As students and faculty alike revved up to strike this past Wednesday and Thursday, the University of California (UC) system took everyone by surprise by agreeing to a tentative resolution that would address all problems brought up by the recent lecturers’ strike.
This resolution, reached by both the UC system and the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), will:
- Introduce more job stability protections to make professional advancement possible at every stage in a lecturer’s career
- Raise the salary floor and improve compensation for all lecturers
- Add annual cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for each year of the contract
- Improve how workload standards are defined
- Establish an enforceable resolution process when disagreements about workload arise
- Offer four weeks of fully paid family leave for new children and ailing family members
According to Caroline Luce, a non-represented unit delegate for the Los Angeles chapter of UC-AFT, the resolution will take effect starting July 2022 — if enacted. She attributes this success to all the members and volunteers of the union, specifically citing those who tweeted, called, and wrote letters to UC President Michael V. Drake.
“It’s a victory for all of us,” remarked Luce in a call with The Bottom Line. “I really can’t say enough about what they did.”
In an article written by Teresa Watanabe and Colleen Shalby from the Los Angeles Times, the union dubbed this agreement as its “best contract [ever].” This contract, above all, creates a “stable career pathway,” says Luce, for lecturers choosing to work in the profession for a prolonged amount of time, something that was not well developed before.
“There’s a degree to which it’s not hyperbole,” said Luce to The Bottom Line. “It’s all about the gains we were able to make in job security.”
The strike had been in development since last June, when 96 percent of lecturers in UC-AFT voted to strike. A lecturer with several years of experience of often last-minute classes in two different departments said that the strike focused on “bad faith” and unfair labor practices in negotiations with the UC system.
“[We] lecturers teach about a third of UC classes but have worked without a contract for 20 months now,” said the lecturer to The Bottom Line. “This means we worked through the pandemic with extra levels of insecurity yet extra care for all the students. An improved contract for lecturers will benefit everyone involved!”
Lecturers play an instrumental role in the UC system, yet their job contracts are short and come with few protections. About one-quarter of lecturers do not return annually, and on average, they will only stay within one job for two years. Rather than being granted tenure like professors, lecturers have 1-3 yearlong contracts with a consistent re-application process.
“The UC workforce has a churn problem as about a quarter of the system’s 6,000 lecturers don’t return annually,” reported Mikhail Zinshteyn, a writer for Cal Matters. “Most lecturers have to reapply for their jobs every quarter or year and rarely know if they’ll have a job after their short contracts expire.”
For many lecturers, the conditions of their current contracts leave them largely insecure in finances and other resources. Charmaine Chua, an assistant professor in the department of global studies at UC Santa Barbara (UCSB), shared the experiences of her partner, a lecturer, at the celebration rally at Storke Tower on Wednesday.
“My partner teaches about twice the number of classes that I do but only at about 60-70 percent of the pay I get,” said Chua at the rally. “We are living in the consequences of a university that has chosen to build itself […] on the backs of lower to middle class students that went to university and graduate school thinking it would give them a better living.”
With the resolution, UCSB faculty is hopeful that lecturers will begin to receive their due payment for all that they have done for the university. With a more stable career pathway established for them, more lecturers can stay and advance their careers.
“Power to the lecturers and the way that they make the university run!” Cheered Chua at the end of her speech. For more information about the UC-AFT’s mission, visit their website here.