November 2010

Don’t Vote Yes Out of Fear!: An Open Letter to UAW 2865 Members

Recently, the UAW statewide leadership (perhaps recognizing that their claims that the tentative agreement is an “amazing contract” are failing to convince the membership) has begun to threaten that a NO vote could have a terrible cost.  The leadership warns members that, if the tentative agreement is rejected, UC can choose to impose a contract on members that may take away the few gains that have been won so far in this negotiation.  The message from UAW leadership to members is clear and intentionally alarming: “Vote yes or we could lose everything!”

But is this true?  Can UC impose a worse contract on us if we reject this one?

The UAW leadership notes that “there is NO GUARANTEE, if UC were to agree to resume bargaining, that the current agreement would serve as a starting point, let alone that after months or even years, of ‘impasse’ or protracted bargaining, we would preserve the gains we have already made.”

This is a misleading statement intended to lead you to vote “yes” out of fear.

Under the California Public Employee Relations Act, implementation can only occur after an employer has proposed their “last, best, and final offer” and then declares impasse after the union rejects that offer.  Then if an employer decides to implement, they can only implement the last offer proposed.  They cannot implement something worse than that.  And keep in mind they can only implement after they have declared “impasse.”

Furthermore, regressive bargaining constitutes an unfair labor practice; if the university, having made a proposal, comes back to the table with a worse proposal, this is regressive bargaining. If the University engages in an unfair practice of this sort, the Union can file charges and, if need be, go on strike over them.  (Anyone who wants a third-party to validate this can call the PERB Regional Office in Los Angeles at 818-551-2822.)

Not only is there no legal basis for us to lose benefits if we reject the tentative agreement, but there is a clear and compelling reason why a rejection of the tentative agreement can actually increase our strength in bargaining with the UC.

The UAW leadership claims that a NO vote won’t force UC to return to the table.  We think this claim clearly demonstrates the sense of helplessness that produced the tentative agreement in the first place.  It’s not just that the leadership is trying to scare the membership, but that they accepted the agreement because they themselves are scared of the UC.  And perhaps they should be, considering that the best pressure the UAW leadership organized during the “contract campaign” was a bunch of signatures on a novelty-sized report card (that, on most campuses, was quietly handed over to low-level administrative staff without any media presence).

But we don’t need to fear the UC and we don’t need to settle for the ineffective organizing conducted by the UAW leadership to date.  A NO vote does not just send the Bargaining Team back to the table to continue their timid style of “negotiation.”  Rather, a NO vote demands that they return to the table as part of an actual contract campaign—a mobilization of rank-and-file members, organized by rank-and-file members, backed by a real threat of a strike.  And while UC may not immediately return to the table, we guarantee they’ll show up once it becomes clear that our members can shut down instruction across the system if we need to.  This is the power that a NO vote, combined with a REAL strike threat, gives to us.

Over the past week, we have begun to make our case to UAW members that the tentative agreement represents a failure on the part of UAW leadership to represent us effectively—a failure they are attempting to conceal through ominous invocations of the UC’s power.  But our members should not be frightened: our collective strength when we are organized is enough to win a strong new contract.  Let us begin that organizing by voting NO tomorrow.

Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, Santa Cruz


Very helpful guide to the tentative agreement on a new contract for teaching assistants, readers, and tutors from our friends at Academic Workers for a Democratic Union:

What am I voting on?

On Tuesday November 16th, a tentative agreement was reached between the representatives of the UC and the UAW Local 2865 bargaining team on a new contract. As per the Local bylaws, this agreement is subject to ratification by a majority of voting members. The election will be held Monday November 29th through Thursday December 2nd.

Why are you recommending a ‘no’ vote?

Simply put, the agreement as it stands is not good enough. The wage offer (2% per year) is an insult to underpaid and overworked ASEs, and the childcare subsidy, whilst a step forward, is still wholly insufficient for those ASEs who need it. But there is also a larger issue of how the contract campaign was run. The failure to seriously engage members in the campaign, the top-down and undemocratic nature of decision making about strategy, and the failure to properly prepare for possible strike action, made a weak contract almost inevitable.

But didn’t the UC offer us the possibility of more than a 2% annual wage increase?

Yes, but it is very unlikely that we would get more than 2%.To see raises above 2% would require that the state allocation to the UC increase beyond the 2007-8 level. Given the cuts to that funding in the last two years, it is improbable that the 2007-8 level will be restored, let alone exceeded, during the lifetime of this agreement.

