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AGSE Instructors Begin Walkout

by Jesús Mena and Janet Gilmore, Public Affairs
posted December 02, 1998

Picket signs greeted campus faculty, staff and students on Tuesday morning as a group of graduate student instructors (GSIs) declared a strike on eight University of California campuses.

The GSIs demanding collective bargaining rights are affiliated with the Association of Graduate Student Employees (AGSE)/United Auto Workers (UAW). Approximately 1,700 of UC Berkeley's 8,600 graduate students work as GSIs.

At the time the Berkeleyan went to press yesterday, it was unclear how many GSIs had participated in Tuesday's action. As of noon Tuesday, there were about 50 to 60 pickets at the Telegraph Ave. entrance to campus. Campus officials said they thought the vast majority of the GSIs would meet their academic obligations.

Chancellor Berdahl said the campus had offered to meet with the GSIs to discuss any issues of concern to them. Despite Berdahl's efforts, AGSE/UAW decided to strike.

"Our highest priority is to assure that undergraduates do not bear the consequences of the strike," Berdahl said in a letter in the Dec. 2 Daily Cal. "...Classes will continue to be held. Final exams are to be administered at the time and place originally scheduled. And flexibility in grading options has been approved for courses that faculty determine have been affected by the strike."

UC Berkeley is not authorized to grant the students what they are asking for --collective bargaining rights. The UC Regents and the UC systemwide administrators have determined that the campuses should not grant these rights to students. Campus administrators feel that collective bargaining is not good for the teaching relationship that must exist between faculty and graduate students, a relationship that requires collegial, flexible interaction.

As an alternative, campus administrators had offered to recognize AGSE as a student organization and to engage it in regular discussions on job-related matters.

Berkeley GSIs' pay and benefits package is among the best in the nation. They earn more than their counterparts at comparable public institutions nationally.

The beginning salary for UC Berkeley graduate students who teach a single course for one school year is $13,329. In contrast, lecturers -- who are not students, usually hold doctoral degrees, and teach the same courses as some GSIs -- begin with a salary of $9,282 for teaching a single course for one school year.

GSIs receive a waiver of health care premiums and of roughly 60 percent of their graduate school education fees.

Campus officials consider graduate student teaching a form of financial aid.

GSIs teach 10 percent of the campus's lecture courses. They also lead 76 percent of discussion groups -- sessions in which students in large classes gather in small groups to review course work.

For an update on the strike, see


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