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Questions and Answers about Graduate Student Unionization at UCSC

The following information is intended to provide some context for the graduate student walkout planned for May 14 and 15:

What is ASE?
The Association of Student Employees (ASE) is an organization of student employees, affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW), which seeks to become the exclusive representative of teaching assistants (TAs) on this campus. ASE membership is established by attendance at their monthly meetings, where dues are collected. Decisions by the group then are made by a majority of those in attendance.

Why has ASE/UAW called for a walkout?
The ASE/UAW is demanding that the University grant the UAW the right to represent exclusively TAs and other student academic appointees at UCSC. This action is the local expression of an effort to unionize certain academic positions throughout the UC system. This move is in direct opposition to an agreement that the union made to abide by the decision made previously in regard to the eligibility of UCSC Teaching Assistants (TAs) and Research Assistants (RAs) under the Higher Education Employer Employee Relations Act (HEERA).

Why has UCSC not recognized graduate student employees as eligible to bargain collectively?
The policy of the University of California is to recognize for purposes of collective bargaining only those positions determined to be eligible for recognition under the Higher Education Employer Employee Relations Act. In April 1989, the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) issued a decision holding that TAs are not entitled to union representation under HEERA. This decision was specifically applicable at UC Berkeley. It has been upheld by the state Court of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court declined to review the decision. The union (then GSEA/UAW) and the University reached an agreement stipulating that this decision would apply to TAs at UCSC as well, and in 1992 Administrative Law Judge Tamm issued a ruling to that effect. Employees not covered by HEERA are not entitled to union representation under the statute. ASE/UAW has now called for a walkout to obtain a status that it could not achieve through legal procedures established under state law.

What was the basis of the PERB decision?
PERB determined that TAs are individuals whose employment is contingent on their status as students. Graduate students' work as teaching assistants relates to their educational objectives and is secondary to those objectives. This distinguishes TAs from nonstudent employees such as lecturers, course assistants and staff research associates.

Why doesn't UC Santa Cruz negotiate with UAW/ASE, regardless of the ruling?
Collective bargaining is a very structured process, governed by a legal infrastructure that defines rights and responsibilities of affected parties. The Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) provides the framework by which collective bargaining issues may be addressed. This framework serves to protect both employee and employer as they negotiate their employment relationship. Outside the structure of HEERA, there exists no such protection.

Why doesn't UC Santa Cruz accept the decision made recently in regard to UCLA?
The decision by Judge Tamm regarding teaching assistants at UCLA does not apply to UC Santa Cruz. Judge Tamm ruled that a separate decision will be made for each campus, because terms and conditions of employment differ considerably from campus to campus. UC Santa Cruz is covered by the 1989 PERB decision, later upheld in 1992 in the California Appellate Court, which determined that TAs at this campus do not meet the tests set down in HEERA for a right to bargain collectively. Since TAs have been found not to meet the definition of employees under HEERA, there is no legal framework in which to recognize the Association of Student Employees or to conduct negotiations regarding conditions of employment, wages, and other employment matters. The campus does, however, offer other avenues (formal and informal) for discussion of concerns and resolution of problems experienced by TA and other non-represented academic appointees.

Absent collective bargaining processes, does UCSC communicate with graduate students?
The UC Santa Cruz administration remains committed to addressing the concerns of graduate students through regular and frequent consultations with the campus's Graduate Student Association and the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies. In addition, representatives of Human Resources also have met with graduate students.

What are usual pay rates for TAs at UC Santa Cruz?
Total compensation for a TA to assist with one course for one quarter (about 210 hours of work) is $5,249. This includes about $975 in fee remissions. This compares with $3,276, the cost of hiring a course assistant (non-student position).

Why are graduate students appointed as Teaching Assistants, instead of hiring less expensive course assistants?
Graduate student teaching assistant and research assistant appointments are part of an overall support package that is provided to assist graduate students financially. At UCSC this package could include teaching assistantships, fellowships, graduate student research assistantships and other programs that combine to provide the students an academically sound experience, along with financial support. In addition to the direct and indirect financial benefits, such positions afford important opportunities for learning pedagogical and research methodologies that help to prepare graduate students for future positions. This favorable mentoring relationship would be jeopardized if unionization occurred, because the roles no longer would be those of student and faculty member, but rather employee/union member and supervisor.

Are Teaching Assistant pay levels the same at all UC campuses? Does pay vary by field?
TA salary scales are set university wide and are the same at all UC campuses and in all disciplines, regardless of the student enrollment or availability of other graduate student support. The TA stipend for 50 percent time currently is $1,424 per month, or $20.34 per hour, for a 20-hour work week on average (plus a $975 grant toward fees each quarter).

Do Teaching Assistants receive health or other employee benefits?
A package of benefits adds to the financial value of teaching assistantships. All registered graduate students are required to participate in the UCSC Graduate Student Health Insurance Plan (GSHIP), a major medical plan sponsored by Blue Cross. Those students appointed as TAs at 25 percent time or greater for the academic quarter have the insurance fee paid for them by the University directly or through a faculty member's grant. This benefit has a value of $756 per year. In addition, the campus has allocated $2,177 to offset the cost of fee increases for TAs.

How many classes do Teaching Assistants teach? Is there a limit to their work load?
Teaching Assistants do not teach classes per se: typically, they provide instructional assistance under the supervision of faculty, who are themselves responsible for the organization of the course and decisions about grades. Typically, a 50% Teaching Assistant will work 16 to 20 hours per week, averaged over 13 weeks.

Is there a grievance procedure for TAs?
Grievance procedures for both academic and work issues related to the teaching assistantships are covered in the Graduate Student Handbook. Graduate students in academic job titles like Teaching Assistant have access to a grievance procedure defined in section 140 of the University's Academic Personnel Manual. Under this procedure, graduate student employees are entitled to an evidentiary hearing before a neutral body with the Chancellor as the final decision maker. This is a grievance mechanism available to other academic employees as well.

How many UCSC graduate students at UCSC work as Teaching Assistants?
There are 372 graduate students working as TAs in spring quarter 1997. Apparently, 63 of 70 ASE/UAW members voted to authorize the strike that is currently planned.

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