A brief history of the University Council-AFT

University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT) is the Union--the democratically elected, exclusive legal representative--of the more than 3000 non-senate faculty and several hundred professional librarians who are employed at all ten campuses of the University of California. We join together to work for and to defend better salaries and benefits, greater security of employment, professional respect and support, workplace rights, academic freedom, legislative solutions to educational policy issues, and full access to quality public higher education for our students. We encourage every lecturer and every librarian to be an active member. Most fundamentally, the Union is our members, especially our active members, and the leaders elected from among them. Union member activism is the key to our individual and collective power as educators and professionals.

Our union has been helping its members to fight for better treatment by UC for almost a quarter of a century. UC-AFT was founded following the passage in 1978 of the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relation Act (HEERA), which for the first time allowed for the formation of unions in the UC system. We won elections to represent the Non-Senate Faculty, or Lecturers, in 1982, and Librarians the next year.

UC-AFT went on to negotiate collective bargaining contracts for both units. The original contract the union signed in 1986 made a major improvement for Non-Senate Faculty by replacing the former "8-years-and-out rule" with a system of renewable 3-year appointments (after a 6-year review process) that has allowed hundreds of excellent lecturers and other Non-Senate Faculty to have life-long teaching careers at UC, to the great benefit of tens of thousands of students. It also provided for a grievance process and layoff and termination protections, as well as strengthening benefits and other critical rights. The Librarian contract, in addition, provides for recognition of and support for professional activities.

University Council is made up of eight Locals, one from each campus, with UC San Francisco members belonging to the Berkeley Local. A new local is currently being formed at UC Merced. In the last three years, thanks to increased funding, in part made possible by the implementation of a "fair share" payroll deduction for non-members, UC-AFT now has staff on each of the campuses to help with grievances and other needs of the membership.

In this struggle UC-AFT has been working in coalition with other UC Unions that together now represent more than 60,000 UC employees system-wide, including 10,000 Graduate Student Instructors (UAW); 18,000 Clericals (CUE); 12,000 Technical, Health & Staff Research Assistants (UPTE/CWA); and 13,000 Service & Hospital Technicians (AFSCME).

While legislative lobbying and internal political actions remain important for effective collective bargaining, membership numbers are also equally vital as they are read by the employer as the degree of consensus and support for the Union's bargaining proposals. In the past five years membership levels in UC-AFT have been steadily growing on nearly all UC campuses--as has the number of members among the other UC Unions. Our goal is to have a solid majority of union members in both Unit 17, Librarians, and 18, Lecturers, on every campus.

In July 2003, UC-AFT Lecturers signed a new contract with UC after a three-year struggle, including job actions on six of the campuses in 2002, for better job security, salaries and benefits, professional development, and arbitration of grievances. This included conversion of post-6 3-year contracts into Continuing Appointments. Bargaining since then, including ratification of new contract provisions effective as of August 2005, has focused and will focus on workload, salary and other issues raised by our members. Librarians also ratified a new contract in January 2006. They had previously won expanded professional opportunities, improved leave benefits, and the reexamination of comparable salary scales; in this round they achieved salary increases, and explicit language on holiday closure. Librarians are currently involved in discussions over workload. UC-AFT is now working to enforce these new contract provisions for both units, and to provide a broad range of services and benefits to our members.

University Council is closely affiliated with both the California Federation of Teachers (CFT) and the national American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as well as the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and local Central Labor Councils in each regions. Nationally, AFT has more than one million members and has grown by more than 300,000 members in the last decade. While these affiliations may seem distant from our campuses, each represents a crucial level of support for the defense of our rights. All UC-AFT locals across California can call upon affiliates for political or legislative action, for research during negotiations, to add their members' voices to ours in demonstrations, for media and legal back-up and for training of local union leaders and staff.

But in the last analysis, our union is only as strong as its own members make it. We hope that every Lecturer and Librarian will not only join UC-AFT, but become an active member. The University constantly tries to roll back the many gains we have already made. Together, we can not only keep them from succeeding, but go on to win even better salaries, benefits and job securities in the future.

Though all Librarians and Lecturers in Units 17 and 18 are covered by UC-AFT contracts, you can only become a member of the union by completing an application form. For further information, please contact your local representative or talk to a colleague who already belongs to UC-AFT.

ROBERT WEIL AND MIKE ROTKIN, UC-AFT AT UCSC

University web banner