University of California, San Diego

March 30, 1999
The Academic Senate Council is concerned that Senate members and graduate
students be informed about the issues concerning unionization of teaching
assistants. We have gathered what information we could, and forward it in
the text which follows. This information is also available at: http://www-senate.ucsd.edu/TA_issues.htm
We urge all eligible graduate students to vote in the upcoming election, as
all who are eligible to vote will be affected by the outcome. We also
encourage graduate advisors to contact their students to make certain that
they are aware of the election and its importance.
John M. Goodkind, Chair
Academic Senate Council
Information Concerning Unionization Of Teaching Assistants (TAs)
I. The issue
An election will be held on this campus for graduate teaching assistants to
decide whether to be organized for collective bargaining by the United Auto
Workers Union. Faculty opinion on the subject is not unanimous, but we are
concerned that all students eligible to participate in such an election do
so and that they be well informed on the issues involved. Based on
anecdotal information gathered from faculty colleagues at other
universities where graduate students are organized, we are confident that
UCSD will continue to function as a top ranked research university whether
or not the election takes place and regardless of its outcome if it does
take place. However, this anecdotal evidence, as well as substantial
amounts of additional information provided below, presents a strong case
that UCSD and its graduate TAs have little to gain from unionization and
that unionization could potentially bring harm to graduate education at
UCSD. We attempt here to provide some information and to describe some of
the possible consequences for the university and for TAs should they vote
to organize under the UAW.
The union and the students associated with the unionization movement have
been unwilling to discuss specific issues with the UC administration prior
to an election. Thus we are unable to determine with certainty exactly
what changes the union wishes to bring to UCSD. However, the WEB pages of
the unions at the campuses that are organized list the benefits which
unions claim to have won for the TAs at those campuses. In the following
pages we list those benefits and examine them to determine which are
already in place or are currently under discussion at UCSD and systemwide
UC. In some cases we know and describe some of the negative impacts of
union negotiated benefits that have been made elsewhere. The UAW contract
with the University of Massachusetts is on file at the Office of Graduate
Studies and Research (OGSR) so that some of the benefits gained as well as
the intrusion into academic issues by that contract are included in the
discussion which follows.
II.	General issues associated with unionization
There are three types of union "shops" that are used nationwide. The open
shop is the only one currently allowed under California law. In it, only
union members pay dues, but all others are governed by the contract reached
with the union. The agency shop is one in which non-union members must pay
an "agency fee" and are also governed by the contract signed with the
union. At the University of Massachusetts, organized by the UAW, union
members pay dues of 2% of gross pay; non-union members pay an agency fee of
1.8% of gross pay. The California Assembly and Senate have in recent years
passed legislation paving the way for agency shops in the HEERA bill.
Governor Wilson vetoed these past efforts, but they could be passed again
under the new governor. The closed shop is one in which no one may be
hired who is not a union member. This is currently not allowed under
California law, and we are not aware of any effort to make it so. Union
dues for graduate students at the organized campuses average about 1.5% of
gross salary.
We do not know what issues will be submitted for negotiation if an election
is held and won for unionization. However, issues raised in the past and
discussed below indicate that there is likely to be intrusion by the UAW
into decisions that are of fundamental importance to our teaching
responsibilities. Additional intrusions would then likely be the subject
of each future negotiation. Examples of such progression are provided by
the contract between the UAW and the University of Massachusetts. At U.
Mass. both RA's and TAs are unionized and it is likely that the UAW would
attempt to do the same here. The close relationship between a RA working
on thesis research and a faculty mentor is very different from that of
employer-employee. As graduate students progress, they change from
dependent students to professional colleagues. Union work rules and hiring
rules could not enhance that relationship, but have the potential for
harming it. The U. Mass. agreement requires principal investigators to
follow rules about posting the number of RA positions to be offered in
pending or current research grants and to specify probable duration of the
work without using the phrase "subject to the availability of funding."
The number of RAs relative to the numbers of post docs and technicians
appropriate for a research project will depend on the quality and
capability of those available. Pressure on PI's to hire RAs who do not
appear satisfactory for the work will not foster the necessary close
relationship between graduate student and faculty mentor. Another example
of the intrusion of the union into academic decisions is in the U. Mass.
agreement which specifies that Unions must be consulted if budget cuts are
planned for a school or college.
