Editorial: A strike by UC academic workers would tarnish the prestigious university system
The University of California’s Academic Senate has threatened to strike over the past two years.
During its first strike in 2012, the U.C. Academic Senate walked off the job for three days — the only time the university has suspended operations for a strike in its history.
This was followed by four subsequent months of contract negotiations.
A strike threat again emerged this week, the first since the Academic Senate voted last September to unionize. This decision, coupled with the recent unionization of U.C. Davis’s professional and graduate employees, is a step backward for the University of California, which is now a leader in labor relations.
The Academic Senate’s action will be a serious blow to the University of California and its president, Janet Napolitano, who once promised to fight to get union representation at U.C. schools, and is now the state’s second-highest-paid politician.
The strike threat is one more indicator of the Academic Senate’s growing influence over academic affairs, which is being questioned by UC students and faculty alike.
It is a step away from the university’s core mission of educating future leaders.
In the last decade, faculty salaries have skyrocketed. The number of tenure-stream faculty has increased from 30 percent to 35 percent, the number of tenure-stream professors working 20 or fewer courses has nearly doubled, and the number of tenure-stream professors who teach fewer than 20 courses has quadrupled.
Faculty members have also moved into administration and administrative positions. Today, 39 percent of academic appointments at the University of California are in the ranks of professors, a 40 percent jump from 1997 to 2004 among UC schools.
When Napolitano was head of the UC system, she was the first UC president to join the Academic Senate. She presided over six strikes and four academic strikes, most recently in October 2013 when the Academic Senate unionized.
The new threat, which is not the first this year, follows this year’s Academic Senate unionization vote, the second-largest among UC schools.
The Academic Senate’s action has already sparked criticism from within the University of California.
“The idea that the Academic Senate could unilaterally call a strike is really shocking. It is really unfortunate,” said Barbara J. Poll