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Dozens of lecturers, supporters and students in Berkeley celebrated a historic win for University of California lecturers in terms of pay and benefits from the university.
On Wednesday at noon, they chanted, sang and spoke on the steps of the student union at the flagship University of California at Berkeley.
“When we fight, we win,” the lecturers chanted to start the rally. “Whose university? Our university!” they said.
Following two and a half years of bargaining, the union representing 6,500 lecturers and librarians struck a tentative agreement with UC early Wednesday morning, averting what would have been a two-day strike affecting thousands of students, including some at Berkeley and UC Santa Cruz, and canceled classes as the semester begins to wind down.
Bargaining lasted until 4 a.m. following a 2:30 a.m. offer from the university that was deemed unacceptable.
Lecturers teach about 33 percent of credit classes in the UC system and their annual starting salary is $54,000, union leaders said. Wednesday’s agreement could ripple throughout the nation’s colleges.
Tiffany Page, a continuing lecturer in global studies and a member of the bargaining team, said the reason they were able to get the changes they wanted was because of everyone’s participation.
Indeed, lecturers had the support of students and at least some tenured faculty.
What the students deserve
“The students deserve to have instructors who are respected, well-paid, have continuity and have job security,” said Professor Paul Fine, who teaches in the Department of Integrative Biology.
Ben Brown, who teaches constitutional subjects in the legal studies department, said that it was great to bargain in front of 300 allies.
Brown attributed the deal to the pressure allies put on the university.
One student ally put the pressure on by sending an email to a university negotiator.
“Let this be an example moving forward,” Caroline Quigley, a senior in political economy, said, directing her statement mainly to other students. “You don’t have to accept every situation that you walk into in life.”
James Weichert, vice president of academic affairs for the Associated Students of the University of California and a junior, said he heard if lecturers went on strike as they planned, it would be a disruption.
But he said the real disruption is when you want a letter of recommendation from a lecturer you took a class from, and they no longer work at the university.
“That’s the real disruption,” he said.
He said the movement doesn’t stop with Wednesday’s win.
Indeed, student researchers at UC are in the midst of a strike authorization vote, said doctoral student Tanzil Chowdhury in the materials science and engineering department at UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Thousands have already voted, Chowdhury said.
“We are well on our way to a majority,” he said.
It is unclear if the university recognizes the group.
Administration expresses support
UC President Michael Drake was positive about Wednesday’s agreement with the lecturers.
In remarks to the university regents Wednesday afternoon, he said, “This is a very positive development for our entire community, especially the students that we serve.
“This contract honors the vital role our lecturers play in supporting UC’s educational mission and delivering high quality instruction and education. It also means more job security and other important benefits for our valued lecturers. It’s a good agreement all around,” he said.
Lecturers were represented by the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, and the agreement reached provides big gains for them.
“This contract honors the vital role our lecturers play in supporting UC’s educational mission and delivering high quality instruction and education. It also means more job security and other important benefits for our valued lecturers. It’s a good agreement all around.”UC President Michael Drake
The gains include opportunities for professional advancement, an increased base salary, better pay, annual cost-of-living adjustments, enforceability of workload issues, and four weeks of paid leave to bond with a new child or care for an ill family member.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement that the contract is good for students and fair to lecturers.
“It includes family leave, workload improvements and crucial job security protections —including rehiring provisions and multi-year contracts,” he said.
The deal is a 5-year agreement and resolved four of seven complaints to state regulators about unfair labor practices by the university. The university has denied those allegations.
“The University is proud of the dedication and commitment to harmonious labor relations both sides demonstrated to achieve a fair deal that honors our lecturers and prioritizes the University’s instructional mission,” said Letitia Silas, UC’s executive director for systemwide labor relations.
The tentative agreement still must be voted on by union members. If approved, the contract will last through March 2026.