Monday Memo: news & views about working at UC

For the Week of April 29, 2013

On Friday, UCLA chemistry professor Patrtick Harran was ordered "to stand trial on felony charges stemming from a laboratory fire that killed staff research assistant Sheharbano 'Sheri' Sangji more than four years ago," reports the Los Angeles Times. The three felony charges are "failing to correct unsafe work conditions in a timely manner, to require clothing appropriate for the work being done and to provide proper chemical safety training."

The case has attracted international attention as "the first such prosecution involving a U.S. academic lab accident." If convicted, Harran could serve up to four-and-a-half years in prison. Arraignment is set for May 9.
CWA Voices
On July 27, the Los Angeles County District Attorney agreed to drop similar charges against the UC regents in a settlement agreement that requires UC to comply with California's labor code and to maintain a lab safety program for chemistry and biochemistry departments on all campuses. UC also agreed to establish an environmental law scholarship in Sangji's name at UC Berkeley, where she had planned to study.

In the last two months, the equivalent of 300 FTE positions have been eliminated at the UCSF medical center, according to an in-depth report by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. In response, UC’s union coalition organized a sit-down protest at the Parnassus campus, which included the participation of San Francisco supervisors John Avalos and Eric Mar, and California Senator Leland Yee (D-SF). Ten union activists were arrested in civil disobedience.

Administrative professionals at UC are circulating petitions at all campuses urging their chancellors and UC President Mark Yudof to do the right thing and follow the lead of Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, who announced recently that Berkeley campus employees who are not covered by union contracts would receive 2% pay increases effective March 1. Years of non-existent and inadequate pay raises have left university staff without union contracts woefully under market-value. If you haven’t yet signed, please do, and ask your co-workers to sign as well.

Governor Brown's accountability and performance targets for the UC and CSU systems in exchange for increased funding are being criticized by UC officials, CSU officials, and legislators. Brown proposed to increase state revenues for both UC and Cal State if they improve four-year graduation rates and boost admissions from community colleges. Spokespeople from UC and CSU, as well as state legislators, have said the proposals are inadequate and unrealistic, and ultimately could hurt students and undermine both systems.

In an historic move, delegates to this month’s convention of the Communications Workers of America, UPTE’s national union, unanimously passed a resolution supporting AFL-CIO affiliate Pride at Work’s campaign to end transgender exclusions in health care coverage. _____________________________________________________________________________

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