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UArizona faculty, staff officially launch labor union

Posted at 6:43 AM, Sep 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-08 01:24:57-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — The Coalition for Academic Justice at the University of Arizona (CAJUA) announced Monday the official newly established union -- United Campus Workers Arizona (CWA Local 7065).

Over 200 University of Arizona employees signed up as members of United Campus Workers Arizona, CWA Local 7065. The establishment of UCWA developed from the efforts of the CAJUA union action coalition.

Since April, CAJUA notably spoke out against employee furloughs asking that those in top positions took a bigger financial hit than those who aren't. The coalition also asked that a date not be put on students returning to campus and instead let data drive the decision. The union will represent all current and former UArizona employees, staff, student workers, and faculty, according to the CAJUA website.

“We’re thrilled to welcome all staff, student workers, and faculty into our union!,” Sandy Soto, member of the union organizing committee and co-founder of the CAJUA said in a statement. “There is no more urgent time than during this pandemic to organize and protect our more vulnerable workers.” As of today, dozens of UCWA workers have been trained on organizing across campus and will be reaching out to employees from all ranks and positions in an effort to increase membership. On this Labor Day, CAJUA and the UCWA thank and honor the thousands of UA employees who support and carry out the mission of the university.

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In a news release, it said the union formed and announced officially Monday amidst a growing lack of confidence in the current UA leadership. It's also from frustrations over decades-long divestment in higher education in Arizona, which has direct impact on workers and their increasing precarity during the Covid-19 crisis. Soto said, “There is no more urgent time than during this pandemic to organize and protect our more vulnerable workers.”

Soto says the union unites the full range of University workers from faculty to staff positions. She says to protect employee interests the union can hire lawyers and lobbyists to deal with lawmakers and ABOR, the Arizona Board of Regents.

“They have the real power in the state of Arizona, much more power than president Robbins or Provost Folks that we need to talk to ABOR, about how they can work with legislators, we have to go all the way up to the federal government.”

University staff member Andrew Gardner says the new union does not need to have an adversarial relationship with University leaders.
“We have the same goals as administrators, we want to make the University of Arizona the best place that it can be. We want it to live into the best of its values. And we're going to work on that together as faculty and staff and students.”

Asked about the union effort several weeks ago, University President Doctor Robert Robbins said he supports the idea of a union.

In a news conference August 6th he said, “I have been accused of hating the faculty. I love the faculty. I mean, the faculty are why our students come here for the programs in the knowledge that they impart to our students. Yeah, I'm all for that whatever the faculty think is best for them. I'm for it.”

The University of Arizona released a statement Monday recognizing that University faculty and staff are free to form a union but state law and Board of Regents policy forbid negotiating with a union. The union has said it understands that.

The University goes on to say, “We sincerely appreciate the work and efforts of those members of the University community who constructively and effectively work with us to find solutions to the very serious issues that face us all.”