A not uncommon consequence of union negotiations is a stalemate that leaves
union members with less favorable conditions than non-union members.
Unionized staff at UCSD have been delayed by two years in receiving wage
increases offered by the University and already provided to other
employees. Readers and Tutors at Berkeley voted for union representation
five years ago, but no contract agreement has yet been reached.
Dissatisfaction by the University Police with their union representation
was so great that they organized an election and decertified it.
Decertification is, however, very unusual and difficult to organize so that
a decision to organize under the UAW would be essentially irrevocable.
III. TA issues at UCSD
A. Equity of work load
The major issue at UCSD appears to be that TAs in the writing and language
programs work longer hours than TAs in other departments and programs. The
Graduate Council of the Academic Senate is currently attempting to obtain
better information about workloads through a survey of graduate students.
It might appear that a solution would be simply to increase the number of
TAs assigned to the program so that the workload on each is reduced to the
level of other programs. Doing so would require either transferring funds
from other programs within the university or obtaining increased funding
from the legislature. Allocation of TA positions is determined through the
office of our Senior Vice Chancellor after agreement is reached within the
Program Review Committee (PRC), which includes representatives from the
faculty. The PRC will be considering a proposal to increase allocations to
the writing programs during the spring quarter.
An alternative is to insist that students work no more than 20 hours per
week and that they limit the time they spend grading each paper so that the
work is completed in that time. This would imply that the TAs would be
doing a less perfect job than they wish to do, and it would also lead to
poorer grading by TAs who work more slowly and who would, therefore, wish
to spend more time. Another alternative is to reduce the requirements for
the course so that less grading of papers by TAs is required. This would
imply a lowering of academic standards that is not acceptable to faculty or
In the long term, this problem will need to be solved across the campus
because of anticipated large increases of enrollment that are unlikely to
be fully funded by the state legislature. Both the Senate and the Senior
Vice Chancellor have been actively examining innovative new methods of
instruction that will both improve our teaching and make it possible for us
to maintain quality instruction with the large student/faculty and
student/TA ratios that we are obliged to accept. This will only come about
through collaboration of faculty and TAs to experiment with and develop the
new methods. Judging from union negotiations elsewhere and the resulting
contracts, we could be forced by the union to adopt rigid hiring and work
rules which would inhibit the development and use of such methods. B. Health care for dependents of TAs
A previous attempt to obtain a health care provider for dependents of TAs
was rejected by a committee of graduate students because it was far too
costly and would impose a burden on the majority of TAs who are without
families. A special task force on Graduate Student Employee Health
Insurance was convened in November of 1998 in the UC Office of the
President to explore health insurance options for graduate students. A key
issue under review is insurance for dependents because of the high cost of
such insurance for a group the size of the TA population. The task force is
investigating a variety of means for obtaining providers at acceptable cost.
Since the University is currently anticipating a need to increase the ratio
of graduate students to undergraduates it is very much in its interests to
provide the best possible pay and benefits to compete with other
universities. Typical union negotiations could influence the outcome only
if they resulted in an increase in total state funding for the university,
which is unlikely, or if they forced cuts in other programs within the
IV. Union statements regarding benefits
A general statement of the goals of TA unions is provided by the University
of Illinois "Graduate Employees Bill of Rights."
1) The right to representation
2) The right to seek impartial resolution of grievances
3) The right to equal and fair treatment
4) The right to clearly defined professional responsibilities
5) The right to adequate compensation and benefits
6) The right to safe working conditions
Numbers 2, 5, and 6 are fully provided at UCSD. Numbers 3 and 4 are
partially provided, and some of the issues involved in expanding them are
discussed. Number 1 will be decided by vote of the TAs.
1) The right to representation by a union has been at issue in the courts
and through the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) under the
state Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) for several
years. If elections are held, that right is no longer in dispute and the
issue becomes one of whether there are sufficient benefits for TAs relative
to possible negative impacts to justify a favorable vote. That is the
subject of this paper.
2) TAs at UCSD already have well-defined third party grievance procedures
under Academic Personnel Manual (APM), Section 140. Union negotiators
elsewhere have argued that they have the right to file grievances even
against the wishes of the student involved. In addition to the burden of
holding grievance hearings, many TAs who do not currently work a full 20
hours would be forced to do so and also to keep track of their working
hours. This also has the potential to severely damage the relationship
between professor and student.
