Courtesy of UCR's iTeach Instructional Resources
Courtesy of UCR’s iTeach Instructional Resources

The UC Student-Worker Union (UAW 2865) — consisting of 12,000 UC teaching assistants (TA), graduate student instructors and undergraduate tutors — held its “Week of Visibility” event earlier this month to bring to light ongoing contract negotiations between the UC and the union, which is seeking greater protections and benefits for members who are undocumented, student parents, transgender or people with disabilities. Held at UC Davis, the event consisted of over 120 members of the UC community during a two-day bargaining session from Feb. 10 to 11.

As of now, the union says that UC management has made significant advances, such as moving from a 2 percent to 3 percent wage increase. Other additional proposals involve installing lactation facilities in some classroom buildings for nursing purposes, raising child care subsidies for student parents and increasing access to all-gender bathrooms.

According to the union, contract negotiations began in July 2013; the previous contract expired in Sept. 30, 2013 but was extended until Nov. 5, 2013. Following the expiration of the previous contract, union members overwhelmingly voted to strike alongside AFSCME 3299 — a different UC union that is also planning to strike from March 3-7, 2014 — and filed an unfair labor lawsuit due to claims that the UC management refused to bargain over improved working conditions in terms of TA to student ratios.

During the month of December, the union says that the UC management halted further negotiations over class sizes and the 18-unit cap that graduate students have per quarter. In late January 2014, the union also launched a systemwide petition to gain momentum for their cause.

As a UAW 2865 member and third-year UCR doctoral student in ethnic studies, Ren-yolk Hwang said she joined the union because she wanted to learn more about the mechanics of labor on campus. As a former TA at UCLA, Hwang noticed the vast differences between class sizes at UCLA and UCR. “I was finding out that the averages were higher for the amount of students a TA had to oversee at UCR than above all the other UC campuses,” Hwang said. “The average was somewhere between 90 to 100 students (at UCR), so each section has 30-33 students per section (compared to) most campuses, which is (on average) 70 to 75. And even then, that is still considered high.”

A UC Accountability Report revealed that the ratio of student to faculty at UC Riverside stood at 27.8-to-1 — the second-highest in the UC system — and 23.5-to-1 systemwide during the 2010-11 academic year.