The UC lecturers’ contract expired one year ago after they rejected a contract proposal from the UC Office of the President (UCOP) that failed to meet their core demands. Now, on the anniversary of their contract expiration, the UC American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) still has no intention of accepting a contract that does not guarantee equitable working conditions and job security. 

UC-AFT’s Core Demands Around Job Security:
• Clear and consistent review process
• Rehiring process
• Multi-year contracts
• Pathway to senior lecturer

Over the course of 36 bargaining sessions, spanning 22 months, UC-AFT and UCOP have come to tentative agreements on 17 articles, or individual items that make up a contract. This is only a fraction of the 42 articles in the current expired contract. 

With a full contract agreement still out of reach, over 4,000 lecturers have been working under an expired contract since Jan. 31, 2020.

“We’re fighting on,” said UC-AFT Field Representative Jeb Purucker. “The university has really dug its heels in, so we’re seeing this as a long-haul fight.”

Photo taken before onset of COVID-19. UC-AFT Lecturer Josh Brahinsky leads a crowd of student supporters in chants at a rally on Oct. 17, 2019. Photo by Haneen Zain.

UC-AFT/UCOP Articles Passed So Far
Summer Sessions (Passed by UC-AFT): The Summer Session article passed by UC-AFT brings the treatment of lecturers who teach summer sessions more in line with those who don’t. For example, summer session quarters currently do not count towards the 18 quarter requirement to become a continuing lecturer. UC-AFT wants to open up the possibility of counting summer sessions towards continuing appointments.
Professional Concerns, Meetings and Programs (Passed by UCOP): This article concerns money allocated to lectures to attend workshops or professional development and training. 
Health, Safety and emergency conditions (Passed by UCOP): Defines lecturer’s responsibilities during emergencies, and defines what an emergency is. It also lays out the expectations of lecturer’s returning to work following an emergency. 
Layoff, Reduction in Time and Reemployment (Passed by UCOP): Outlines parameters for layoffs and being reemployed following a layoff.

In a Jan. 26 bargaining session, UCOP passed three articles about health and emergency conditions, professional development, and layoffs. UC-AFT passed an article pertaining to summer sessions. The three articles from UCOP have been passed to UC-AFT for consideration and vice versa. If both sides pass all four articles, they will become tentative agreements.

UC-AFT and UCOP negotiators can submit contract articles for the other party to review and approve as tentative agreements. Once negotiators establish tentative agreements for all aspects of the new contract, each party conducts their own final review process before the contract is agreed on as a whole.

Following January bargaining sessions, almost 200 lecturers and supporters across the UC system packed a Zoom room on Feb. 1 marking the anniversary of their contract expiration. National president of the American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten talked about her visit with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden in the days after the inauguration to discuss the importance of education and the need to support teachers. She also spoke on the endeavors of UC-AFT to acquire a contract that fits the lecturers’ needs. 

“[UC President] Michael Drake ain’t listening. So we are going to make him listen,” said Weingarten at the Feb. 1 rally. “Part of the ways that we make him listen is because of the righteousness of our cause, and because of the advocacy and the solidarity. We got the righteousness, we got the advocacy, and we got the solidarity. And finally, for the first time in a long time, we got a president of the United States who actually believes in public education and public higher education.”

Drake has not made any public comment about negotiations between UC-AFT and UCOP since he became UC president on July 7, 2020. To get his attention, UC-AFT hosted caravans and postcard-making events throughout the nine campuses. 

About 20 lecturers and supporters met at the intersection of Delaware Avenue and Swanton Boulevard to decorate their cars with signs and paint. They then drove up toward West Cliff, stopping at UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive’s house and ending at the UCSC base of campus. There, attendees wrote postcards demanding a fair contract to be mailed to Drake.

Photo taken before onset of COVID-19. Roxi Power leads a crowd in chants at a rally on Oct. 17, 2019. Photo by Haneen Zain.

Job security: lecturers’ top priority

Job security has been a focal point in UC-AFT’s core demands since negotiations began. Currently, a pre-continuing lecturer could work for one quarter and be fired without proper notice or reason. A continuing lecturer has increased job security, but their job is still not guaranteed. A continuing lecturer receives at least a one year notice before being laid off. 

To move from a pre-continuing to a continuing lecturer position, a lecturer must teach 18 quarters or at least six years and go through an excellence review. Although it is possible to teach 18 quarters in six years, this does not typically happen. Between 2003 and 2014, there were a total of 14,359 pre-continuing faculty across the UC. Of that number, only eight percent became continuing lecturers by the 2019-20 academic year. 

In its most recent proposal, UC-AFT put forth a 2-2-2 job security and rehiring plan. Under this proposal, a lecturer would get hired with a two-year contract. After the first two years, the lecturer would go through a UCOP evaluation process and may be offered a new two-year contract. Although there is no guarantee a lecturer will be rehired after the first two years, the proposal offers more job security than current conditions.

UCOP has not presented a single rehiring guarantee since negotiations began in spring 2019, nine months prior to the contract expiration. 

“The UC continues to believe that our lecturers deserve the stability that a contract offers, especially during these uncertain and challenging times,” reads a UCOP statement provided by spokesperson Ryan King. “The university is doing everything possible at the bargaining table to reach an agreement quickly, but doing so requires the partnership of union leaders.”  

UC-AFT President Mia McIver says that most lecturers don’t make it past their first year of teaching at a UC. This turnover makes it difficult for lecturers to establish relationships with students.

“It’s incredibly beneficial for students to have instructors who understand them,” McIver said. “Who understand how their campuses work administratively and bureaucratically, and who have had a chance to try out innovative things in the classroom.”

This is not the first time writing program lecturer Roxi Power has had to fight for a fair contract. UC-AFT’s contract also expired in 1999, Power’s first year of teaching. It took three years to negotiate a new one, but Power said the contract, which UC-AFT won in 2002, included one of the most comprehensive job security packages in the nation at the time introducing the possibility of a continuing appointment. But subsequent contracts have failed to keep up with the times.

UC-AFT Lecturers stand outside their cars at Harbor Highschool at the beginning of the Aug. 17 caravan event. Photo by Haneen Zain.

Now a continuing lecturer with more security than many of her colleagues, Power promises to keep fighting. 

“I made a promise that if I ever became a continuing lecturer, that I would fight tirelessly on behalf of pre-continuing people,” Power said. “I thought, if I ever get a continuing appointment…I want to pay it forward by helping others to get one of these hard fought relative positions of security.” 

Additional reporting by Alex Paulsen.