The following election challenge was submitted in advance of the UAW 2865 Joint Council meeting on Saturday, January 29; it was also read aloud, discussed, and wholly rejected by a majority of the voting members of the body. Some personal thoughts on this process are posted beneath the text of the letter.

***

UAW Local 2865 Election Protest

Dear Christine Petit:

The purpose of this letter is to protest the recent contract ratification election of UAW Local 2865, which concluded on December 2, 2010.  As members of the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWaDU) caucus, we are concerned that certain irregularities in election procedure may have affected the outcome of the election and violated our Local’s bylaws, the UAW Constitution, and/or federal law.

We, the undersigned candidates and members of AWaDU, hereby file a formal election protest.
1. Paid union staffers maintained a purely partisan role, campaigning on behalf of ratification.
2. At the UC Irvine campus, paid staffers were observed and recorded working polling stations, and in at least one instance, representing the voting options in a partisan and biased way in order to influence potential voters. This was in violation of our union’s election procedures.
3. At the UC Santa Barbara campus, polls used a partially-transparent ballot box for three of the four polling days, despite complaints and protests made to the Elections Commission.  Several voters reported feeling uncomfortable voting when their votes could be seen by the poll worker.
4. Ballot boxes and voting rolls left solely in the possession of paid Union staffers after polls closed each day raises serious concerns about ballot-stuffing. These concerns can only be alleviated by making the voting rolls available for review.
5. Ballot boxes were unsatisfactorily sealed, Santa Barbara and Riverside boxes could be opened with a key without damaging signed seal.
6. The Elections Committee did not provide daily vote tallies for all campuses, against the Committee’s own protocol decided days earlier.
7. The chair of the Elections Committee convened Elections Committee meetings with little advance warning. The Chair also facilitated the meetings in a rushed way making it nearly impossible for the elected representatives on the Elections Committee to discuss election procedures in a considered manner. The Chair, moreover, directly contravened decisions made by the Elections Committee, including providing daily vote tallies to all members of the Elections Committee.

These irregularities call into question the fairness of this election and place the election outcome in serious doubt.  Therefore, we demand the following:
1. That the Elections Committee immediately release the voting rolls from this recent election.
2. That a thorough investigation by an independent body, consisting both people who supported and opposed ratification of the contract of this election, be carried out and its report made public in a timely fashion.
3. That, in the event that this investigation uncovers real fraud, this contract ratification be nullified and a new election, supervised by independent, neutral observers, be conducted.
4. That elections protocol, including ballot boxes, be standardized and sufficiently revised to address the concerns raised above in time for the next contested election. In the event an election taking place over multiple days, the vote tallies be taken immediately after the close of voting each day and be reported to the entire Elections Committee.
5. That future elections be monitored by independent, neutral observers.
6. For future elections, the Elections Committee should be convened to make decisions about all elections procedures. The Elections Committee Chair should also release contact information for Elections Committee representatives to all members of the committee.

Sincerely,

Jordan Brocious, Sara Smith, John Bruning, Cheryl Deutsch, Brian Malone, Fabio Chee, Bron Tamulis, Daniel Seneca Lindsey, Robert Wood, Megan Wachspress, Jessy Lancaster, Nick Kardahji, Adam Hefty, Charlie Eaton, Barry Eidlin, Veronique Fortin, Alex Tarr

***

This election challenge was rejected in toto by the Joint Council along rigorously factional lines. All seated reform-oriented members of the Joint Council, associated with our Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) caucus, voted in favor of the challenge; all other members of the Joint Council voted against it; and it failed 19-7. (The vote was so lopsided in large part because new administration-aligned representatives from San Diego were seated without a contested election while two reformers’ candidacies for the council were rejected, at least one on questionable grounds. Meanwhile a couple of token administration candidates ran at Berkeley, preventing the seating of new reformers on the council, despite the fact that Berkeley is overwhelmingly a reform campus.)

Before the body began to discuss this agenda item, supporters of the current leadership asked for a break. Then, the top leaders of the local and International Representatives held a meeting in a library in the office with  all non-AWDU members of the Joint Council (or certainly very nearly all, including the vast majority of brand new Joint Council representatives who should have had a chance to hear a full, honest discussion around the contentious issues that face our union.). When AWDU supporters walked past the library while this caucus was ongoing, supporters of the current leadership appeared nervous and in one instance shut the door. When they emerged from their caucus, the meeting resumed, and the rejection of the election challenge was accomplished quickly and efficiently, with no deliberation on the component parts of the challenge.

As we’ve said before, the all the top leaders of Local 2865 and both International Representatives are part of the Administration Caucus, the single party in the UAW International’s one-party state. We can only conclude that the Administration Caucus is caucusing in our local as well, without having declared themselves as such, and that they colluded to prevent any serious consideration of this challenge.

At issue here is not the right to caucus – AWDU supporters caucused during that break as well, though not necessarily all together at once. The problems with the Administration Caucus functioning here are several: first, they have never declared themselves publicly as a caucus with a political basis. Any union member who supports reforming our union and agrees with the general principles of AWDU (as reflected in our many blogs and emails to the membership, soon to be collected into a platform) can attend a meeting of AWDU. The Administration Caucus’s caucus at the Joint Council was clearly closed to AWDU supporters and non-aligned members who had not been vetted in advance. Union members have a right to know the political basis for a caucus which is functioning in their union, especially when that caucus includes all the top leaders of the union. Second, while there was discussion of the challenge, the Administration Caucus colluded to prevent any serious, detailed deliberation over these very serious charges. The Administration Caucus’s functioning does not permit the democratic representation of the concerns of the membership as a whole, and in this case their summary rejection of the challenge only adds to our many concerns about election transparency.

While a full write-up of this Joint Council meeting is beyond the purview of the present post, you should also check out this account of a paid staff person who has been hired to work largely at UC Irvine without any consultation with the campus leadership, despite repeated requests for such consultation. (The campus union office was also moved without consultation with any campus leaders who are regularly at Irvine.) Cheryl Deutsch, UC Irvine head steward read this letter aloud at the meeting, but the concerns raised therein were not taken up by the body.

Advertisements