UC and academic workers reach a tentative contract agreement
Late Friday, the United Auto Workers announced a tentative contract agreement with the University of California, covering thousands of academic workers.
In a website update, the UC said, "Under the tentative agreements, the University would provide minimum salary scales for Academic Student Employees, including Teaching Assistants, and Graduate Student Researchers, as well as multiyear pay increases, paid dependent access to University health care, and enhanced paid family leave. If approved, the contracts will be effective through May 31, 2025."
In a news release put out by the U.A.W., union bargaining team member Tarini Hardikar said, “Over the 2.5 years of this contract, workers will see raises of up to 66%, or over $13,000/year at some campuses. In addition to incredible wage increases, the tentative agreements also include expanded benefits for parent workers, greater rights for international workers, protections against bullying and harassment, improvements to accessibility, workplace protections, and sustainable transit benefits."
Union members will vote next week on whether to ratify the contract.
But while union leaders celebrate the potential end to the strike that started Nov. 14, they are also handling allegations of retaliation by tenured professors against striking graduate students. At least one UC San Diego graduate researcher and several teaching assistants have been given "unsatisfactory" grades for the semester.
Daniel Primosch is one of the complainants. He has spent the past year and a half doing research for his boss, UC San Diego physics professor Massimiliano Di Ventra.
Primosch claims Di Ventra threatened to fire him, which is against California labor law. Di Ventra gave him a grade of U for "unsatisfactory" in all 12 units of research he was taking this semester.
“U is basically failing the course, rather than passing it. It’s a pass-fail system,” Primosch said.
“If this doesn’t get resolved, as of spring, I won’t be able to take classes (or) engage in research work, and this could be the end of my Ph.D. track with UCSD,” he continued.
The student researchers union has filed two unfair labor practice charges with the state employment relations board on behalf of Primosch.
In those charges, the union claims Di Ventra said that essentially his hands were tied due to the university’s guidance, and then threatened that Primosch will fail the course and be replaced by another employee if he continues to engage in protected strike activities.
The union says retaliation also happened against teaching assistants, known as TAs, in the UC San Diego Chemistry department.
“To date, we’ve identified about 10 TAs who have received U’s,” said Conor O’Herin, a union organizer and graduate researcher. He told KPBS News, “Unsatisfactory grades are devastating to students at any level.”
“They should have received a 'Satisfactory' for work they did before the strike that was completed. To give the U based on their strike is retaliation for their participation in the strike,” O’Herin said.
Professor Di Ventra refused to comment on the allegations against him. Instead, UC San Diego Associate Director of Communications Leslie Sepuka said in a written statement, “While we are not able to discuss specific incidents, all allegations of retaliation are taken very seriously.”