The University of California American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) and the UC Office of the President (UCOP) reached a tentative agreement on a new contract in the early morning of Nov. 17 — the first day of UC-AFT’s planned strike. The new contract,  described by the union as a big win, comes after lecturers voted to strike in response to unfair labor practices and supposed bad faith negotiation with UCOP. 

The  strike was filed on Saturday Nov. 13, after union voters became tired and disillusioned from observing UCOP bargaining via Zoom.  

The pending UC-wide strike, authorized by UC-AFT with a 91 percent approval, caused the university to quickly come to a tentative agreement with lecturers and go beyond original promises. In the contract , UCOP gave raises two percent higher than originally offered, and granted UC-AFT members additional job security and stability, along with outlining a path to tenured job positions.

Contract Highlights:

  • Thirty percent raise of the course of five years, two percent higher than was initially tabled by UCOP
  • A $1,500 signing bonus
  • Lecturer contracts automatically extending on a yearly basis for those deemed excellent by departmental evaluation

UC-AFT President Mia McIver praised the agreement via press release.

“This is a landmark achievement. We are pleased with how far management has come towards our position,” wrote McIver. “This victory is owed to the hard work of organizing that our members have done for over two and a half years. We built the power to win the contract we deserve.”

UC Santa Cruz undergraduate organizing groups along with UC-wide Senate faculty joined lecturers in their fight for a fair contract, taking to social media and announcing their solidarity with strikers.

Both GABRIELA SC and the Worker Student Solidarity Coalition (WSSC) utilized their platforms to broadcast the planned strike. Along with student groups, 800 tenured faculty across the state shared on Nov. 14 through a public statement that they would not be crossing the picket lines.

With the possibility of a second major strike in three years, UCOP negotiators caved on positions they previously held steadfast on, such as the issues regarding job security and stability.

Following the tentative agreement reached by UC-AFT and UCOP negotiators, UC President Michael Drake spoke to the UC Regents at their latest meeting about his thoughts on the new contract.

“This contract honors the vital role our lecturers play in supporting UC’s educational mission and delivering high quality instruction and education. It also means more job security and other important benefits for our valued lecturers. It’s a good agreement all around,” Drake said. “I want to take a moment to specifically acknowledge and thank everyone involved in these negotiations for their real, active collaboration on this complex and important set of issues.” 

An easel sits on the corner of campus base, with a sign that reads, "Deal Signed! Rally at 12 noon!"
Lecturers called of a planned strike after reaching the tentative agreement, opting to hold a celebratory rally at noon instead. Photo by Merri Hansen.

Drake’s description of sweeping raises as a “good agreement,” represents a change from the UC’s response to the COLA4ALL protests two years ago. Those strikes secured an additional stipend for graduate students in lieu of the COLA they were striking for, with the narrative that the housing stipend would cover cost of living. However, United Auto Workers 2865 union member and organizer, Jack Davies says graduate students are still struggling with rents 30 percent higher than when the wildcat strike began in fall of 2019. 

“[Recent AFT negotiations] show that the UC is not willing to bargain, is not willing to sit down and have a reasonable conversation where they will actually reach conclusions or agreement,” Davies said. “They’ll respond only to the threat or the actual action [of striking.] This is the only thing that moves them, we’ve seen this time and time again in the history of UC and even on this campus in recent years” 

With McIver calling it a landmark achievement and Drake describing it as a good agreement all around, lecturers are able to get back to teaching at a fair wage without the fear of losing their jobs.

For some lecturers, this couldn’t come sooner. Extended, fruitless negotiations over the last 20 months began to wear on those both at and away from the bargaining table.

“I’ve just had enough,” said UC-AFT Communications Director Caroline Luce. “I’ve had enough of hearing these stories of how a sense of failure, the deep sense of insecurity, fear, and anxiety caused by not knowing if you’ll have a job next year, and not knowing if this is going to be the year that you’re forced out of the academy and have to go get some other job.”

Despite reaching the ‘best contract’ in the history of UC-AFT according to McIver, not all of the demands made by lecturers were met. At least not for writing, music, and language lecturers, who now must fight for missing workload protections locally.

At the celebratory rally held at the base of campus in lieu of the Nov. 17 strike, UC-AFT Vice President of organizing Joshua Brahinsky said a side letter would effectively address the workload concerns not taken care of in the union contract. 

“They settled everything,” Brahinsky said “We were looking for job security, we won. More than we were looking for in wages, we won. But there’s one fight left. And it’s about workload.” 

Brahinsky and other arts and humanities lecturers at UCSC will continue fighting locally to win a fair workload. But, for now, the UC-AFT lecturers have a fair wage, job security, and a monumental victory in hand.