Employees at University of Arizona launch new union on Labor Day

The new union is wall-to-wall meaning it will include staff, student workers, and faculty.
Updated: Sep. 7, 2020 at 10:16 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The University of Arizona is now home to a brand new workers union, called the United Campus Workers Arizona (CWA Local 7065) this Labor Day.

This comes years later after a previous attempt to unionize in 2001, but was unsuccessful. Now, as of Monday, the union announced it had more than 200 members signed up.

The union is comprised of several members from the Coalition for Academic Justice at the University of Arizona (CAJUA), who have been organizing since June to push back against furloughs, layoffs, the acquisition of the for-profit Ashford University and the “re-entry” plan.

The formation of the UCWA grew out of the considerable efforts of the CAJUA union action group.

“The way the senior leadership team was deciding how to institute furloughs and layoffs and firing various employees really concerned us,” said Sandy Soto, a member of the union organizing committee and co-founder of the CAJUA. “They are acting in ways that many employees, graduate students, staff, faculty, find irresponsible.”

But through that, union members said even more issues were unearthed.

“A lot of people talking about issues that weren’t really related to those but were still important things and challenges the university has,” said Andrew Gardner, a Research and Development Software Engineer with the University and Organizing Committee member of UCWA.

Take grad teaching assistant Kristina Mihajlovic for example. “There’s still a lot of issues that the union and CAJUA have unearthed,” explained Mihajlovic. As a member of both the coalition and now the union, she’s putting energy into better pay. Saying grad students and assistants are making an average of 16,000 a year, without pay in the summer.

“I’m not trying to take away from their piece of the cake I want to fight for bigger cake for everybody and a bigger piece of the cake so everybody can have what they need to survive and live.”

The University of Arizona released a statement in regards to the union today saying:

With 200 plus members now on board, they’re looking to the future and the change a union can make.

But for today, it’s simply a time to celebrate this win, and the fruit of their labor.

“The goal of the labor movement in all of it’s diversity is to support working people, improving their workplaces and improving their communities and that’s exactly what we want to do,” said Gardner.

The Union will have it’s first official meeting later this month where they’ll start looking at campaigns and what direction they’ll go in. But for now, anyone with a paycheck from UArizona can join, and you can find more here: https://ucwaz.org/

Copyright 2020 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.