Your Table Team reflects upon a memorable contract campaign

With bargaining complete, in May the Table Team met for a retreat to tie up loose ends, reflect on strategy and tactics, and make a set of recommendations for contract administration and future bargaining. We also wanted to share with the membership and with all of you, the followers of this blog, what this campaign has meant for all of us…

Axel Borg, Chief Negotiator, UC Davis

The current MOU, which provides for both academic freedom and the largest pay increase since bargaining began several decades ago, is due to the number of librarians directly and indirectly involved in contract negotiation. Previous bargaining involved, at most, a handful of librarians. Now, well over 100 librarians contributed to the successful outcome. When we work together, we achieve more. While the current MOU is a much better contract than we have had in the past, what is important is that we have unprecedented member involvement. This is the key to making the next MOU even better. It has been an honor to serve librarians and I feel secure that librarians will continue to step forward and work for themselves and for their colleagues.

Miki Goral, UCLA

I have found this bargaining one of the most satisfying in the 36 years I have been on Unit 17 bargaining teams. Our first bargaining began on Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1983 and ended in the wee hours of Bastille Day, July 14, 1984. We were novices yet managed to emerge from those six months with a contract that has been built upon in the intervening years. In 2018, this extraordinary bargaining team, along with the incredibly supportive bargaining committee (with activists on every campus), undertook an ambitious course of action that resulted in some great wins for librarians at UC.  We still have challenges as we tackle new issues, but I am confident that the energized corps of librarians will persevere as we look to our next contract.

Ken Lyons, UC Santa Cruz

After fourteen years representing UCSC on the negotiation/table team, and being involved in bargaining four contracts, i’ve seen negotiating sessions evolve from grim confrontations to more cordial conversations about issues and potential solutions. A less stressful and fraught atmosphere, but all resulting in only minor advances, at most, for UC librarians. Although UC began this round with their battle-forged tactics of letting the union do all the work of coming up with proposals and presenting them, only to be met with UCOP expressing their indifference and disinterest, something happened this time to an extent I’ve never before seen: preparation, plan of action, and implementation of a strategy that took into account every level from the table team to the members out on the campuses.

Starting early (training for grassroots organising and table tactics began a year ahead of the start of bargaining); polling the members as to their bargaining priorities; creating the most developed network yet for ongoing communication from the table to the members (and, importantly, vice versa); negotiating in the light of day on the campuses (rather than secreted away in the confines of UCOP headquarters); marshalling absolutely excellent table team members to develop realistic, evidence-based proposals that showed UCOP the problems we have in common that our proposals sought to solve; and, perhaps most importantly, implementing an escalating set of actions in which rank-and-file members involved themselves in unprecedented numbers on the campuses and at the negotiating table—all combined to deliver for UC librarians the most significant contractual gains we’ve seen in at least a generation.

I am extremely pleased and also humbled to have worked with such a hardworking, well-organised, and intellectually stellar table team, and to have had the support of such a dedicated and engaged membership.

Carla Arbagey, UC Riverside

Getting to our new contract was a long journey, almost a year!  It was a rewarding journey in many ways, but I would say the most rewarding part about the journey was the people involved.  My Table Team colleagues were simply amazing individuals, each of us with our own strengths, perspectives, and experiences. It was a joy to get to know everyone on the team so well, and to work with such dedicated librarians.  It was also amazing to meet so many librarians and union supporters across the UC system. We often recognize each other by name as we work on various system-wide committees or connect via e-mail, so meeting the talented librarians that make our libraries great was heartwarming.

While the journey itself was rewarding, so is the destination.  I am very pleased with the salary increases we won, and I’ve heard the same from other librarians.  So, I’d like to share with you my two traditions for celebrating a raise, one is fun and one is sensible: I spend the first increase on something exciting, a treat for myself, and then I do the prudent thing and allocate a bit more to my retirement savings.  I hope you will join me in this tradition, at least the fun part – do something nice for yourself, you deserve it!

I-Wei Wang, UC Berkeley

Reflecting on the long road to our new contract – almost a year of bargaining at the table, preceded by more than half a year of focused outreach and organizing at the Berkeley campus – I am so proud to have been a part of this historic achievement for the librarians of the UC. Though I’ve been with the UC for some dozen years, this level of involvement with the union has been new for me, and I have been utterly floored by the creativity, dedication, and gumption of all the librarians, not to mention our many allies. You have all truly taught me the meaning of solidarity and shown all of us the power of that phenomenon as a force for change and for the public good. We worked together with colleagues across our ten campuses; rallied with our fellow workers in the UAW, AFSCME, UPTE, Teamsters, CNA, OEA, and the newly formed ARU; and joined with students, teaching and Senate faculty, alumni, community members, and librarians and academics around the world to call on the UC to do better by its world class librarians. There is more to come. I look forward to continuing the fight.

