“Money for families. Not for Cindy.”
The chants of United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865 members and their supporters echoed over the trundling of strollers and the exuberant cries of maraca-wielding children on April 26. As they made their way from Family Student Housing to McHenry Library, marchers pushed strollers to represent families on campus who are under-supported by their university.
Jack Davies, a Ph.D. student in the History of Consciousness program and the unit chair of UAW 2865 in Santa Cruz, explained the union’s demands.
“Currently, parents get reimbursed for child care expenses up to $1,100 per quarter, which pays maybe a week or two of the three months [of] child care expenses,” Davies said. “We’re calling for up to $6,000 a quarter”.
UAW 2865 represents Academic Student Employees (ASEs) throughout the UC system. These employees include TAs, Graduate Student Instructors (GSIs), and undergraduate tutors, many of whom rely on their jobs to support their family. A fundamental belief of UAW 2865 is that an injury to one is an injury to all. By extension, to neglect graduate student parents is to neglect all graduate students, and in turn evokes a strong union response.
In 2018, UAW 2865 agreed to terms on a collective bargaining contract with the University of California. Article Four of the contract has been the recent focus of the union, addressing childcare reimbursements and eligibility for these reimbursements.
Hannah Newburn, a mother and literature department TA, emphasized the inadequacy of childcare compensation for ASEs.
“After taxes, it’s about $750 a quarter. Each day of daycare costs a little over $100,” Newburn said.
Early Education Services (EES) is an on-campus childcare service located at Family Student Housing that provides programs for toddlers (18-36 months old), preschoolers (3-5 years old) and school-aged (1st-4th grade) students.
At EES, subsidized childcare can cost up to $639 a month due to eligibility issues, and unsubsidized childcare is based on the age of the child. The rates for unsubsidized childcare are $958 a month for toddlers, $567 a month for preschoolers, $363 a month for kindergarteners, and $316 a month for school-aged children.
Article Four in the current 2018-2022 contract for UAW 2865 explains that ASEs are eligible for $1,100 per academic quarter for any qualifying dependent(s). A qualifying dependent(s) is a child or children below the age of 12 in custody of the ASE(s).
UAW 2865 proposed a new revision to Article Four of the 2018 contract on March 16 in hopes of being amended into the new contract for 2022.
Erika Cervantes, the Daily Clips Editor for the UC Office of the President (UCOP), explained UCOPs position on the demands.
“We are very early in our negotiations for a contract covering other academic student employees and have not yet addressed those issues,” wrote Cervantes in an email. “Additionally, the University currently provides childcare reimbursements to our student employees, which includes [Graduate Student Researchers (GSRs) and ASEs.]”.
This statement disregards the demands for more funds to be available for childcare reimbursement. Although there is a reimbursement program that is currently available for ASEs, students have expressed that the amount reimbursed is inadequate.
Francisco Mendez Diaz is a GSR in the biology department with a three-year-old daughter. Mendez Diaz explained that the only way for his daughter to access adequate teachers in EES is if he can afford to pay the expense.
“[With] the wages that we get as teaching assistants and graduate student researchers, we have a hard time paying for the day care here on campus,” Mendez Diaz said. “But we’re looking to change that.”
Currently, ASE parents like Mendez Diaz are not granted the reimbursement at the start of the academic quarter. ASEs must accumulate a childcare expense total of $1,100 before they can apply for the reimbursement.
With the 2018 contract expiring on June 30, UAW 2865 entered new negotiations with the University. Bargaining began March 2 and will continue until both sides can reach an agreement. The negotiations will hinge on childcare funding.
Cameron Hughes, a TA at UCSC and rank-and-file UAW 2865 member, explained the current state of compensation from the university.
“Speaking from my own experience, it’s not enough for a single person like myself, and it can only be that much worse for somebody who’s trying to support a child or multiple children,” said Hughes.
Support from childless ASEs like Hughes has given ASE parents a sense of confidence in the inclusion UAW 2865 provides for them.
With a long way to go and progress all but certain, Hughes reflected on the state of the UAW 2865 negotiations as they look toward the future.
“We are gearing up for a big fight to bring home the demands we have.”
Additional Reporting by Sam Clem-Whiting.
This article was part of CHP’s backlog. This piece was originally written during the week of April 29.