December 2010


(via AWaDU)

Dear UAW activists,

In the course of the contract ratification vote, there has been a significant change among the members of our local. For some of us, this is a change we have been working for in more or less organized ways for months or years. We have been raising concerns about our union and working every day to develop in practical terms a different kind of unionism; one that is more democratic, more participatory but also more militant. In the process of these negotiations we have managed to involve (from the beginning of bargaining to the ratification vote) dozens of UAW members who have become activists and hundreds of members who are now aware of and engaged in their union.

At UC Berkeley, we have been able to accomplish this because we organized ourselves in an independent caucus (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union). The caucus provides us with a way to work within the official structures of the union, while still clearly and respectfully expressing our differing views of how a union should function—and putting those views into practice.

AWaDU has been an amazing tool to organize the rank-and-file members at UC Berkeley. We have more than 40 members now, and an active network of close to 300 members. UC Santa Cruz also has an active caucus, which has managed to expand itself through the election campaign. Santa Cruz was the starting point of the last attempt to build a reform movement in our local, UAW Members for Quality Education and Democracy (UAW-QUAD), which was formed in 2007. In fact, throughout the history of our local rank-and-file activists have been working to create a more democratic and active union. (more…)

We here at Santa Cruz (G)SOC or the incipient Santa Cruz chapter of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union or whatever we are these days are still a little woozy from the UAW 2865 ratification vote that took place this past week, and we’re still digesting certain aspects of it. On our campus, the “no” side won 187-20, while statewide the “yes” side won 2421 –  1457. Clearly, we are disappointed with this outcome.

That said, a lot of positive things came out of this contested campaign.

  • The no vote galvanized people all around the state to build a bottom-up, democratic, fighting union worthy of the name, in solidarity with our students in university struggles. The campaign energized hundreds of TAs, readers, and tutors around the state who have felt disaffected from the union’s official line of march. We took significant strides to broaden and deepen our ties. The history of our local is strewn with former activists who got burnt out by the autocratic, pyramidal, and often bizarrely ineffective organizing style of our union officialdom’s central clique. In the past, those people have usually drifted away from labor politics and campus activism entirely. Now, we have begun to find each other to a degree which is both qualitatively and quantitatively significant. And we’re not going away.
  • Berkeley and Santa Cruz voters rejected the contract in droves, 79% and 90% respectively, with the greatest levels of turnout we’ve had for any union vote in over a decade. 58% of Irvine voters and 41% of Davis voters also voted against this contract. Statewide, election turnout was extraordinarily high, and this was reflective of the fact that people were engaged in a contentious, democratic discussion about the union for the first time in years.

There are things about this vote that leave a bitter taste in our mouths.

The elephant in the room (insert your own favorite hackneyed metaphor here) is the question of whether there was vote fraud in this election, and, more generally, whether the voting procedure was free, fair, and transparent. We should emphasize that this concern is not just the “sour grapes” of no vote campaigners; it’s being raised independently by rank-and-file members who were uninvolved in campaigning. There are at least four related concerns: 1) was there fraud, 2) was it enough to change the outcome, 3) what is the political, strategic efficacy of no-vote forces focusing on the question of fraud, and 4) were voting procedures free, fair, and transparent, and if not, how can we hold the officialdom’s feet to the fire, avoid their usual shenanigans with the bylaws, and get free, fair, and transparent procedures next time? (more…)

In the final hours of voting on a proposed contract (go vote if you haven’t!), serious concerns have emerged about whether the UAW 2865 contract ratification vote has been administered and will be counted in a free, fair, and transparent manner. We believe that there are probably  enough “no” votes for us to win this election even with a certain amount of fraud and/or tampering on the part of Administration Caucus members. (The Administration Caucus has been the central apparatus of the UAW’s single-party state for over 60 years, and the entire inner circle of UAW 2865 leadership are Administration Caucus members.)

  • There are concerns concerns that votes will be counted in an irregular manner. The chair of the Elections Committee, Fawn Huisman, has refused to share information with the Elections Committee members on other campuses about daily campus turnout figures, despite stipulating before the beginning of the vote that she would do so. When asked the reasons for this change by Elections Committee members and dozens of rank-and-file members, she offered no explanation.
  • This makes it impossible for members of the elections committee to track possible irregularities in campus voting patterns day-by-day.
  • The chair of the Elections Committee, Fawn Huisman, stipulated a procedure in which there would be no count of the votes on each campus; instead, all votes are being sent to the union’s UCLA office to be counted. (The union’s headquarters are in Berkeley, so this choice of location already raises eyebrows.)
  • For every previous union election, votes have been counted on each individual campus and the results sent to statewide headquarters.
  • This is the first seriously contested election in the history of the local, since certification at UC Santa Barbara.
  • There are allegations that the same leadership team fixed the results of a previous vote. (See “Pyrrhic Victory at UC Santa Barbara: The Struggle for Labor’s New Identity.” Pp. 91-116 in Cogs in the Classroom Factory: The Changing Identity of Academic Labor, edited by D. M. Herman and J. M. Schmid. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, p. 105.)
  • There have been other, local irregularities:
    • Use of a transparent ballot box at UC Santa Barbara – one side of which remained transparent days later in the vote after it was first brought to the attention of elections officials.
    • Poll-workers who are paid staff at UC Irvine telling voters how to vote, in violation of a union rule that electioneering must take place at least 10 feet from the polls.
  • Two scenarios for vote-tampering have been suggested:
    • Top Administration Caucus members could stuff the ballot boxes and alter the voting rolls at Southern California campuses where are running the elections and have easy access to the ballot box outside of voting hours.
    • Top Administration Caucus members could replace entire sets of ballots from those campuses with “yes” votes and mix the ballots from various campuses before counting them.

In light of these concerns, we demand a campus-by-campus tally of the votes tonight so that members can have faith in the results. We also demand that all Elections Committee members have full access to voting rolls and day-by-day turnout figures for every campus.

We realize these are serious allegations. Our concerns about possible fraud are just that – concerns, based on real historical patterns and current anomalies. We have just received word that members will be allowed to observe the vote count, a positive sign for transparency.

To those who would use these concerns to fuel an anti-union agenda here or elsewhere: get your sorry act out of here. We are pro-union, and we are engaged in the process of reforming our union, fighting for transparency and a real contract campaign, because teaching assistants, readers, and tutors need a democratic, creative union consisting of all of us fighting for fair treatment on the job in solidarity with students and other campus workers. We criticize officials who have misused our union, but we will not allow their misdeeds or anti-union propaganda to divide us.

¡Adelante!

Update: Each campus will be allowed one No and one Yes challenger and all union members will be permitted access to witness the ballot counting.

Counting will start 10pm or later.  Having members present will pressure union officials to be civil.  PLEASE JOIN US! @UAW UCLA office, 900 Hilgard Ave., Suite 311, Los Angeles, CA 90024