disability rights are workers’ rights
United States: The most obvious signs of the tens of thousands of graduate student workers, postdoctoral students, and career researchers participating in an indefinite work stoppage across the University of California are likely empty labs and classrooms and workers carrying “UAW ON STRIKE: UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICE” signs. However, not all employees who are refusing to work may be in person.
The UC Access Now coalition was founded in the summer of 2020 under the leadership of third-year UC Davis master’s student Megan Lynch. Physical strike lines, according to her, could not be as accommodating to disabled workers.
Workers must picket for a total of 20 hours to be eligible for strike compensation, which must be completed in four-hour shifts.
“Some individuals, with the pandemic still going on, can’t take that risk,” she said of a four-hour stint at an inhospitable picket line. “Even without the epidemic, they lack the physical strength to handle that. That doesn’t imply that they are powerless to make a difference.”
Lynch said that lack of widespread masking during a potential respiratory disease epidemic and strike lines sitting in the midst of lawns, which can be a barrier for individuals with impaired mobility, are other reasons the physical line may not be as friendly to disabled workers.
Even while not all striking disabled workers are physically on the picket line, they are all working to make accessibility a top priority and create more inclusive, equitable union contracts. Disabled workers are pushing for articles that could codify the right for a teacher or student to request universal masking in a particular space, ensure COVID-19 mitigations like continued access to PCR testing, and establish universal online access without accommodation as bargaining teams develop contract proposals. They see it as a way of arguing that “workers’ rights are disability rights.”
Open-door bargaining sessions that are accessible online via Zoom are a requirement for worker transparency and union leadership responsibility.
A petition urging that negotiation teams not hold private meetings has been signed by hundreds of striking rank-and-file employees and students.
That’s partly so the workers can guarantee demands like linking annual raises to local cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, are kept in union proposals.
The COLA was temporarily removed off the negotiating table last week when the UAW 2865 and SRU-UAW bargaining teams opted to remove the wording linking pay increases to cost of living adjustments. Union members who were in the rank and file disagreed with the decision.