One year after the union vote, Tufts Dining employees ratified a collective agreement with the university on April 3. The newspaper has a year of organization, negotiations and clashes. In the ivory tower, the organization of work is not an easy task. Teaching assistants who recently merged at New York University and the University of Connecticut do not have factories where collective bonds can be easily created. We are scattered on large campuses that each apply to different professors and consultants with different and often immeasurable working conditions. We are not in front of a production line with metal and plastic parts – we work face to face with students who are sometimes apathetic and amused by our choice to lengthen our schooling, but sometimes enthusiastic and revealing enough to remind us why it was useful to live in teaching and research. The union wanted a negotiated wage increase instead of increased benefits on a case-by-case basis, more favourable health care providing increased coverage and the transition of fixed-term contract workers to full-time work. These were the problems that had been put at the centre of a movement that had begun with workers demanding better treatment by managers. Union leaders talk about the successes of collective bargaining and reflect on why the movement took so long to get by. The treaty on which we have agreed is taking new steps on each of these issues.
After months of insistence by the UC that the TA-to-Students reports were not a “mandatory bargaining topic”, the UC agreed to create joint employment committees in which class sizes can be discussed. The UC has also agreed to create a “teaching opportunities” committee to provide undocumented students with equal academic and professional opportunities. Finally, in our treaty, we successfully negotiated the language that guarantees access to gender-neutral baths as a “right” and sets a precedent for us to directly address other anti-discrimination requirements in the future. Outside the building, part-time negotiators from the negotiating committee took a break from the meeting to attend the rally and participate in the gathering. Professor Andy Klatt announced that if an agreement is not reached quickly, the teachers` union has planned a break-up by 11 October. Given the common concern among members that they are updated for hiring decisions in the Tenure Line, the agreement also stipulates that current teachers receive first attention and fair consideration of full-time positions, including a guaranteed interview. The Adjuncts, who have interviewed a full-time position and have not obtained it, can, during a meeting with the dean or head of department, find out why. Such a guarantee is scandalous for most institutions. Until Friday, the campus was still waiting for a strike to be announced.
Instead, that morning, the municipality of Tufts received a joint email from Monaco and the union saying that an interim agreement had been reached. When I started my bachelor`s degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, I proudly signed a union card on the first day of orientation. The unprecedented agreement reached this year between the University of California and my United Auto Workers Local 2865 union, which represents university assistants on all UC campuses, reflects our strategy to address these challenges.