March 2011


Our friends in Academic Workers for a Democratic Union at UC Berkeley recently posted an analysis on their blog explaining why that two percent wage increase we “won” in our recent union contract did not actually ever appear in our paychecks.

They write:

Back in December, you may recall the bitter debate that rocked our union regarding the pay raise negotiated in our most recent contract campaign. AWDU members on the bargaining team strongly opposed –from the very start of negotiations — accepting the paltry 2% offer from the UC, and AWDU as a whole campaigned for a rejection of the tentative agreement partly on the basis that the wage offer was not really a pay raise at all. Little did we know just how true that would turn out to be…

As UAW 2865 members are now painfully aware, our take home paychecks did not, in fact, see any growth in January, because the expiry of a federal tax credit led to an increase in tax withholding. How much did this amount to? Funnily enough, 2%… So the ‘pay raise’, which our local’s leaders told us was generous, wholly satisfactory and indeed a victory for our contract campaign(!), turned out to be functionally nonexistent.

Clearly, the leadership should have been aware that the tax credit was expiring (the local, after all, does have its own payroll…) and the ‘pay raise’ they were trying to push on us was going to amount to nothing. If they didn’t know, they’re incompetent, and if they did, well, that raises another set of questions about why they would have kept that information to themselves. In the absence of hard evidence though, we’ll assume that our leaders were asleep at the wheel, rather than intentionally misleading members into thinking a 2% raise would have resulted in an actual increase in take-home pay.

Had we actually organized a contract campaign, consisting of an educational component, visibility, and, importantly, mass actions, all leading up to a viable strike threat or actual strike, we might have actually built up enough pressure on the University to win more than the paltry two percent wage increase.

Berkeley AWDU:

The contract campaign could have been very different, and it could have helped serve as a precedent for other UC, and public sector workers struggling for fair compensation. The leadership told us it was “irresponsible” to ask for a bigger raise, and that it would be “insulting” to our brothers and sisters working elsewhere in the UC system. This claim is a fundamental reflection of the difference between our approach to organizing and union democracy and that of the leadership. First of all, if it is irresponsible for us to ask for a wage that meets our cost of living and one that reflects the importance of investing in the instructional components of public education – then what exactly is the leadership’s touchstone for what constitutes “responsible” demands? Secondly, given how out-of-touch our leadership is with its own membership, we have a hard time taking seriously their claims about the sentiments of people in other UC unions. Even if their claim is true, we would hope our own leadership would continue to operate on the reality that when we win significant victories, the position of all UC workers improves. Extracting major concessions from the boss gives others increased confidence to fight for and win gains of their own, and it sets a benchmark for all future negotiations.

We desperately need a radical change at the top of our local. The current executive board, with a couple of prominent exceptions, is staffed by people who consistently refuse to take advantage of the power of our membership and even act as a barrier to the democratic reform that would force them to do so. What we really need is a reform slate that can dismantle the excessive centralization of power and resources in our local and allow ordinary members to take back their union. In just a few short months, the membership will have the opportunity to debate these questions in the context of the first fully contested leadership election in our local’s history. We look forward to holding the incumbent leadership accountable for their repeated failure to truly advance the interests of Academic Student Employees at the UC.

Read the entire post at the UC Berkeley AWDU blog by clicking [here]

By Mark Paschal, Graduate Student in History of Consciousness, UC Santa Cruz

The political quakes that are shaking the Middle East/North Africa  and Wisconsin are not simply spontaneous movements of people suddenly disaffected. While there are very few similarities between the revolutions and the union protest in Madison, an essential likeness is that working people and those who are unable to work have long been involved in creating an infrastructure through which democracy and accountability could break through the autocratic or bureaucratic stranglehold of their respective homelands. That infrastructure is not unique, however: in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere, including the University of California (UC), more and more people are joining organizations that fight for the rights of working, and non-working, people.

Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) is proud of the heritage of the UAW and the many gains it has brought to working people in the USA. It is time, however, for the UAW at the UC, the union representing TA’s, readers, and tutors,  to demand more for those it represents and to make demands on an administration that continues to grow wealthy through budget cuts, fee hikes, and changes to the working environment of all of its employees. Only when we band together, across the multiple disciplines and work environments that we, as academic workers, face, will we be able to force the administration to cut its bureaucracy and introduce more democratic and accountable procedures.

