Dear UC, 

In your most recent contract proposal for lecturers of the UC-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), you said that you listened “with an open mind” to the union, and provided them with “fair and equitable” proposals. However, many union members recall when your chief negotiator, Nadine Fishel, ended bargaining sessions abruptly.

Was it “with an open mind” that she denied the union the full time to voice their concerns and engage in discussion? Is it a “fair and equitable” proposal in which you offer only a 3 percent wage increase to workers whose median income is $19,067 a year, who can’t even afford to live in the community they teach?

Our lecturers have been out of contract for two years. For even longer, they have had to debate the terms of their livelihoods. Lecturers are forced to convince the UC that they deserve a living wage, a comparable workload, and a job that they don’t have to reapply for every ten weeks.

Over the course of 30 bargaining sessions, the UC failed to bring to the table anything that came close to meeting the needs of lecturers. In spring 2021, negotiations came to an impasse, threatening a potential UC-AFT strike that now looms in the near future. 

There are over 6,500 UC-AFT lecturers across all nine UC campuses, and they are responsible for one-third of all teaching hours. But, until they have taught for 18 quarters in one department, they have no promise of keeping that job the next year.

As students, our teachers are the most important part of our education, facilitating our learning and supporting us in navigating the university. Our teachers dedicate their lives to their chosen subjects and students. Lecturers participate in research, publish papers, and spend countless hours working with students. Their qualifications, in most ways, are no different than professors — except in the eyes of the university, who stamp on an expiration date for when lecturers are due for raises. 

The current structure has been defined by lecturers as a “gig-ification” of the lecturer industry. A lecturer’s average time in a UC position is two years. With 81 percent of lecturers employed part time, most are not eligible for university healthcare coverage. Lecturers are kept in jobs with low wages and little security, simply because it makes it cheaper for the university to maintain their workforce.

Here at UC Santa Cruz, lecturers teach more than 50 percent of the student credit hours.

Here at UCSC, we watched Chancellor Cynthia Larive, with no hesitation, spend $300,000 per day on police in riot gear during COLA strikes in 2020. So where is this generosity when it comes to our educators asking for a living wage?

Our universities would not function without the work and dedication of lecturers. 

The UC’s avoidance of this issue and unwillingness to support its employees only further proves that their priority is not in their students’ education, but in profit. 

And to our fellow students:

This is the moment where we rise up in solidarity. 

The UC is jeopardizing the lives of our teachers and our education. 

We call on Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer and Chancellor Cynthia Larive to support the lecturers of UCSC. We call on UC President Michael Drake to stop hiding and grant the demands of the teachers who keep the UC running. We call on our peers to stand in solidarity with the teachers who continue to teach and advocate for our education.

How can our education be a priority in the UC system if lecturers don’t even get paid enough to work with us outside the classroom? What does our education mean to UC administrators if our teachers are treated as replaceable? 

So, who is to blame when thousands of classes get cancelled across the system if UC-AFT lecturers go on strike? The UC is.

Lecturers do not want to go on strike. They do not want to interrupt the school year. But if the university  remains uncooperative, they will fight for their lives, jobs, and a better education for us all — and we must stand with them.

City on a Hill Press has issued a correction on Oct. 24 correcting a job title.