went on strike earlier this month, and whether they picket again will depend on how union negotiations go with University of California officials this week.

The Union for Teaching Assistants, Tutors, and Readers at UCSB, or UAW Local 2865 at Santa Barbara, joined UC campuses systemwide April 3 in a one-day strike against alleged unfair labor practices and worker intimidation.

Many campuses went on strike for two days beginning April 2, including UC Santa Cruz, where 22 people were arrested for blocking traffic.

UAW 2865 represents more than 13,000 student-workers across the UC system, including TAs, graduate student instructors, readers and undergraduate and graduate tutors.

Contract negotiations have stalled, and both sides are expected to return to the bargaining table Tuesday and Wednesday. 

The national United Auto Workers union, which encompasses the graduate student union, asked student workers to go on strike because of alleged unfair labor practices stemming from a “refusal to negotiate.”

Those on campus April 3 might have seen hundreds of picketers with signs and megaphones outside the Davidson Library, where students rallied before marching to Cheadle Hall to deliver a letter with about 200 signatures to Chancellor Henry T. Yang, accompanied by United Students Against Sweatshops representatives.

TAs and supporters refused to attend their class sections or perform any other duties, such as grading homework or answering emails, said Rob Ackerman, a sixth-year Ph.D. math student and union chairman of UAW 2865 Santa Barbara.

“I think we sent a very, very clear message to the University of California that we’re not OK with any sort of intimidation tactics to suppress union activity,” Ackerman told Noozhawk. “Obviously, I would prefer to reach an agreement with the university, and for any sort of intimidation practices to end.”

Ackerman said many student workers who picketed last November in support of striking UCSB custodial workers received emails with veiled threats from the UC System to stop.

UC Office of the President spokeswoman Shelly Meron said UC has been sympathetic to the union’s concerns and has suggested solutions to nonbargaining issues.

She reiterated that striking does nothing to resolve negotiations, and said that UC has offered to negotiate over concerns, including wage increases, child-care subsidies and extended leaves, among other things.

“The overall impact was on students’ educations and their ability to get to their classes,” Meron said of the strike. “The academic student employees represented by the United Auto Workers are teaching assistants, readers, tutors, etc. So if they go on strike and don’t show up to work, and if they block entrances to campuses, that obviously impacts the students in those classes and anybody trying to get on campus.

“It’s unfortunate that the United Auto Workers chose to strike even as the university continues to negotiate with them and as we make progress toward an agreement.”

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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