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]

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