UC employee unrest spreads

By Ian Stewart The Associated Press
Saturday September 14, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO — Labor unrest spread further through the University of California’s system Friday, as lecturers from Santa Cruz joined their counterparts at Davis and Berkeley on rotating one-day picket lines. 

Accusing the administration of failing to bargain in good faith, the non-tenured lecturers staged a series of information picket lines at the Santa Cruz campus to protest working without a contract for more than two years. 

“For the past two decades they have treated us as casual labor,” complained Mike Rotkin, a longtime UC Santa Cruz lecturer. “For the past two years we have been negotiating for a new contract and gotten nowhere.” 

Lecturers from UC Davis refused to teach in May, followed by their colleagues at Berkeley earlier this month. In both instances, they held one-day work stoppages to try to force the university back to the bargaining table. 

Friday’s action did not disrupt classes, which do not begin until next Wednesday. The protests are expected to continue through the weekend, said California Federation of teachers spokesman Fred Glass. 

The university maintains it has offered the lecturers the best deal it can given state budget limitations. Lecturers are industry professionals hired to supplement the university’s tenured professors’ teaching schedules. 

“We have to wait to see what kind of budget cuts we are going to face before we can know what we can offer,” said Paul Schwartz, a spokesman for the office of the President. 

The University of California could face up to $154 million in cutbacks in the upcoming budget, Schwartz said. 

Gov. Gray Davis has until January to finalize the cuts. Statewide, California faces up to $750 million in education budget cuts. 

A state mediator has been appointed in a bid to re-ignite the stalled talks. 

If that fails, labor action could spread beyond the Davis, Berkeley and Santa Cruz campuses, Glass warned. 

“There is a wave of anger washing across the UC system as lecturers take action to get the university administration to bargain in good faith,” Glass said. “It’s been two years at the bargaining table and we’ve seen little progress.” 

The lecturers have for years accused the university of exploitation. 

The Santa Cruz lecturers voted this week to form a strike committee, putting them in a legal position to walk off the job as early as Oct. 7. 

In addition to the lecturers’ labor action, clerical workers have staged similar work stoppages and protests to demand better wages.