Martin Brennan, UCLA

We ratified our new contract on April 1st, and the next day I learned I was named Librarian of the Year by LAUC-LA (along with Russell Johnson). Since then, I’ve been getting a continuous stream of congratulations and gratitude for my contributions to the bargaining effort.  It all feels so fantastic and surreal, but the entire negotiating team worked so hard, I know I only played my part.  As I said in my remarks, I view the award as a celebration of our collective work in making academic freedom a reality for thousands of academic colleagues among us.  The energy and passion of all of our members, in concert with colleagues across the disciplines, made this happen. I urge you all to remember: your voice matters, and the most compelling arguments are spoken in a collective voice.  For our union to have an impact, we all must continue to play a more energized role going forward. But this campaign was certainly a special experience for us all, one we will never forget.

David Eifler, UC Berkeley

This contract demonstrates what we can do when we organize from the grassroots.  An idea that originated in Berkeley – make sure the contract supports the retention of Assistant and Associate Librarians – was taken up by the full table team, refined and thoughtfully argued by colleagues at San Diego, argued for by all campuses, and ultimately won.  Great ideas, emerging from individual librarians, fought for by the entire bargaining unit, lead to success. Public education is still under attack and we’ll need to keep organizing to secure these gains, and to ensure that our represented faculty colleagues also achieve a great contract.  We now know what a strong union with engaged membership can do.

Mitchell Brown, UC Irvine

This contract demonstrated the power of collective action.  I am so proud of my librarian colleagues who came out to rallies during bargaining at Berkeley, San Diego and UCLA.  The support from members at Irvine and Riverside when drafting letters to the UL helped our table team at the table in a show of quiet power.  Perhaps the university negotiators thought that librarians would remain quiet and their job to force terms on the union would be easy. The awakening was abrupt and jarring.  Congratulations to all our supporters during these contract negotiations. We all win in this effort and the table team is but one part of the whole effort to represent the interests of librarians and to address economic issues, defend when necessary our rights as represented employees, and provide a predictable salary path on which to build a career. We are all union strong!

Kristen LaBonte, UC Santa Barbara

It was an honor to be at the table with incredibly talented librarians from the other campuses, and we kept each other motivated during the days, weeks, and months of this bargaining. We had strong support going in, and received a lot of training in the months leading up to the bargaining from UC-AFT. It wasn’t easy being at the table, especially keeping a neutral face during times when insulting proposals were passed from the administrators. It was challenging spending all of the time traveling and meeting, but my thoughts returned over and over again to my colleagues who deserved a strong and fair contract. The many hours our team put in to this campaign paid off, and we could not have done it without the support of our locals and allies. I am so proud of what we accomplished and am energized to be part of such a strong union.

Dominique Turnbow, UC San Diego

I was honored to represent my colleges on the table team. This was one of the most rewarding professional experiences I’ve had in the nearly 15 years I’ve been a librarian. I have learned so much from each of my table team colleagues and was inspired by the solidarity of UC librarians at all of the campuses. By far the greatest thing I will take away from this experience is the power we have when we observe, listen, encourage, and advocate for each other. We couldn’t have done it without the support from our colleges and sister unions. I look forward to participating in efforts to sustain a strong contract that protects UC librarians.

Laurel McPhee, UC San Diego

How many times have you sat at a full meeting table while a critical need was discussed – “We need someone to volunteer to do very important thing X” – and thought, “There’s no way I can do that!” You don’t think you have the time, expertise or support to possibly step forward and take ownership of that task or role. But sometimes, you say “yes.” I said yes twice to our Union at two critical junctures. First, I agreed to be on the UC San Diego Table Team, and like magic, two incredible colleagues (Cristela and Dominque) also stepped forward to help evenly divide the workload. Our shared commitment brought our different strengths to the table. Second, I agreed to lead a task force on UC librarian salaries and devise a strategy and presentation advocating for the raises we deserve. I learned a lot, and I am overwhelmed and honored that my colleagues entrusted me to lead this task. With excellent support from our team, I gave the most emotional (and impactful) presentation of my career. I was trusted to learn, lead and make a difference. I encourage you to say “yes” to opportunities to work with your colleagues in Unit 17 and have a positive impact in our workplaces.

Cristela Garcia-Spitz, UC San Diego

It’s been quite the journey with many highs and lows, as well as ups and downs along the way.  As I reflect on the experience as a relatively new UC-AFT member, I value the small gestures that led to the progress made with this contract – from the team’s late evening conference calls, fellow Librarians participation at the bargaining sessions at the busiest of times in the academic calendar, to the kind words of encouragement by allies.  I learned firsthand about the hard work, dedication, time and energy that goes into the bargaining process, and the power in unity. And most of all, I am thankful and appreciative for all the participation and support from the UC-AFT Librarians, campus partners, and my fellow bargaining team members.

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