UC Graduate Students Win Union Recognition
By DEREK SEIDMAN (UCLA YSA)
The bureaucratic University of California (UC) administration clung to their rejection of recognizing SAGE/UAW’s right to collective bargaining, but students and mass sentiment finally won out. On March 22, grad students at UCLA voted to unionize by a resounding 718 votes to 269.
This victory caps off a 16-year struggle by the UC Teacher’s Assistants (TAs) and tutors. UC president Richard Atkinson, who was avidly against the unionization, grudgingly said he’d accept the results of the vote.
UCLA joins the ranks of 18 other campuses where the TAs have collective bargaining rights, and they’ve provided an example for the present and future wave of student movements for those rights. Elections for the other seven UCs are being scheduled.
The victory has put SAGE on a more powerful, yet not equal, playing field with the school administration. They plan to address the issues most effecting their livelihood-more and higher quality health benefits, a lighter balance of teaching loads, more effective grievance procedures, and the waiving of all graduate fees.
On Dec. 1, 1998, SAGE struck after countless negotiating with the school board. It was a crucial time for their labor to be withheld (it was during finals week); I myself had one of my finals canceled.
After five days and a great amount of pressure on the UC administration to give in, a 45-day “cooling off” period was held for more talks. Here, it was agreed that elections would be held by the grad students, and the results of the voting would be honored by the administration.
The historic victory of SAGE/UAW has set a huge precedent. The bureaucrats at the top of the university and state college systems are on a reactionary mission to turn educational facilities into corporate machines, lowering the quality of education in the process.
It is imperative that graduate workers reject the administration’s reasoning for their poor treatment, which is that it is in the interest of the workers to accept low wages and benefits because the “learning experience” should make them content.
Fortunately for SAGE, they see past the bureaucracies contempt for them. Their struggle has opened up new movements on campuses all over the country, which are beginning to take place (Oregon State TAs, for example, are currently waging the fight for union recognition).
Youth for Socialist Action (UCLA) has been active in SAGE’s struggle, and congratulates them for their victory. This is a significant step in the fightback against deteriorating education and increasing attacks on labor, which the rulers of this country are vigorously trying to implement.