BERKELEY (CBS SF) – Lecturers at the University of California have unanimously authorized a potential strike, more than a year after their contract expired.

According to the University Council-American Federation of Teachers (UC-AFT), which represents non-tenure track faculty, 96% of lecturers approved the strike authorization in a vote held last week.

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Union officials said their last agreement expired 16 months ago and that they have been holding collective bargaining negotiations for more than two years. It is the first time the lecturers have authorized a strike in more than two decades.

UC-AFT said their priorities include consistent review and rehiring processes to help retain the best instructors, enforceable workload standards and compensation that they describe as “fair” and that “reflects lecturers’ training, experience, and contributions to the UC.”

The union said while some progress was made in negotiations, they argued the UC has not introduced proposals on evaluation and rehiring processes and failed to renew contracts of about 2,000 lecturers despite promising no layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Union officials also claimed that lecturers have been denied a 3% cost-of-living adjustment extended to other UC faculty and employees. The median annual salary of a lecturer is $19,067.

“Teaching University of California students should not be a gig economy job, yet thousands of phenomenal lecturers lose their jobs each year. We’re calling on the UC Office of the President to invest in excellent education at the UC,” said union president Mia McIver.

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In a statement, UC-AFT stressed that a strike would not happen immediately and that they hope issues raised by lecturers are addressed in upcoming negotiations.

“It serves as a collective expression of our hope that there remains a possibility for progress at the negotiating table and that this collective action will encourage UC administration to accept UC-AFT’s full-package proposal put forward on May 25th,” said Caroline Luce of the union.

A spokesperson from the University of California Office of the President released a statement to KPIX 5 on Tuesday afternoon saying that they remain hopeful an agreement would be reached.

“In the latest round of negotiations, UC made significant movement toward compromises with union leaders on key union priorities including compensation, appointments, and leave policy,” the the statement said.

“This builds on the revised, comprehensive proposal UC provided union leaders on April 16th. We believe that our proposal demonstrates our good faith and recognition of the invaluable instructional role lecturers play in educating our students. This offer included increased compensation for members at the low-end of the salary range and improved job stability for lecturers,” the university went on to say.

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A specific date on resuming negotiations has not been announced.