Local Uses Member Actions to Push Negotiations
With over 97 percent of the vote, the clerical and administrative (CX) workers at the University of California (UC) have ratified a new contract. The victory was the culmination of Local 2010’s strategic planning of negotiations and solidarity events.
“Our contract is the result of Teamster members standing together and showing strength in their workplaces,” said Jason Rabinowitz, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 2010 in Oakland, Calif. “We are grateful for the support we received from our sister unions, community groups, elected officials and the public. We are proud to have an agreement that will benefit all our members and their families.”
The new contract covers 12,000 employees at 10 campuses, five medical centers and three national laboratories, which include increases in wages, health care, retirement benefits and more. Most importantly, it secures union rights in a variety of areas:
Protects the right to join together and take action as Teamsters to improve conditions;
Requires the University of California to provide progressive discipline before terminating an employee; and
Protects union access to the workplace, to communicate with members.
“Our work is crucial to the university,” said Linda Markey, a UC San Francisco Support Liaison employee for the past four years. “Each and every one of us works to provide the best service to the students and the communities we serve. This contract guarantees that all of our members receive the wage increases they deserve.”
The victory for CX workers throughout the statewide university system came after two other successful contract wins; for the skilled trades workers at UC Los Angeles and the skilled trades workers at UC San Diego, also represented by Local 2010. Both of these contracts were ratified by over 90 percent of members who voted and wouldn’t have been possible without hard-fought negotiations and member actions proving Teamster power at the bargaining table.
What it Took to Win the Vote
Rolling up their sleeves and working hard on contract negotiations wasn’t the only tactic Local 2010 used to move the university toward a final agreement. Part of the strategic planning for each of the contracts has been persistent communication with university officials, sometimes taking the form of direct actions on the Board of Regents’ home turf and in public.
“Support for our contracts has been overwhelming, validating the countless hours of hard work by Teamster activists and leaders across California,” said Catherine Cobb, President of Local 2010.
Last fall, for example, Local 2010 members were joined by hundreds of Teamsters Women’s Conference attendees on Hollywood Boulevard to show their solidarity and call for the university to pay a living wage.
At the rally, speakers related how the UC system had for decades been driving down frontline workers’ pay while giving raises to senior executives. And how over the past two decades, administrative, support and clerical workers have seen the UC system hold down their real wages by nearly 24 percent.
“On behalf of the 1.4 million members of the Teamsters Union, I am proud to stand here in solidarity with all UC Teamsters,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa at the rally. “We are here to send a clear message that the Teamsters will not back down until the University of California delivers on a fair contract.”
“Teamsters delivered a clear message to the University of California: It’s time to stop discriminatory pay practices,” Rabinowitz said. “It’s time to bargain in good faith with the union. It’s time to pay women—and all workers who make UC work—enough to live!”
“We are not alone. There are 14,000 UC Teamsters and hundreds of thousands of union sisters and brothers standing with us. It’s overwhelming to see such support,” said Lou Ilagan, a Teamster and UC Irvine CME coordinator.
Besides the large rally in Hollywood, the local union coordinated smaller rallies on campuses and encouraged active dialogues with the university president and trustees at their official meetings and their offices.
One meeting proved to be of critical importance to the UC workers; when Teamster activists and union officials went to Sacramento to lobby the legislature against the then-proposed UC retirement scheme. Legislators became very concerned when it was brought to light that the university had fallen through on its promise to bargain with the unions on the pension plan instead of trying to force a unilateral decision.
Soon after the Sacramento action, the university began bargaining with Local 2010 in earnest. In addition to actions in public, the local communicated via letters to the editor and op-eds in newspapers.
One op-ed, written by Rabinowitz, pointedly described the current circumstances endured by workers at the university and concluded with a call for the university to take action to correct it: “UC has not only failed to address the problem (of wages), it has made it clear that the institution has no interest in doing so. University negotiators have explicitly stated that UC has no concern over whether workers are paid enough to live. ‘We look at cost of labor, not cost of living,’ they declare. UC has refused to offer the workers anything more than inflation-level wage increases, which would cement the inequality and near-poverty wages plaguing UC’s workers. Paying workers enough to live is the right thing to do, it’s good policy and it’s good politics. All that’s needed is the willingness, and the courage, to lead.”
"Local 2010's contract victory reaffirms the value of ongoing member engagement," said Michael Filler, Director of the Teamsters Public Services Division. "The energy and commitment that was used in California can be replicated throughout the country with the right plan and focus."