In our short existence, since last fall, AWDU has:
-formed student-worker organizing committees on nearly every one of the ten UC campuses
-run a strong campaign against a flawed contract agreement, which garnered 1400 votes. The “NO” vote lost, but we successfully organized 38.6% of the membership to vote against contract ratification. At UC Santa Cruz, we voted DOWN the contract, with 90% of voting members voting against ratification.
-won 40 seats on the local’s Joint Council, one of the important governing bodies of the local, resulting in the largest number of representatives on the Joint Council in at least 7 years, and perhaps in the existence of our local.
-begun organizing a slate of candidates for the important local elections in May, where ALL seats in the union leadership will be open
-joined with undergrads, faculty and other university employees in demonstrations and rallies to demand a cut in UC admiinstrative salaries and an expansion of those programs that teach California’s students
what democracy and civic responsibility mean today

Academic workers face a far different working environment than the factory workers often credited with establishing the union movement. As such, the organizational requirements necessary to meet the needs of a diverse and often isolated working group cannot remain the same as those developed in different industries. It seems apparent to us that a decentralized and localized union works better and smarter than a centralized and bureaucratized union. We take the events in Madison, WI and throughout the Middle East as confirmation of this thesis.

For those with ears to hear and eyes to see, workers and the poor across the world are demanding their right to determine their own future – we need neither a union bureaucracy nor wealthy and self-interested politicians to tell us what we need and how what we want is not possible. It has always been possible for bosses and politicians to feed off of workers and the unemployed, but we are organizing to say no more!

 

MARCH 16TH STATEWIDE DAY OF ACTION TO SUPPORT WORKING FAMILIES

Where in the country are front line workers being forced to take layoffs, pay cuts, and benefit cuts while top executives are getting bonuses? When these workers join together to fight this, where in the country are public officials calling for an end to collective bargaining?

Did you say Wisconsin? Think again.

University of California Regent David Crane is demanding to END the right for public sector workers to join together under one voice to advocate for our students, patients, and families. Additionally, UC executives have spent $3.5 million on a union busting law firm to take away basic rights – such as the right to strike. UC has even banned union buttons and stickers at the UC Irvine Medical Center.

While UC officials continue to give extra pay and retirement perks to executives, they want to cut vital services by laying off staff, and rolling back wages and benefits. Some workers make as little as $26,000 a year and fear being forced out of their homes because of the drastic cuts.

We must stand together March 16 to fight these unjust cuts:

UCB – 12 pm at Bancroft and Telegraph

UCSF 8am – Mission Bay (1675 Owens St) 12-1pm – Parnassus (513 Parnassus Ave)

UCD 12-1:00pm – UCDMC (2301 Stockton Blvd, Sacramento) 3-5pm UCD Campus (Russell & Larue)

UCSC 3-5pm Quarry Plaza, Baytree Bookstore

UCLA 11:30am – 1:30pm, and 2pm-4:30pm RRMC on Westwood

UCSB 12-1:30pm Chealde Hall

UCI 11:30am – 1:30pm – UCIMC (City Dr/Medical Ctr Dr) (Campus action – March 15, 11am-12:30pm by the flagpoles)

UCR 11:30-2:30pm Pentland Building “A”

UCSD 11:30 – 12:30pm – Hillcrest Hospital 11:30 – 12:30pm – Thornton Hospital
For more information call 510-844-1160

 

Over the last few months, we’ve all noticed the increased volume of emails from UAW Local 2865 Statewide Leadership to the membership, with many of the messages focusing on social justice issues (such as the fight to protect collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin).  While I am always pleased to see our union pay more attention to social and economic justice, it is no coincidence that this sudden surge coincides with the mobilizing done by AWDU and follows a rank-and-file challenge to a complacent Executive Board during the contract ratification vote.  Our union leadership is suddenly worried–worried that all the effort they didn’t put into organizing, mobilization, and social justice over the past decade could cause them to lose power in the upcoming elections.  And so now, at least until the May elections, they are going to act like the leadership that we’ve been demanding for years.