3) Equal treatment is at issue, specifically with regard to workloads as
discussed above. Some changes are needed, primarily in the UCSD writing
programs, and these problems are being addressed, as discussed above,
through normal university procedures that consider the needs of the
university community as a whole. Other inequities in workload are due to
deliberate decisions by departments as to how to best benefit their
graduate students. For example, one department has adopted a policy that
first year graduate students receive no TA support; second year students
receive 25%, and third year students 33%. The teaching responsibilities
are arranged such that the workload is no more than six hours per week.
Union rules that require equity between this department and, for example,
the writing programs would clearly force this department to support fewer
students and to require that they work longer hours. Union rules requiring
all students to be hired at 50% would substantially reduce the number who
would receive support.
4) The description of the TA position and responsibilities is provided in
the APM and in the UCSD Policy and Procedure Manual (PPM). Much more
explicit rules demanded by union negotiators elsewhere would eliminate the
flexibility of TA and faculty mentor to change methods of instruction in
response to student performance and needs. For example, the union has
demanded in negotiations elsewhere that job duties be prescribed several
months before the start of the term and not be altered during the term. If
the instructor in charge of a course then decided that a TA was
sufficiently skilled and knowledgeable to deliver a lecture during the
quarter, and the student was anxious to gain the experience, union rules
would not allow it.
5) By comparison to 21 other large state universities, UCSD already
provides the highest compensation. Average total compensation in 1997-98
(cash salary minus tuition and fees) for TAs in the UC system are better
than at all of the 21 comparison public institutions: Arizona, Florida,
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan
State, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio State, Oregon, Penn State,
Pittsburgh, Purdue, Virginia, U. Washington, Wisconsin. The three lowest
paid among these are Unionized.
6) Federal and state laws monitored by a large staff at the UCSD
department of Environment, Health and Safety protect all members of the
university community.
V. Specific benefits claims
Specific benefits gains claimed by unions on their WEB pages at Rutgers,
Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Kansas and the status of those
issues at UCSD are discussed next along with some of the potential negative
impacts of union demands.
A. Benefits fully provided at UCSD
1)	Protection from discrimination--There are several agencies at UCSD
purpose is to prevent discrimination of all kinds, and there is more than
one route to file a grievance if discrimination is suspected.
2)	Guaranteed office space--To our knowledge all TAs at UCSD are
with a desk, usually in a room shared with other TAs.
3)	Staff library privileges--Graduate students have full library
at UCSD.
4)	Prevention from arbitrary firing--We are not aware of any such
occurrence at UCSD. If it were to occur, there is a well-defined third
party grievance procedure, described in the Academic Personnel Manual (APM)
section 140.
5)	Universities that grant generous benefits can withdraw them
at any time--There is no example that we know of in the history of UCSD of
such withdrawal.
6) English language training for international graduate student
instructors--All graduate students from foreign countries are required to
pass an oral exam to demonstrate their English language proficiency prior
to becoming a TA. If they fail, they are offered a class, which is free,
to improve their English and to instruct them on functioning as an
instructor in an American University. The Center for Teaching Development
offers individual assistance to international students at no charge.
7) Hours and grievances for overtime pay--The work hours for TAs are
limited to 20 per week. There is no provision for working more and,
therefore, no provision for overtime pay. The issue of TAs working more
than 20 hours per week is discussed above and is being addressed by
committees of the faculty Academic Senate.
8) Paid training--The quarter starts officially several days before
instruction starts, and TAs are paid for the quarter. All training takes
place either during the days of the quarter before the start of classes or
else while classes are in progress.
