UC reaches agreement with lecturers; UCSB rally celebrates victory
Storke Tower’s bell rang out to an empty plaza at 10 a.m. Wednesday — the planned picket canceled thanks to a last-minute agreement with the University of California.
The union representing UC’s non-tenured faculty and librarians, University Council-American Federation of Teachers, reached a tentative agreement with the university at 4 a.m. Wednesday. UC-AFT members had previously planned a strike to begin that morning.
“It’s a really good deal, and we’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Caroline Luce, UC-AFT’s communications chair, told the News-Press.
The contract increases lecturers’ pay 30% over five years and provides what non-tenured staff want most: stability.
The agreement sets a path to become a continuing lecturer, the title given to those who have taught over six years in their department and passed an excellence review. Continuing lecturers have regularly scheduled merit reviews, which in turn, grant raises.
But according to UC-AFT’s strike readiness resolution, lecturers have a high churn rate.
UC lecturers teach an average of two years on their campuses, and 40% of lecturers in their first six years do not get their contract renewed, the resolution says.
“We have to re-apply for our jobs every year, and what that means is it’s really hard to plan our lives,” Dr. Luce said. “The university doesn’t even have to lay us off; they just don’t renew us.”
Stephanie Moret, a lecturer in the environmental studies department at UCSB, has taught for more than six years but is still considered a “pre-six” lecturer because the university didn’t count her summer quarters toward continuing.
The tentative agreement changes this standard. It also reverses some campuses’ effort to remove retirement benefits from the summer session.
Dr. Moret said she joined the union because she is nearing “retirement age.”
“I couldn’t have this job if I didn’t have another income in my household,” she said. “There are a lot of lecturers who are my children’s age. For families, it’s really important that they have job security.”
The agreement promises four weeks of paid family leave to all faculty — a key piece of the unfair practice strike.
Chase Hobbs-Morgan, a political science lecturer, and Charmaine Chua, assistant professor of global studies, spoke at a celebration rally Wednesday by Storke Tower. The two, who both use they/them pronouns, are partners and see the different treatment of tenured/senate faculty and lecturers.
“My partner teaches about twice the number of classes that I do, at about 60 to 70% of the pay that I get. My partner also is renewed only on one- to three-year appointments, whereas I have the possibility of security of a lifetime appointment,” Dr. Chua said.
The average tenure-track appointment involves teaching four courses a year at UCSB; whereas, lecturer appointments average nine courses a year, Dr. Chua said.
“Think then about what it means for lecturers that want secure employment. It means that they have to produce research at the level of volume and quality that would look good on a CV that would compete with other people who’ve had stable jobs,” they said.
Harold Marcuse, a professor in the history department, spoke of his frustration about being tasked with hiring lecturers — a task he said should be reserved for the department chair.
He said the department needs so many lecturers that a faculty member must also hire them. He blames the process on a high churn rate.
“As soon as a lecturer doesn’t get rehired, we go through the charade,” he said.
He described the process as taking “an incredible amount of time.”
“We had to advertise nationally, basically deceive all lecturers across the country or potential applicants, that this was a real job that they might get — because nobody’s going to come here to teach for one quarter or even one year at $5,000 per course,” he said.
Postdoctoral researchers and graduate-student researchers are also hoping for better wages and benefits. Both groups are finishing their respective strike-authorization votes today.
Sheila Kulkarni, a graduate student researcher in the chemistry department, spoke at the rally in solidarity.
“The moment that our lecturers rose up and said, ‘We’re not going to take this anymore. We are going to flex our power. We’re going to show that the university does not run without our labor,’ UC paid,” Mx. Kulkarni said, who went on to call the month “Strikevember.”
Dr. Luce said UC-AFT stands in solidarity with the postdoc and graduate-student researcher unions. She looks forward to seeing the results of the authorization vote.
Wednesday, she felt adrenaline after UC-AFT secured a tentative agreement. She stayed up until 4 a.m. to watch negotiators.
“There were lots of intense negotiations on Monday and Tuesday, and we weren’t sure UC was going to bargain in good faith,” she said.
Valentina Padula, a French and Italian lecturer, was thrilled when she received word of the deal Wednesday morning. Union members had originally planned to cancel class during the strike, so she emailed all her students that they would meet that day.
“Our members are not militant activists; they want to be in the classroom teaching,” Dr. Luce said. “Many of them were looking forward to that sense of pride on the picket line, but what they are more worried about is job security.”
The University of California was not immediately available for comment.