Academic Student Employee Contract Extended for Fourth Time

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A contract between the University of California and a union representing nearly 12,0000 academic student employees has been extended for the fourth time since September with negotiations set to resume Tuesday.

Officials from the UC and the United Auto Workers Local 2865 - a union representing the graduate student instructors, readers and tutors throughout the UC system - are set to meet in Los Angeles Tuesday after resumed negotiations broke down last week over the issue of fee remittances for GSIs, according to Megan Wachspress, a UC Berkeley graduate student and union member.

The university's contract with the union, which would have expired Monday, has been extended a fourth time in hopes of reaching some sort of agreement, she added.

While negotiations are set to restart, the union is simultaneously preparing for a possible unfair labor practices strike, according to Mandy Cohen, a campus graduate student and head steward for the union on campus. Rank-and-file members at UC Berkeley as well as at other campuses are becoming "increasingly convinced that the UC is not taking our issues seriously," Cohen said in an e-mail.

"They've shown huge disrespect to our union representatives and to all Academic Student Employees by stalling negotiations for so long," she said in the e-mail. "We feel that the bad faith bargaining shows the only thing that will get us a good contract from the UC is to go on a (unfair labor practice) strike."

While union members have consistently asserted that the UC is bargaining in bad faith throughout the drawn out proceedings, UC officials have maintained that the university it is bargaining in good faith to create a fair contract.

"The UC continues to feel optimistic about reaching an agreement and we continue to bargain in good faith," said UC spokesperson Steve Montiel. "There have been a number of issues resolved and I think they were very close to an agreement last week ... I'm not a labor negotiator, but as I understand it these things take time and require some patience."

According to Cohen, the union is planning to call a statewide membership meeting with a large group of members from all the university campuses as well as union leadership in order to have a discussion about strike preparations. She added that to hold the meeting, which the union hopes to have on Nov. 30, the union must first gather the signatures of 100 members from at least five different campuses

"At Berkeley, we've had meeting after meeting with more and more members agreeing that they are prepared to strike," Cohen said in the e-mail. "We know this is happening at other campuses, and the statewide membership meeting is an opportunity for rank-and-file members to discuss these issues together."

Aaida Samad covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected]

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