Very helpful guide to the tentative agreement on a new contract for teaching assistants, readers, and tutors from our friends at Academic Workers for a Democratic Union:

What am I voting on?

On Tuesday November 16th, a tentative agreement was reached between the representatives of the UC and the UAW Local 2865 bargaining team on a new contract. As per the Local bylaws, this agreement is subject to ratification by a majority of voting members. The election will be held Monday November 29th through Thursday December 2nd.

Why are you recommending a ‘no’ vote?

Simply put, the agreement as it stands is not good enough. The wage offer (2% per year) is an insult to underpaid and overworked ASEs, and the childcare subsidy, whilst a step forward, is still wholly insufficient for those ASEs who need it. But there is also a larger issue of how the contract campaign was run. The failure to seriously engage members in the campaign, the top-down and undemocratic nature of decision making about strategy, and the failure to properly prepare for possible strike action, made a weak contract almost inevitable.

But didn’t the UC offer us the possibility of more than a 2% annual wage increase?

Yes, but it is very unlikely that we would get more than 2%.To see raises above 2% would require that the state allocation to the UC increase beyond the 2007-8 level. Given the cuts to that funding in the last two years, it is improbable that the 2007-8 level will be restored, let alone exceeded, during the lifetime of this agreement.

Ok, but isn’t asking for better wages unrealistic?

By organizing and involving members more effectively in the bargaining process we have the power to exert far greater pressure on the UC than we have done to date. Such pressure could very well result in a much better offer. The fact is that the potential strength of this union has not been fully realized.

But the UC says there’s no money for pay increases.

That’s a fiction as even the most cursory glance at the facts reveals. For example, in the past year alone, the UC has paid out more than $11.5 million in bonuses to executives, and last year spent more than $2 million on bottled water. To put that in context, providing decent childcare subsidies that actually meet the cost of such care would cost, SYSTEMWIDE, around $500,000 per year, and a 4% raise would cost around $6 million per year. But as the faculty group SAVE has pointed out (along with many others) the issue is deeper and more structural. There is a serious problem of administrative bloat in the UC. For instance, 25 years ago there were 4 vice-chancellors at Berkeley, now there are 10, each with their own staff of assistants and advisors. Do we need such people more than we need well-paid ASEs?

But isn’t asking for a bigger pay increase greedy? What about the workers who’ve lost jobs or been furloughed; wouldn’t it be irresponsible to ask for more?

The fact is that the exact opposite is true. A significant pay victory for ASEs would be a huge boost for all UC workers and would show that there is money for better pay and the UC can be made to channel it to the bottom and not the top. For the other workers fighting for better pay and conditions our victory could pave the way for victories for them too. As all ASEs are aware, we are among the lowest paid workers on campus, living in a highly expensive area of the country; in that context, is asking for a decent pay rise really ‘greedy’?

Isn’t it anti-union to call for a ‘no’ vote?

Not at all! In fact unions are at their strongest when genuine dissent and debate is allowed to flourish. And ultimately, fighting for a better contract will only help to empower and strength our union further.

What happens if a ‘no’ vote succeeds?

It is important to note that a ‘no’ vote does NOT automatically mean a strike. Such a vote would compel our bargaining team to return to the table and continue negotiations.

But what if the UC doesn’t want to bargain any more?

The UC is obliged to meet and bargain in good faith with us, unless they successfully petition the Public Employees Relations Board (PERB – which governs collective bargaining by public employees) to say an impasse has been reached in negotiations. If PERB agrees this triggers a 90-day process of non-binding arbitration, beginning with a phase called ‘Mediation’ where a neutral third-party meets with both sides and tries to get an agreement. Failing this, ‘Fact-Finding’ begins. Both sides present evidence to a three-person panel which issues a recommendation. The parties have ten days to accept the recommendation, after which the union can strike and the UC has the power to impose it’s last/best offer.

Couldn’t we end up with a worse deal?

No, the UC cannot impose a contract which is worse than the one we are being asked to vote on now. And of course, a successful campaign could net us a significantly better deal.


Reblogged from

See the tentative agreement and where it falls short.

Pledge to join us in voting NO.