NEWS RELEASE, updated Friday, 11/22/96
Update on Graduate Student Strike at UC Berkeley
11/22/96 (Friday) Strike Update: Today is the last day of the three-day strike called at UC Berkeley by graduate student instructors.
Joseph Duggan, associate dean of the Graduate Division, said that everything should return to normal on Monday.
Duggan said the impact of the strike was minimal with perhaps 1 to 2 percent of classes actually cancelled during the course of the strike. Some discussion sections in mathematics and in some of the humanities and social sciences departments met off campus or were rescheduled, he said.
11/21 (Thursday) Strike Update: The first day of the UC Berkeley graduate student instructor strike had minimal impact on campus life with the vast majority of the students continuing their classes.
Joseph Duggan, associate dean of the Graduate Division, said some discussion sections in mathematics and in some of the humanities departments met off campus or were rescheduled yesterday. He estimates that perhaps 1 to 2 percent of classes were actually cancelled.
The picketing continued today with fewer participants than yesterday. The highlight of the activity yesterday was a noon rally that attracted about 100 participants.
11/20 (Wednesday) Strike Update: Graduate student instructors are picketing campus today. About 70 students participated this morning, mostly picketing along Bancroft Way, but also at other campus entrances.
UC Berkeley classes are expected to continue as normal, said Joseph Duggan, associate dean of the Graduate Division. He noted that in a similar 1992 strike, only 3 percent of class discussion sections led by graduate students were cancelled.
11/19 (Tuesday) News Release:
Administrators said the campus will operate as usual during the three days. Students are expected to attend classes and graduate student instructors and researchers are expected to meet their obligations.
Graduate student employees represented by unions at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego say they are striking to gain collective bargaining rights.
UC's position is that collective bargaining would hamper the relationship between faculty and the graduate students.
"Student academic employees are first and foremost students" and the work of teaching assistants and research assistants is directly tied to their educational and career goals, according to UC officials.
Further, they add, state law does not recognize their rights to collective bargaining under the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act.
THE KEY ISSUES:
Graduate students contend that they are underpaid and need a union to work out their grievances. Is this true?
UC Berkeley is not authorized to grant collective bargaining rights to students who are not allowed those rights under state law. AGSE members contend that a recent ruling by an administrative law judge in a UCLA case grants them collective bargaining rights. That decision is not final and does not pertain to Berkeley. It will be reviewed by the Public Employment Relations Board before a final ruling is rendered.
The campus understands how vital these students are to academia and has worked to improve their compensation and benefits as the shown by the following:
*UC Berkeley graduate student instructors GSIs currently earn more than their counterparts at major graduate schools, including those at Stanford, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton and Brown. These GSIs are entitled to a fee offset of $2,175 annually.
*GSIs are entitled to health benefits with premiums costing $438 a year and are able to cover their spouses and dependents for a reasonable fee.
*Graduate student appointments are a form of financial aid. GSIs now receive between $6,380 and $7,593 per semester for teaching one course. By contrast, lecturers--who are not students, usually hold doctoral degrees, and teach the same courses as some graduate student instructors do--begin at $4,550 per course.
Questions and Answers about Campus Relations with Graduate Student Instructors
What is the significance of the recent UCLA decision that the Association of Graduate Student Employees/United Auto Workers (AGSE/UAW) contends grants graduate students collective bargaining rights?
The impetus for AGSE/UAW's planned three-day strike at Berkeley is a recent administrative law judge's "proposed decision" pertaining to a petition that was filed at UCLA. That proposed decision determined that graduate student instructors (GSIs) at UCLA are employees entitled to collective bargaining under state law while graduate student researchers are students. That petition pertains only to the UCLA campus and, therefore, the decision does not cover UC Berkeley. More importantly, the UCLA proposed decision will be reviewed by the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and is not final.
UC Berkeley is not authorized to grant collective bargaining rights to students who are not allowed those rights under state law. The UC Office of the President has made the decision not to grant collective bargaining rights to students in teaching and research titles.
Furthermore, the courts have said that UC Berkeley's graduate student researchers and instructors are not entitled to collective bargaining rights under state law.
Which state law governs labor relations at UC?
The state passed the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relation Act in 1979 to govern labor relations in California higher education. The law states that students whose on-campus employment is related to their educational objectives are not entitled to collective bargaining rights, unless their service predominates over their educational objectives. Since graduate student instructors, for example, are being mentored to master teaching skills essential to becoming scholars, they are not entitled to collective bargaining rights, according to a PERB ruling issued in 1987.
AGSE/UAW appealed PERB's ruling to the state Court of Appeals and lost. Efforts to appeal to the state Supreme Court also were unsuccessful.
What avenues are available to graduate student instructors to address issues of workloads, health benefits and salaries?
Historically, graduate student workers nationwide have had legitimate concerns about their workloads, health benefits, and salaries. Recognizing how vital these students are to academia, UC Berkeley officials have worked to address these issues. UC Berkeley graduate student instructors currently earn more than their counterparts at major graduate schools, including those at Stanford, Yale, Columbia, Cornell, Princeton and Brown. They also are entitled to health benefits and have access to procedures to deal with job-related issues.
Despite these gains, a number of graduate students on this campus have been demanding collective bargaining rights for years. They have expressed their demands through the Association of Graduate Student Employees (AGSE), which is affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW).
What has the University done to address graduate student employee concerns?
The UC Berkeley campus has developed a significant benefits package for graduate student researchers and instructors. Benefits include:
Graduate student appointments are a form of financial aid. GSIs now receive between $6,380 and $7,593 per semester for teaching one course, which is the standard appointment. By contrast, lecturers--who are not students, usually hold doctoral degrees, and teach the same courses as some graduate student instructors do--begin at $4,550 per course.
Graduate student instructors with complaints about their workload or other issues can appeal through established grievance procedures, including those in each department and in the Graduate Division. Each department also has a faculty member whose job it is to look after the welfare of all graduate student instructors in that department.
Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien and Joseph Cerny, Dean of the Graduate Division, meet monthly with officers of the Graduate Assembly to discuss any issue the students place on the agenda.
Would contractual agreements adversely affect academic relations on campus?
Campus academic leaders believe collective bargaining would strain academic relationships. Graduate students work closely with the faculty members who appoint them to these jobs and are their mentors.
Collective bargaining for graduate student instructors also could interfere with learning for graduate and undergraduate students. The instructors could demand to bargain on issues such as course content or teaching duties.
How much teaching on campus is done by graduate student instructors?
Ten percent of the primary classes and 77 percent of the discussion sections are taught by GSIs. These discussion sections take up about 25 percent of class time. The numbers have remained relatively stable over the last four years. The average number of students in sections taught by GSIs was 23.5 in 1991-92 and 22.5 in 1994-95, the latest year for which figures are available.
AGSE/UAW is seeking to represent Berkeley's 1,753 graduate students who are appointed as graduate student instructors. There are 8,439 graduate students enrolled on the campus this fall.
Are all graduate student instructors members of AGSE/UAW?
It is estimated that the dues-paying membership of AGSE/UAW represent a very small fraction of graduate student appointees on campus.
For years, AGSE has demanded collective bargaining rights from the campus GSIs. The campus has recognized the union since 1993 as the representative of employees in other titles, namely readers, tutors, acting instructors, community teaching fellows, and nursery school assistants, for whom collective bargaining is now taking place. Employees in those titles -- unlike GSIs -- are entitled to collective bargaining under state law. Many of these employees are students.
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