9) Dental benefits--A dental clinic in the Student Health Center is
available to all students. A dental plan covering dental care outside of
the student health organization is also available. ("Smile Saver Plan 300"
is sponsored by the UCSD Graduate Student Association). Optical care is
also currently provided to UCSD students as part of their health care
B. Benefits partially provided at UCSD and possible costs of changes
through union negotiations 10)	Tuition waivers--Tuition is charged only for out of state or foreign
students. American citizens from out of state become residents after one
year. Tuition as well as fees is paid at least in part for all graduate
TAs and RAs. Our graduate dean is gathering information to attempt to
determine the number of graduate students receiving various amounts for
fees and tuition. Fellowships, assistantships, and other funding sources
are often in different systems such as payroll or OGSR or an outside
agency. In some cases, students receive direct reimbursement for fees from
an outside agency or employer. It is widely recognized at UCSD that we are
losing many of the highest quality graduate school applicants to other
universities because the financial package that we offer in the first year
is not competitive with fellowships elsewhere. The main reason for this is
the out of state tuition that departments must pay for students from other
countries or from other states. The issue of tuition waivers and graduate
fellowships has been raised at the local level and at the statewide level
with the administration and directly with members of the Board of Regents.
Union negotiations at the campus level would not apply pressure where it is
needed to obtain funding of tuition waivers and could interfere with fund
raising from private donors to establish fellowship funds.
11)	Subsidized childcare--There is a childcare facility at UCSD for
the university pays for maintenance of the physical facility, and the
campus subsidizes some of the operating expenses. It accepts children of
faculty, staff and students (both graduate and undergraduate). Students
qualify for a state subsidy for low-income families, and there are
currently 56 student families with subsidized childcare at the facility
(the center does not record whether they are graduate or undergraduate
students). There are 55 subsidized student families on the waiting list
for the facility, but the subsidy can also be used at other such
facilities. If the university were forced to subsidize childcare, it would
have to pay for a subsidy that is currently provided by the state.
12)	Unspecified improvement of "working conditions"--Specific working
conditions are the subject of several other items discussed here. Union
demands for working conditions and rules have, in other cases, gone beyond
and interfered with more urgent interests of their members. They also have
implied control over academic issues. One union demand in negotiations
over Readers and Tutors at Berkeley has been that if a reader states that
the assigned work can not be finished in the time allotted by the
professor, the hours and funding assigned to the position must be increased
without any other considerations or negotiations. Pay raises for staff,
provided by the university, have been delayed for unionized employees for
two years because negotiations are stalled over work rule changes. The
university has offered to provide the pay raises prior to final contract
agreement but the union has refused.
13)	Written hiring policies--These are described in the UCSD Policy and
Procedure Manual, Section 165-82. Definitions of Teaching Assistant and
Teaching Fellow are provided in APM 410. However, detailed hiring policies
that some union negotiations have attempted to institute would seriously
interfere with the academic functions of the university. For example,
negotiations concerning Readers and Tutors at Berkeley are stalled over
union control of issues such as:
a) Who may be hired as a TA. Any requests by faculty for exceptions to
the requirements would be judged by the union alone. b) The union has attempted to require that no undergraduate may be hired
for a position (as Reader or Tutor) if a graduate student, even from
another department, wants the job.
c) How many TAs may be employed.
d) All TAs must be hired at the same 50% appointment.
e) How and when openings for TA positions will be described and announced. The union has attempted to require that the number of positions to be
filled be posted long in advance of the beginning of each term and,
therefore, before enrollment figures are known. No adjustments would then
be allowed even if enrollment figures changed substantially.
f) The training required for a TA position is to be determined by the union
rather than faculty in charge of the courses.
g) Assignment of TAs to courses is to be determined by the union rather than
department staff or faculty.
h) Assignment to specific TA tasks within the courses such as grading,
leading recitation sections, or instructing in laboratories would be
controlled by the union rather than the instructor. 14)	Job security--UCSD has a time limit of four years of graduate work
after which a student is no longer eligible for a TA or RA position.
Exceptions may be and are frequently granted by the Graduate Dean for up to
six years. Other than this, we are not aware of graduate students in good
standing who have lost financial support. A job security issue that is
raised by unions is that of seniority so that TAs who have been teaching
longest have preference for employment. This would constrain the choice
of TAs by faculty so that they could not select the students best qualified
for specific positions.
15)	Wages tied to faculty salaries--This is normally true at UCSD since
range adjustments are made to faculty, staff and TAs alike. However, one
recent adjustment of faculty salaries, during the economic recession, to
bring them closer to our comparison institutions was not matched in TA or
staff raises. On the other hand, in 1995 when the budget cuts in California
forced UC to reduce pay for faculty and staff by 5%, the TAs were protected
and did not experience the reduction.
