UAW Local 2865 President Christine Petit (in green) checking her smartphone during a solidarity action. Busily ignoring member emails?

By Sara Smith, Grad Student in History, UC Santa Cruz; Elections Committee Representative, UAW 2865 Santa Cruz.

Many in elected leadership of UAW 2865 can’t seem to find their way to responding to members’ emails. And when they do—say, to be generous, about 5 or 10 percent of the time—their responses to members’ questions or concerns are usually not very helpful.  To illustrate this problem, a couple of anecdotes:

I’m the UC Santa Cruz representative to the statewide Elections Committee, the body tasked with overseeing our Union’s elections.  About 99.9% of my emails to the chair(s) of the Elections Committee have gone unanswered, emails with important concerns and questions relating to our recent hotly contested contract ratification vote as well as what was predicted to be a hotly contested vacancy election. (The vacancy election, of course, became uncontested when the administration caucus of the UAW 2865, aka Executive Board and friends, pulled all of their candidates). Jennifer Tucker, formerly the Elections Rep at UC Berkeley and currently Unit Chair, had identical problems. Things got so bad that we’d regularly cc the entire Executive Board of the Union and sometimes even the entire Joint Council, in the hope that just maybe, at some point, we’d get somebody to reply! No such luck.

Recently, it was discovered that our Union’s website ( lists Filiberto Nolasco (a grad student at UC Santa Barbara and member of the Administration Caucus) as “Guide-Elect,” despite the fact that nobody ran for the vacant Guide position in the last vacancy election! (Let’s also ignore for now the fact that Filiberto held this exact same position until he resigned from it three weeks ago.)  So, to figure out what exactly happened (is this just a mistake? Was Filiberto appointed by the President? How does the President have the power to appoint somebody to an elected position?), starting last Sunday I sent emails first to the Elections Committee, then individually to the chair of the Elections Committee, then to Filiberto directly, then to our Recording Secretary on the Executive Board (Cassandra Engeman from UC Santa Barbara, who updates the website), then to the President (Christine Petit, UC Riverside, also employed as a UAW International Rep), then again to the entire Elections Committee. Finally, after being so persistent, I actually did get a response from Filiberto; he was appointed to the Executive Board (more on this in a separate post), now holding the exact same position he resigned from less than a month before. Christine Petit, the Union’s president, never replied – she’s been one of the worst offenders in not responding to members’ emails.*

This is not a problem that one or two people have had – it’s a systemic issue. Countless other UAW 2865 members I’ve spoken to have said it’s like pulling teeth to get the Union’s statewide leadership to reply to an email. We may even decide to create a special blog dedicated to all emails never responded to, emails lost in the abyss of our Union.

Perhaps it goes without saying that this is a big problem – the lack of responsiveness to members’ emails by our Union’s leadership represent an insidious problem in our Union. A healthy, democratic, and thriving Union should have an elected leadership that is accessible, thereby accountable and transparent, so that all Union members can have confidence in our Union. The fact that Executive Board—particularly our Local’s president, Christine Petit—simply ignore members’ emails is just one more reason why we, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, should vote them out of office during the May, 2011 Triennial election.

*Christine Petit recently resigned from her position as President of the Local; now Daraka Larimore-Hall, UC Santa Barbara grad student, previously Northern Vice President (yes, he’s from a southern campus but represented northern campuses) is president.