UC Teaching Aides to Go Back to Work

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Hundreds of University of California teaching assistants, who went on strike last week to win union recognition, have agreed to return to work today as part of a 45-day cooling off period in their labor dispute.

University officials and a host of graduate student employee associations, which represent about 9,000 teaching assistants, tutors and readers in the UC system, will resume talks within 10 days.

The organizations, which are an affiliate of the United Auto Workers union, have repeatedly tried to win the right of collective bargaining for 15 years, but to no avail.


Association members went on strike Tuesday at all but one of the nine UC campuses. Not affected was the medical and health sciences school in San Francisco.

It was the first time the group had organized a systemwide strike as the university was heading into the final exam period, a particularly busy time for teaching assistants, tutors and readers.

Five of the affected campuses begin finals this week. Three others, including UCLA, start finals next week.

University officials said Sunday that the cooling off period was brokered by state Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, (D-San Francisco) and Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa (D-Los Angeles). Both legislators approached the university with a proposal to temporarily halt the strike.

Earlier in the week, Burton and Villaraigosa sent a letter to UC President Richard C. Atkinson urging him to take immediate action to recognize the teaching assistants’ union.

“The discussions are a reasonable way to proceed,” said Brad Hayward, a spokesman for the university. “Our position on the issues has not changed, but we believe that an open dialogue is the best way to proceed.”


Hayward said the cooling-off period will allow final exams and grading for undergraduates to proceed without distraction.

Atkinson contends that teaching assistants are primarily graduate students, therefore they are not eligible for collective bargaining. Unionization would distract from the collegial atmosphere between graduate students and their professors, he has said.

The university, however, has recognized unions representing some tutors and readers, acknowledging that such labor is not necessarily part of graduate education.

There are about 6,700 teaching assistants and 2,300 tutors and readers in the UC system. Readers grade tests and papers for professors.

Teachers aides are graduate students who handle the bulk of one-on-one instruction and small group classes with freshmen and sophomores--often as a supplement to large lectures conducted by professors.

They work about 20 hours a week during the nine-month academic year for an average stipend of $13,600, along with health insurance and discounted graduate student fees.


Officials for the graduate student employee associations said they welcomed the discussions with the university, but threatened to resume the strike if their demands are not met.