Monday, October 1, 2007

UC, Auto Union reach labor agreement


A deadlock in labor negotiations between the University of California and a union that represents 1,200 teaching assistants and tutors at UC Santa Barbara was broken at about 9 a.m. yesterday, after negotiators on both sides battled through the night.
The union, United Auto Workers 2865, said their 12,000 members throughout the UC system were prepared to strike if an agreement was not reached by Sunday at midnight.

As the deadline came and passed, Daraka Larimore-Hall, a UCSB graduate student and campus representative for the UAW, said the deadline was extended hour-by-hour until an agreement was reached.
“Negotiations were grueling and exhausting,” Larimore-Hall said. “We were negotiating non stop through the night. It was quite intense.”
Though neither the UC or Larimore-Hall would discuss specifics of the agreement, both said it will include significant improvements in wages, child care, parental leave, workload protections and health care.
Larimore-Hall said the details of the agreement would be revealed in the next couple of weeks after union members vote on the contract.
He said UCSB students impacted by the agreement are expected to vote sometime next week.
As the Sunday deadline neared, Larimore-Hall insisted that the UC had not negotiated in good faith since bargaining began in March.
UC officials disagreed, but seemed equally thrilled about yesterday’s agreement.
“We are very pleased to have reached agreement for a proposed contract that we believe recognizes and rewards our student employees for the critical role they play at UC,” said Howard Pripas, executive director for sytemswide UC labor relations. “Even though negotiations were challenging at times, both sides were committed to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement and that commitment paid off.”
According to the UAW web site, the average academic student employee at UC institutions makes $15,610 each year for part-time work.
Larimore-Hall said this amount is $5,000 less than what the UC says is the average cost of living for graduate students.
A spokeswoman for the UC didn’t totally disagree, saying many of the UC’s 170,000 employees wages “lag” behind the market rate for similar jobs.
It’s difficult to predict what would have occurred had the union decided to strike, but the graduate student and undergraduate student employees provide a significant amount of one-on-one student interaction through tutoring and teaching assistant responsibilities.
“The bargaining team is very proud of it,” Larimore-Hall said. “We’re excited to show it to our membership and recommend a yes vote.
“It worked out because of the steadfastness [of our members] to speak with one voice and speak with a strong voice.”

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