Lecturers, graduate students and undergraduate students gathered underneath the “Change Things” and “Things Change” sculpture outside the Arts Building on Friday, March 3 at 12 p.m. to show solidarity before the University Council-American Federation of Teachers’ (UC-AFT) contract bargaining meeting with the UC administration. UC-AFT is the union representing librarians, lecturers, program coordinators and supervisors of teacher education. They have been on a bargaining campaign across the UC system and made their way to UCR to work to pass proposals that would guarantee equitable working conditions for contingent faculty.
While pizza, t-shirts and buttons were being passed out, UC-AFT bargaining team member and UCR English lecturer Benjamin Harder gave the opening speech for the rally. The rally continued with words from Mia L. McIver, the UC-AFT president and a UCLA Writing Programs lecturer who led the crowds in chants such as “I believe we will win.”
“I want the UC to take our bargaining proposal seriously for salary which is what we’re doing today. My big thing is about the actual negotiations, for the university to really seriously consider our salary needs. In general, we want to get commitment from the university to its teaching faculty and appropriate compensation,” stated Harder in an interview with The Highlander.
Amanda Riggle, a second-year English doctoral candidate stood up and began reading off facts about the UC administration through a megaphone. The crowd yelled their disapproval after hearing Riggle state that Janet Napolitano’s salary is $579,000 a year and she was previously the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush.
“As a part of the COLA collective, we are here to support the lecturers because they’re fighting for the same things that we’re fighting for as graduate students. We’re a part of the same apparatus in the sense that the institution is banking off our labor,” said second-year GSOE graduate student Margarita Vizcarra. She stated that it was great to get UC-AFT’s support at the COLA rally because lecturers were graduate students at one point and know of their struggles. The contract bargaining was originally planned to begin at 10 a.m. in INTN 3023, but the UC administration delayed the meeting and requested to meet off campus in the University Village. In the end, the location remained at INTN 3023 but the meeting did not begin until 1 p.m.
“We had set up a week or two back an arrangement to meet in INTN 3023 but yesterday there was the COLA rally so there was directive from the chancellor that we were no longer welcomed to meet in the agreed upon location,” said lecturer and UC-AFT negotiator Stephanie Ann-Wilms Simpson. She went on to state that, “They said basically they were afraid graduate students were going to come in and disrupt the bargaining session but they had no evidence to back that up. We had assured them that it was calm and peaceful and so they agreed to come meet us at the table.”
The rally came to an end at 1 p.m. with closing comments from Harder calling for justice, celebration of higher education and unification. The crowd then proceeded to make their way to INTN 3023 for the start of the labor negotiations. Any UCR students and faculty were allowed to sit around the edge of room while the representatives from all 10 UC campuses discussed with the UC-AFT bargaining team.
“We’re hoping to pass our salary proposal and move forward. This is our first meeting with them after our contract expired on January 31. They said that they have six articles to pass. The problem that we’ve had negotiating for this past year is their unwillingness to move on any of our core demands,” said Simpson.