Thus, we have today’s “Action Alert” email from the UAW leadership.  Here is the complete text, as sent to members at Berkeley and Santa Cruz:

SAY NO TO REGENT DESIGNEE DAVID CRANE

As academic student employees face the results of years of budget cuts and fee increases, we rely heavily on the gains made through collective bargaining to fight back against the ever-increasing attacks on higher education and on the public sector in general.  We can’t afford to be complacent about defending our right to organize and bargain collectively. The nation-wide movement to eliminate that right has powerful friends here in California- even right here at the U.C.

On his way out the door, Governor Schwarzenegger appointed multi-millionaire investor David Crane to the UC board of Regents. Following the lead of Wisconsin Governor Walker, Crane recently authored an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle calling for the elimination of collective bargaining rights for public sector employees.

In response Crane’s op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has mounted a campaign to prevent Crane’s confirmation to the Board of Regents.

“I thought we had already seen the height of arrogance by UC Regents,” said Yee in a press release. “It is time for Regent Crane to put away his Wisconsin playbook and come down from his ivory tower.”

“While the Regents have approved million dollar contracts for their top administrators, they allow many UC workers and their families to live in poverty,” said Yee.  “Now, Regent Crane wants to take away their only avenue to earning a livable wage and a respectable retirement – their collective bargaining rights.”

Source: <http://dist08.casen.govoffice.com/index.asp?Type=B_PR&SEC>

In times like these, the UC needs leadership that understands the challenges facing higher education, and will stick up for ordinary Californians. Instead, the Board of Regents is chock full of ideologues and wealthy friends of the Governor.

We urge our members to join Senator Yee in calling for a “no” vote on Crane’s confirmation. Our colleagues at AFSCME Local 3299, representing service and health care employees at the UC have set up an online letter to California Senate President Pro-Tempore Darrell Steinberg. Tell Senator Steinberg: Don’t let Crane silence our voices!  Take action to stop Crane’s confirmation and protect the vital services provided at the UC and in our communities by public employees!

Make no mistake: we can and should fight–and fight HARD–against the appointment of David Crane as UC Regent.  However, the problem is that this email doesn’t actually offer any resources to do that!  We are told to “tell Senator Steinberg” to oppose Crane.  How?  What is his phone number?  His email?  We are told that AFSCME Local 3299 has set up an online petition.  Where?  How do we sign it?  In other words, our leadership sent us an “Action Alert” that doesn’t actually contain in it any resources for action.

On the one hand, I don’t want to make too big a deal out of an omission in an email that was probably written in haste.  On the other hand, the most important part of this email is the part that got omitted.  The result is a message that invites member participation and simultaneously provides no resources for it.

And it’s not just this email.  Most of the Bargaining Updates from the last contract campaign ended with a stock phrase about “getting involved” and an exhortation to contact your campus office–without mentioning, of course, that there were almost never any actions for members to take if you did call.  And then there was the recent email to the membership about the California state budget that ended with this rousing call to action: “once further details are available, we will let you know.”  These are calls to action that, for the most part, are missing the action.

While I am glad that our Executive Board has a newly-discovered willingness to email the membership, I think we could ask for a bit more.  And while including basic resources (like Senator contact information or petition URLs) in a call to action would be an improvement, this too seems like setting the bar too low.  Our goal should be a union in which the members decide what actions to take and how to take those actions.  While we should certainly make lobbying phone calls to Senator Steinberg and while we should all sign an online petition (N.B., sign here), we could go beyond this.  We could talk with each other about what we could do on our own campuses and beyond.  We could work with our students and our colleagues.  We could plan our own actions.  In other words, we could organize ourselves and then tell the Executive Board how we are going to fight.  And then we could demand that they support us.

Note:  In contrast to the Executive Board’s email, check out this “Action Alert” sent out yesterday by AFSCME (and PLEASE use the resources in it to actually take action!):

UC Regent designate David Crane is taking cues from Wisconsin Gov. Walker by calling  to end collective bargaining for California’s teachers, nurses, fire fighters and other public workers, as seen in his recent SF Chronicle Op Ed.  He makes a subtle distinction between those with statutory civil service protections and those without.  But civil service laws do not provide a voice at work for public employees through which we are able to effectively advocate for our patients, students, and the public we serve daily.  Nor do these laws allow us to speak out against executive greed or fight to protect the wages and benefits our families depend on.

