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Cal State student teachers win union contract

By Marc Scott | May 20, 2005 | Page 11

MORE THAN 6,000 teaching assistants, tutors and graders in the California State University (CSU) system successfully negotiated their first contract with university administrators May 11.

The three-year contract includes wage increases, tuition reimbursement, health benefits, fair hiring and firing procedures, clearly defined job descriptions and other essential workplace protections for members of the California Alliance of Academic Student Employees (CAASE.)

The teaching assistants, organized by the United Auto Workers, began a membership drive in the fall 2003 term and within three months signed up more than 5,000 academic student employees across CSU's 23 campuses.

The quick response of academic student employees (ASEs) serves as a testament to the poor working conditions experienced by ASEs, who have not had a uniform wage increase since 1991. Within the CSU system, like at many institutions of higher learning across the country, teaching associates perform between 25 and 35 percent of all teaching instruction.

Bargaining began in September 2004, and members of the CAASE bargaining team quickly found themselves at odds with an administration bent on preserving substandard work conditions.

Representatives for the CSU administration repeatedly committed unfair labor practices, such as refusing to offer tangible proposals with respect to pay and benefits, refusing to agree to sufficient bargaining dates and withholding information that they are legally obligated to provide any union negotiating a contract.

As a result, the CAASE called a one-day unfair labor practices strike on December 9, 2004, with widespread support from students, faculty and other rank-and-file union members on campus. The strike was called the week before final examinations and was the first in CSU's history. Last week, another strike was called to protest the administration's continuing unfair labor practices, but when administrators caught wind of it, they quickly caved to the union's demands.

Ratification of the contract by union members is expected and is currently under way via mail ballots. CSU trustees will meet to confirm the contract two weeks after the union ratifies it.

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