The United Auto Workers, which represents UC academic student employees (ASEs) such as teaching assistants, readers and tutors, has asked its members to strike at UC campuses on the quarter schedule system from June 7, 2014 through the end of the quarter. It is very important that ASEs understand the implications of a strike, and make an informed choice about whether to support a strike that coincides with finals week.

UAW’s call for a strike

Q. Why has the UAW called this strike?

A. The university believes this is a negotiation tactic being used to gain leverage at the bargaining table. A strike will not resolve the issues that must be addressed to reach a contract.

The UAW has stated it plans to strike in connection with unfair labor practice charges it has filed with the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB). These charges include allegations that UC intimidated employees when supervisors asked certain employees if they planned to come to work during the UAW’s April strike and that UC did not pay some teaching assistants for days they did not work while participating in the strike. The university disagrees with the UAW’s allegations that UC did anything wrong. It is important to understand that PERB has not issued a ruling on these allegations yet.

The appropriate process for resolving complaints is through the PERB process, not with picket lines and a strike that threatens students’ education.

Q. What is UC’s position on UAW’s unfair labor practice claims?

A. UC does not condone any type of intimidation or threatening of employees or students. For academic planning purposes, UC asked some ASEs if they planned to come to work during the April strike so that the university could plan ahead and minimize disruptions to undergraduate instruction. This is a legally permissible and normal practice.

Regarding the UAW’s complaint that UC did not pay some teaching assistants for days they did not work while participating in the April strike, the university does not pay people for days they do not work, unless it is for an approved vacation or sick leave.

Contract negotiations

Q. Why isn’t there a contract yet?

A. The university has bargained in good faith with the United Auto Workers for almost a year, offering ASEs a 10 percent wage increase and significant enhancements in childcare subsidies and paid leaves. We are disappointed no agreement has been reached yet.

Progress is being made at the bargaining table, but the two sides remain far apart on some issues. Chief among them, the UAW has demanded UC hire undocumented students, even though they are prohibited by federal law from having paid employment. (The exception is students approved for federal DACA program can receive work authorization and work legally). UC has been open to discussing this issue even though it is not a mandatory subject of bargaining. However, any agreement must comply with federal law and cannot jeopardize federal funds that UC receives for education and research.

Q. What is UC offering?

A. UC’s latest proposal was a substantial economic package with good working conditions:

Wage increases

  • 4 percent increase in 2014-2015
  • 3 percent increases in 2015-2016 and in 2016-2017

Childcare support

  • Increase childcare reimbursement by 50% to $900/quarter or $1,350/semester
  • Allow children up to age 12 to be covered. Current limit is age 5.

Paid leave


  • Provide up to four months of pregnancy disability leave, including health care provided the ASE has an appointment.
  • Increase paid child-bearing leave to 6 weeks, up from 4 weeks now
  • Increase other paid leaves to 4 weeks, up from 2 weeks now. Plus, UC has proposed allowing an additional 2 weeks of unpaid leave.

All-gender bathrooms

Although this is not a mandatory subject of bargaining, UC was open to discussion, and reached this tentative agreement with the union:

  • The ASE or the union will immediately notify UC upon receiving an appointment letter if an employee needs special access. UC will take steps to provide access, such as by assigning a teaching assistant to a classroom/office with access or through other viable means that provide access at minimal costs.
  • A new joint committee will meet twice a year to discuss all-gender restrooms and related issues.

Lactation support

UC and the union reached tentative agreement to provide ASEs access to the same lactation rooms that faculty and staff use. If a room does not exist near the ASE’s work location, the union will notify UC and UC will take steps to provide lactation support.

Q. Are UC and the union still bargaining?

A. Yes. Recently, UC and the UAW agreed to voluntary mediation and have had three days of meetings with a state mediator, which have been productive. The university looks forward to the next mediation session May 28-30, 2014. 

Impacts of a strike

Q. Will a strike impact undergraduate education?

A. Yes. Finals week is a critical time for students and faculty, and a strike will impact undergraduate education.  Students and faculty want to complete the school year on the best possible note, and it is unfair to thrust them into the middle of these contract negotiations. However, UC is taking steps to minimize disruption to instructional activities as much as possible, by working closely with faculty and ASEs who choose not to strike.

Coming to work during a strike

Q. Will UAW-represented employees be barred from coming to work during a strike?

A. No. By law, employees are free to come to work even if union members are picketing.

Q. If I'm in the union, am I obligated to strike? Can the union penalize me for not striking?

A. No employee is ever obligated to strike. Unions are legally prohibited from threatening or coercing

members in other ways to keep them from coming to work. Some unions can fine dues-paying members (but not nonmembers) for working during a strike. A union member who does not want to strike may contact her/his union to confirm there will not be fines. UC won’t deduct fines from employees’ paychecks.

Q. What if I want to work but I’m being blocked or confronted by picketers or striking workers?

A. UC will assist employees who want to work by providing security or transportation across picket lines.

Non-striking employees should avoid confrontations and should not invite or engage in any exchanges, which might inflame the situation. If an employee feels s/he is being harassed or prevented from working by picketers or striking employees, the employee should notify her/his supervisor or campus labor relations office immediately.

Impacts of striking on employee pay, benefits and/or work

Q. If I come to work during a strike, what pay and benefits will I receive?

A. If you come to work, you will receive the same pay and benefits as you normally do.

Q. If I strike, will I lose pay and benefits?

A. If you do not satisfy your ASE appointment duties by participating in the strike, you will not be paid for that time. Benefits that are affected by the percentage of time worked during the month may be affected.