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:


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.