The history of the University Council/American Federation of Teachers can be traced back 25 years when the first AFT local was established at the University of California. The Berkeley Faculty Union (Local 1474) was chartered in 1963, and branching from it, the University Federation of Librarians (Local 1795, was established in 1967. Other campuses formed locals during the late 1960s and early 1970s.
The University Council/AFT was formally organized on June 19, 1971, when seven AFT locals at the University of California voted to establish themselves as a council. At a meeting held in Los Angeles, representatives decided to withdraw from the United Professors of California and to form their own organization in order to more effectively organize at the University of California. In August of the year, an eighth local representing Berkeley librarians Berkeley voted to affiliate, and was soon joined by a ninth which had been started on the Irvine campus.
The first chair of the University Council-AFT was Paul Goodman, a History professor from the Davis campus. Patricia St. Lawrence, a Genetics professor at Berkeley, was the Northern Vice President, and Jack Blackburn, of the Labor Center at Los Angeles, was chosen as Southern Vice President. Shortly after the Council was formed Sam Bottone was hired as Executive Secretary.
Early issues the University Council/AFT took up included problems associated with the failure of many Assistant Professors to be granted tenure, and with salaries which lagged behind those at comparable universities across the country. Librarians were concerned with sexually discriminatory salaries, a nationwide phenomenon in which workers in female-dominated occupations were paid lower salaries than workers having similar educational requirements and responsibilities in male dominated occupations.
During the Spring of 1972, the Council was presented with one of its most serious crises: the building trades unions at the Berkeley and San Francisco campuses voted to go on strike against the University. The Berkeley/San Francisco librarians local honored the strike and placed demands of its own on the table. The ten-week walkout was the longest public employee strike in California at the time, and at its conclusion, the University administration provided a small raise to begin correcting librarian pay inequities.
In 1973 Assemblyman John Miller (D-Berkeley) introduced on the Council's behalf a pay inequity bill for librarians. It had the strong support from the CFT and its Legislative Advocate, Mary Bergan, the California Labor Federation, and from the California Library Association. The bill provided $340,000 for 1974/1975 to adjust librarian salaries upward to make them comparable to those of similar male-typed occupations.
The Council was successful in introducing and having signed into law an Open Files bill in 1978. The bill, by State Senator David Roberti (D-Los Angeles), provided employees access to their personnel files, with only the names and other identification removed from confidential materials. The CFT and California Labor Federation (and an 1lth hour call from its Executive Secretary-Treasurer, John F. Henning, urging Governor Jerry Brown to sign) were key to getting the bill into law. The University administration promptly refused to comply with the law, and the State of California and the UC/AFT took legal action to enforce compliance; the issue is still being litigated. Beginning in 1973, the Council made major efforts to secure collective bargaining legislation for academic employees at the University. The University Council/AFT argued for the inclusion of UC academic employees in several bills which were introduced in the Legislature. It was not until 1978, however, that a bill carried by Assemblyman Howard Berman (D-Los Angeles) – the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) – was signed into law. This act provided bargaining rights for both UC and State University and Colleges employees. The University Council/AFT sought, unsuccessfully, to have the bill amended so as to provide UC Academic Senate members the same bargaining rights as other groups included within the bill – UC Held the Senate units are spelled out in the law and their scope of bargaining is limited.
HEERA became effective July 1, 1979. The University administration was able to delay elections through extensive PERB unit determination hearings for four years. An election for librarians was and in June, 1983, PERB certified AFT as the bargaining agent. Bargaining began in December 1983, and a first contract was ratified by unit members in August 1984. Among the major gains: salaries would be increased at the same percentage as other academic employees, research funds were defined and specific amounts allocated by campus, a nine-month year option was established, peer review was protected, binding arbitration was provided as the last step of the grievance procedure, sick leave was broadened to include illness of family members, and the dual track for librarian promotion (administrative or specialist) was preserved.
In an election held in January 1984, some 2,000 Non-Senate Faculty chose the University Council/AFT as their exclusive representative. Bargaining began in May 1984, and continued for
two years, concluding in a first contract in May 1986. Major improvements in working conditions included: the first systemwide guidelines for regularizing retention and merit increase reviews; preserving the traditional right of the Academic Senates to set courseloads and determine curricular needs; setting maximum course loads; establishing the right of unit members to use departmental equipment, support services, and travel and development funds; and most importantly, making clear that there was no limit on the length of time a unit member could be employed at the University – previously there had been three to eight year limits imposed by various departments on various campuses.
The Council's work is not complete: we want to see present contracts strengthened, to bring bargaining rights to professors and researchers, to improve teaching and research, and generally to make the University of California a more open and democratic institution in which students are better served and faculty and staff work in a more productive and collegial way.
(Philip Hoehn, contributor)