Ok, but isn’t asking for better wages unrealistic?

By organizing and involving members more effectively in the bargaining process we have the power to exert far greater pressure on the UC than we have done to date. Such pressure could very well result in a much better offer. The fact is that the potential strength of this union has not been fully realized.

But the UC says there’s no money for pay increases.

That’s a fiction as even the most cursory glance at the facts reveals. For example, in the past year alone, the UC has paid out more than $11.5 million in bonuses to executives, and last year spent more than $2 million on bottled water. To put that in context, providing decent childcare subsidies that actually meet the cost of such care would cost, SYSTEMWIDE, around $500,000 per year, and a 4% raise would cost around $6 million per year. But as the faculty group SAVE has pointed out (along with many others) the issue is deeper and more structural. There is a serious problem of administrative bloat in the UC. For instance, 25 years ago there were 4 vice-chancellors at Berkeley, now there are 10, each with their own staff of assistants and advisors. Do we need such people more than we need well-paid ASEs? (more…)

An Open Letter to Members of UAW Local 2865

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are members of the UAW Bargaining Team that recently reached tentative agreement on a contract with the UC.  This agreement will be put to ratification vote during the week of November 29.  We want to urge members of our units, as well as members at other campuses statewide, to VOTE NO on ratification. The proposed agreement is not a victory (despite the cheerleading tone of the email announcement to members), but represents a significant failure by our union’s leadership.

The first thing you should know is that the tentative agreement is not endorsed by the entire Bargaining Team—including a significant minority who cast votes against it.  In fact, no Bargaining Team member from Berkeley or Santa Cruz signed the final agreement—a first in the history of our Local.  Nor does the email recommendation for a “YES vote” represent the position of the full Bargaining Team.  Let us be clear: a number of Bargaining Team members, ourselves included, recommend that you VOTE NO on the tentative agreement.

This is why:

First, we want to make it clear that there was very little danger of concessions in this contract negotiation.  From the very beginning of bargaining, UC offered few proposals that would have revoked rights or benefits from our current contract.  They only pursued one concession seriously to the end of negotiations (a reduction in UC-provided compensation for Bargaining Team members).  While it is important that we managed to protect this provision of our current contract, it is misleading to trumpet our achievement in “stav[ing] off any concessions.”  The threat of major concessions, financial or otherwise, was NEVER on the table.

The two “major” achievements of this tentative agreement are the 2% annual wage increase and the increase in the childcare reimbursement to $600/quarter.  As you probably know, these numbers are inadequate: the 2% increase does not even match the projected 3% inflation rate for the next three years1 and, as many of our colleagues have explained to us, childcare in many UC cities can cost up to $1000 PER MONTH.  As for the new provision that guarantees us a wage increase above 2% if UC’s state budget allocation increases over the 2007-08 level?  That language is the closest thing to an actual joke that you will find in our contract.  You can read all of these provisions of the tentative agreement here. (more…)

Report on yesterday’s action at Labor Relations at UC Berkeley, with a couple of brief remarks about the grade-in at UC Santa Cruz – including photos.

Successful action at UC Berkeley As scheduled, rank-and-file members of UAW 2865 and their student allies gathered at Sather Gate for a brief rally before marching past California Hall and then taking to the streets.  We marched through campus and right down the middle of Center Street before meeting up with our clerical worker comrades and fellow rally organizers in CUE/Teamsters.  Also in attendance were members of AFSCME, AFT, UPTE, and a couple surprise guests from ILWU Loca … Read More


Contract bargaining resumes Tuesday, November 9th.

Come out to tell the UC that we deserve more–and will not accept less–than respect and decent pay.

TA Grade-In and Rally

Noon, Tuesday, November 9th,
Baytree Plaza

Bring your papers, bluebooks, or mountains of reading to show that grad students are mobilized and have the energy to fight for what we deserve.

If you haven’t read the last report on the UAW contract situation, here’s an update:

  • The UC effectively wants to cut TA pay.
  • Additionally, after approving $11.5 million in executive bonuses at the last Regents meeting, the UC is refusing to spend a mere $75,000 to increase childcare subsidies.
  • Meanwhile, UC TAs earn less than TAs at comparable institutions and must live in some of the most expensive areas in the country.
  • More than 700 grads have already pledged to go on an unfair labor practices (ULP) strike if necessary.
  • The UAW has begun circulating an official strike pledge, and will ramp it up this week. Come to the Grade-In and sign on!