We have a chance to kill David Crane’s nomination before it even goes to Gov. Brown’s desk; Crane’s nomination has to pass through the Democrat controlled Rules Committee before it goes to a full vote of the Senate. If the rules committee doesn’t pass his nomination forward, then he’s no longer a Regent!

Please call Senator Darrell Steinberg,  majority leader in the Senate and chair of the Rules Committee ASAP with this message: (916)-651-4006

“I’m a member of the UC community and a voter, and I strongly oppose David Crane’s nomination to the UC Board of Regents because of his public stance opposing collective bargaining for public workers.  Collective bargaining is the only voice workers at the UC have to stand up for the students and patients we serve. For the sake of workers, students, faculty and our mission of a truly public university, I want him removed immediately!”

Calls today will be extremely effective in pressuring Democrats not to even forward Crane’s union-busting name on to the Senate. They will also be registered by the entire Democratic leadership as Steinberg is a top Dem leader in the entire legislature.

Passed unanimously at the monthly membership meeting on 2/28/11.

RESOLUTION: CAMPUS CONTACT NAMES AND CAMPUS EMAIL ADDRESS SHOULD BE INCLUDED IN ALL OFFICIAL COMMUNICATIONS WITH SANTA CRUZ MEMBERSHIP

WHEREAS, each campus unit of UAW Local 2865 elects its own campus leaders; and

WHEREAS, campus leaders serve as an initial point of contact between members and Local leadership; and

WHEREAS, members on each campus should know the names of their campus leaders and how to contact them; and

WHEREAS, each campus, including Santa Cruz, has a designated UAW campus email account for purposes of official contact with members; and

WHEREAS, most emails to Santa Cruz membership from the statewide leadership do not contain names or contact information for campus leaders; and

WHEREAS, at least one recent email to Santa Cruz membership from the statewide leadership did not include the official Santa Cruz UAW email (santacruz@uaw2865.org), but instead asked members to reply to a statewide address; Therefore be it

RESOLVED, that the Santa Cruz unit requires that all future emails from UAW Local 2865 to members of the Santa Cruz unit include the names and positions of the elected UAW Local 2865 campus leaders at Santa Cruz; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Santa Cruz unit requires that all future emails from UAW Local 2865 to members of the Santa Cruz unit include the campus UAW email (santacruz@uaw2865.org) as the designated “Reply-To” email address; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Santa Cruz unit requires that the official Santa Cruz UAW email (santacruz@uaw2865.org) serve as the default response email address for all organizing and action appeals made to Santa Cruz members by the statewide leadership; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Santa Cruz unit will notify the UAW Local 2865 statewide leadership of this resolution.

Hello, everyone. My name is S.M.R., and I’m a graduate student here at UCSC. I’m here representing our campus’ branch of the UAW, the TA union. I’m also a member of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, a reform caucus of our UAW local working to create a more democratically organized TA union.

We are all here today to defend public education. Education is a human right. A real democratic society, a society in which all truly have a voice and a chance to actually pursue happiness, cannot exist without an educated public. Without making possible universal access to higher education, a society cannot call itself truly democratic. The corporate interest-driven assault on public education happening in California, as well as across the country and the world, amounts to an attempt by the ruling classes to recreate a kind of feudalism in a corporate model. As we speak, Gov. Brown is pushing for an extra $1.4 billion in cuts to the UC, the Cal States, and the community colleges. The budget cuts handed down already by the UC Administration and the state have resulted in 40,000 fewer students being admitted to the Cal States, and 250,000 fewer being admitted to the community colleges. The community colleges, which are quickly becoming the last possibility for higher education for people from the working class and many students of color, will lose in the vicinity of 350,000 further admissions slots in the next year. That is seven hundred and forty thousand more people, in California alone, who now cannot attend any college.

