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UC, teaching assistants agree on contract; strike during exams averted

A strike during final exams at most UC campuses is called off as teaching assistants stay on the job
UC labor contract would ensure access to gender-neutral bathrooms for transgender people, union says
Tentative contract covering UC teaching assistants is step toward Janet Napolitano's goal of labor peace

The University of California system reached a tentative agreement on a new contract covering 13,000 teaching assistants, readers and tutors, lifting the threat of a 10-day strike during the coming final exam period at most UC campuses.

Leaders of the UC Student-Workers Union UAW Local 2865 and a UC system representative confirmed the settlement Wednesday morning.

Claiming unfair labor practices and intimidation, the union had threatened to strike starting Saturday on the eve of finals, which its members often monitor and grade.  The union held a two-day walkout in April, which led to the arrests of 22 demonstrators at UC Santa Cruz.

“It’s a good agreement,” said Josh Brahinsky, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student and a union activist. “It’s something we are pretty happy about.”  

The union represents student workers at the nine UC undergraduate campuses. 

Brahinsky said the four-year contract calls for raises of 5%, 4%, 4% and 3% a year and for expanded leaves for new parents and better child-care subsidies.

But more important than pay increases, he said, were other issues such as UC’s agreement to create a form of fellowships that will aid graduate students who do not have legal immigration status. New committees of UC management and labor will be formed to study how class sizes affect education. In addition, gender-neutral bathrooms will be available within easy walking distance for employees, a move designed to help transgender people.

UC system spokeswoman Shelly Meron said that the contract agreement was reached late Tuesday night after intensive negotiations and that details would be released soon.

The settlement follows a pattern over the last few months at UC of last-minute agreements averting strikes, including those threatened in March by unionized technical workers at UC medical centers.

It also marks a significant step toward achieving UC President Janet Napolitano’s goal of bringing labor peace to the 10-campus system.  Since she arrived in the job last fall, the former U.S. secretary of Homeland Security has overseen a string of multiyear labor agreements.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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