16) Pay for all hours worked--A 50% TA is salaried, and the maximum
allowed workload is set at 20 hours per week. The Graduate Council of the
Academic Senate is currently conducting a poll of TAs to make workload
comparisons between departments and programs. As discussed above, union
rules are normally rigid and could prevent adjustments and instructional
innovations that might otherwise be used. 17) More training at the department level--Polls of graduate students
taken at the time they receive their degrees indicate that the lack of
training for their roles as TAs is an important issue. The UCSD Center for
Teaching Development is available to instructors at all levels, without
cost, and many graduate TAs have used its services. Although most
instructors meet with TAs prior to the beginning of and during instruction,
instruction and mentoring apparently needs improvement in some departments
or courses. This is an issue in which the Academic Senate can play a
constructive role. It is very unlikely that a union could do so through
the imposition of rules.
18)	Job notification (more than 2 weeks notice of teaching
total number of TA positions in any given department for the next year are
known during the spring before the academic year begins and the positions
are offered to entering and continuing students and that time. However,
actual work assignments are frequently made at the start of the quarter
when enrollment figures are known. C. Benefits currently under consideration
19)	Smaller class size--The size of classes seen by TAs is determined by
the number of TAs available to the course and the manner in which it is
taught. These issues are discussed above. 20)	Health care for dependents--(see above)
D. Benefits not provided and possible impacts of doing so 21)	Cap on student fees--Student fees for all graduate and undergraduate
students are set by the Regents subject to the budget provided by the state
legislature. Negotiations on this issue would, in effect, require that the
union negotiate directly with the legislature. It might seem advantageous
for the university to have some other agency assume this responsibility but
it would substantially complicate the delicate negotiations between UC and
the legislature. It would also compromise the constitutional insulation of
the UC system from politics. Other student activity fees are voted upon by
the student body and presumably would not be subject to union negotiation.
VI. Universities in which TAs are unionized and their unions
A table of campuses on which TAs are organized and the unions representing
them is provided below. Organizers such as A.F.T., A.A.U.P., and N.E.A.
are specifically organized around the education community. U.A.W. and the
others are not. In an election here, TAs will be given only the option to
organize under the U.A.W. Once organized under any union, removal of union
representation is very difficult so that a decision to organize under a
union will bind all future graduate students.
Universities With Recognized Collective-Bargaining Agents for Graduate
Students	City U. of New York (A.T.F./A.A.U.P./P.S.C.)
Florida A&M University (N.E.A.)
Rutgers University (A.A.U.P.)
State U of New York at Albany (C.W.A.)
State U of New York at Binghamton (C.W.A.)
State U of New York at Buffalo (C. W. A)
State U of New York At Stony Brook (C.W.A)
U of California at Berkeley * (U.A.W.)
U of California at San Diego * (U.A.W.)
U of Florida (N.E.A.)
U of Iowa (U.E.)
U of Kansas (A.F.T)
U of Massachusetts at Amherst (U.A.W.)
U of Michigan (A.F.T.)
U of Oregon (A.F.T.)
U of South Florida (N.E.A.)
U of Wisconsin at Madison (A.F.T.)
Wayne State University (A.F.T.)
Universities Where Unions Are Campaigning for Recognition and Bargaining
Florida State University (N.E.A.)
Indiana University at Bloomington (C.W.A.)
New York University (U.A.W.)
Temple University (A.F.T.)
U of California at Berkeley **(U.A.W.)
U of California at Davis (U.A.W.)
U of California at Irvine (U.A.W.)
U of California at Los Angeles (U.A.W.)
U of California at Riverside (U.A.W.)
U of California at San Diego ** (U.A.W.)
U of California at Santa Barbara (U.A.W.)
U of California at Santa Cruz (U.A.W.)
U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (A.F.T.)
U of Minnesota (A.F.T./N.E.A.)
Yale University (HERE)
A.A.U.P.: American Association of University Professors
A.F.T.: American Federation of Teachers
C.W.A.: Communications Workers of America
HERE: Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union
N.E.A.: National Education Association
P.S.C: Professional Staff Congress
U.A.W.: United Auto Workers
U.E.: United Electrical
*Bargaining rights for readers and tutors only, not for teaching assistants
** Campaigning for bargaining rights for teaching assistants
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