Meanwhile, cuts to our own UC system have resulted in the layoffs of thousands of workers, staff members, and lecturers, forced others to take furloughs, led to the destruction of the Community Studies and American studies programs, and have caused the cutting of classes to such an extent that many undergrads are now taking a fifth year they can’t afford because they can’t get into courses required for their majors. Fee hikes have driven undergraduates to drop out. The number of TAships available to graduate students at UCSC have been slashed, TAs were recently refused a real raise by the university, and TA workload protections are under threat. More and more graduate students are dropping out for financial reasons, and many of these are among the most experienced TAs. The more the UC makes the lives of graduate student employees impossible, the more TAships it cuts, the more students it puts in our sections, the harder it becomes to do our jobs. Undergraduates rely on our being able to do our jobs properly; we teach their sections and their labs, we grade their papers and tests. The more our experience as grad students suffer, the more our ability to do our jobs is constrained if not outright made impossible, the more we have to spend time looking for extra work and worrying about funding, the more the quality of education for the undergraduates suffers. The execs raised the fees extravagantly, and meanwhile the undergraduates are getting less and less in return for all that money and the debts most students have to incur to pay it.

This state, and the UC system, once believed what I do: that Education is a human right. That higher education should be free and accessible to all, because education was vital to creating an informed public and a truly democratic society. This state can believe that again. We’ve already forced Mark Yudof to promise no more fee hikes for the time being; now we demand that the hikes be rolled back, that UC employees be given the support and respect they deserve, that graduate student employees be given a living wage and better living conditions, that an Ethnic Studies Department be created, and that the undergraduate student body be given the education it deserves, with that education accessible to all. They tell us the money isn’t there; yes, it is. We live in a state overflowing with the mega-rich, people who pay property takes at 1978 levels, and instead of taxing them, Gov. Brown is proposing regressive taxes that will impact the working and middle classes instead of the people who actually have the money. It is time for the rich to pay up. It is time for the state to get its priorities straight, and it is time for public institutions like the UC to stop behaving like corporations. This is not a corporation; this is a school, and a system, founded for the public good, and these millionaires in charge are supposed to be civil servants, not corporate executives. The privatization of the public university must be fought as hard as we can fight it. Education is a human right.

At the UAW 2865 monthly membership meeting at UC Santa Cruz on Monday, February 28th, 2011, members of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union proposed the following resolution in support of a fair contract for clerical employees represented by CUE-Teamsters. The resolution passed unanimously.

RESOLUTION: FAIR CONTRACT FOR CUE-TEAMSTERS

UAW Local 2865 Santa Cruz Unit

WHEREAS, workers represented by CUE-Teamsters perform essential work for the University of California–at Santa Cruz and throughout the UC system; and

WHEREAS, these workers perform complex jobs that require a broad range of knowledge and skills; and

WHEREAS, many of these workers have seen their duties increase significantly as UCOP has made budget cuts; and

WHEREAS, the clerical workers at UC Santa Cruz are already under-compensated compared to non-UC clerical workers in the Santa Cruz area; and

WHEREAS, the clerical workers at UC Santa Cruz face significant cost increases in their health care plans due to UCOP’s disregard of regional inequities in health care; and

WHEREAS, the average salary for clerical workers at UC Santa Cruz is approximately $35,000/year, while nearly 3200 “senior executives” in the UC system are paid more than $214,000/year; and

WHEREAS, the workers represented by CUE-Teamsters have been in bargaining with UCOP for a new contract since 2008; and

WHEREAS, the UC has shown a manifest unwillingness to come to terms on a fair contract for employees represented CUE-Teamsters; Therefore be it

RESOLVED, that UAW Local 2865 Santa Cruz Unit calls on UCOP to bargain in good faith with CUE-Teamsters; and be it further

RESOLVED, that UAW Local 2865 Santa Cruz Unit calls on UCOP to resolve a fair contract that recognizes the importance of the work performed by clerical employees at UC Santa Cruz and throughout the UC; and be it further

RESOLVED, that UAW Local 2865 Santa Cruz Unit will support CUE-Teamsters in any and all actions that they deem necessary to secure a fair contract; and be it further

RESOLVED, that UAW Local 2865 Santa Cruz Unit urges all of its members to participate in any and all actions that CUE-Teamsters organizes to secure a fair contract; and be it further

RESOLVED, that UAW Local 2865 Santa Cruz Unit will inform UCOP of this resolution.

Passed 2/28/11.


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