Hypocritical student “activists” at UC Berkeley have criticized UC Berkeley’s Police Department for its forthcoming acquisition of a Lenco Ballistic Engineered Armoured Response Counter Attack Truck (BearCat), even going so far as to launch a “petition” which seems to call upon UCPD to desist from procuring this vehicle. This “petition” is based on crass political calculations. By its very nature it cannot stoke enough outrage to stop the procurement at UC Berkeley, but it could slow down the acquisition of much-needed armored vehicles throughout the rest of the UC system.

We call upon the UCSC Administration and the UCSC Police Department to take immediate steps to procure an armored vehicle at UC Santa Cruz!

We would like to suggest a bright yellow, jointed armored banana slug, equipped with hydraulic tentacles to clear barriers and a Long Range Acoustic Device for non-lethal crowd dispersion – something offering the level of security of a BearCat Riot Control while tastefully displaying our school spirit.

Surely we at Santa Cruz deserve no less, in order to face large incidents such the unsanctioned gathering known as “4-20” and overly excited patrons at the Grateful Dead Archives – not to mention repeated rounds of vigorous advocacy in support of public education.

Furthermore, we consider any attempt to restrict the procurement of armored vehicles to be an unconscionable restriction on the self-expression of UC President Mark Yudof, who clearly belongs inside one of these babies. We hope to welcome him at UC Santa Cruz for a christening ceremony for our new armored slug no later than December 1, 2012.

***

UPDATE: it looks like a BearCat will not be coming soon to Cal. We’re still coming up with good uses for one at Santa Cruz. The way shuttle service has been cut back lately, maybe TAPS needs a BearCat as part of its fleet?

yudoftank

UC President Mark Yudof at the Lenco Armored Vehicles test facility, Pittsfield, MA, May 2012

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.

Madison, WI, Feb 18, 2011 (cc license shaggyisaac on Flickr)

The past week has seen an intensification of the fight over public sector work in the US. From our allies at Berkeley:

AFSCME is planning a solidarity rally in Sacramento this Tuesday, February 22nd. Vans or buses will hopefully be going from Berkeley in the afternoon, get in touch (berkeley@uaw2865.org) if you’re interested!

Amidst growing nationwide attempts to demonize public sector workers and their unions, Wisconsin has emerged this week as the first major battleground for the future of public sector unions. At least 30,000 workers and students have been out protesting in Madison for the last three days.

The newly elected Republican Governor revealed his radically aggressive attack on workers’ rights last week. His plan would increase pension contributions from workers to almost 6% of pay, increase the percentage of health care premiums that workers pay to 12.6%, and drastically limit collective bargaining rights so that unions can only bargain over wages (not benefits or rights), must renegotiate contracts every year and must seek recognition from their members every year, and would no longer be able to collect dues through payroll deductions. It’s not hard to see that these measures would effectively destroy public sector unions, whose operating budgets would hugely increase as their ability to protect workers hugely decreases.

Worse yet, faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin would lose their rights to unionize completely–faculty just gained union recognition in 2009.

But if the Governor thought he could force this legislation through while public employees were stuck in a state of shock, he vastly miscalculated. Tens of thousands of public workers, including public school teachers, unionized graduate student assistants, faculty and students have been filling the streets of Madison and the Capitol building itself for three days now. They’ve gotten support from firefighters, whose benefits and collective bargaining rights were not threatened by the legislation. The teachers and faculty have the support of their students, who have been called the “soul of the protests.”

… [read the rest of the article]

We think it’s important as well to point out the racialized nature of the attack on public sector workers in mainstream political discourse. From a recent article from ColorLines:

As tens of thousands of public sector workers in Wisconsin turn Madison into Tahrir Square, I’m nagged by a question: How much of the current demonization of public workers is racialized?

Yes, I get that this is plainly a budget debate: States are broke and the new surge of conservatives in governor’s offices and legislatures would far rather cut pensions and benefits than raise taxes. And those politicians have convinced many struggling constituents that it’s their own pocketbooks versus the paychecks of public servants. That tension is heightened by residents’ frustrations with public services that have been so hobbled in recent decades that they often no longer work well—like, say, public schools.

I also get that, as many progressive commenters have noted, this is a straight out political fight. We’re witnessing the culmination of a decades’ long effort to destroy unions as the sole remaining check to corporate power in both federal and state government. Corporatists are plainly winning that fight, and the labor movement hasn’t always been its own best advocate. A Pew poll done in the first week of this month found public opinion of unions worse than it’s been in a quarter century—though, it found similarly historic lows for business.

But as governors and columnists have painted pictures of overpaid, underworked public employee in recent weeks, I have also seen the faint outline of familiar caricatures—welfare queens, Cadillacs in the projects, Mexican freeloaders. It’s hard to escape the fact that, in the states and localities with the biggest budget crunches (New Jersey, California, New York…) public employees are uniquely black.

… [read the rest of the article]

The struggle over public resources, public sector work, and social services promises to be significant all over the US this year. There are some difficult strategic and analytical questions we need to be posing. All over the country, eyes are turned to the struggle in Wisconsin. The fightback has been inspiring, but it remains to be seen whether victory is possible, what victory would look like, and how developments there will set the stage for other struggles this year.

(via AWaDU)

Dear UAW activists,

In the course of the contract ratification vote, there has been a significant change among the members of our local. For some of us, this is a change we have been working for in more or less organized ways for months or years. We have been raising concerns about our union and working every day to develop in practical terms a different kind of unionism; one that is more democratic, more participatory but also more militant. In the process of these negotiations we have managed to involve (from the beginning of bargaining to the ratification vote) dozens of UAW members who have become activists and hundreds of members who are now aware of and engaged in their union.

At UC Berkeley, we have been able to accomplish this because we organized ourselves in an independent caucus (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union). The caucus provides us with a way to work within the official structures of the union, while still clearly and respectfully expressing our differing views of how a union should function—and putting those views into practice.

AWaDU has been an amazing tool to organize the rank-and-file members at UC Berkeley. We have more than 40 members now, and an active network of close to 300 members. UC Santa Cruz also has an active caucus, which has managed to expand itself through the election campaign. Santa Cruz was the starting point of the last attempt to build a reform movement in our local, UAW Members for Quality Education and Democracy (UAW-QUAD), which was formed in 2007. In fact, throughout the history of our local rank-and-file activists have been working to create a more democratic and active union. (more…)

We here at Santa Cruz (G)SOC or the incipient Santa Cruz chapter of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union or whatever we are these days are still a little woozy from the UAW 2865 ratification vote that took place this past week, and we’re still digesting certain aspects of it. On our campus, the “no” side won 187-20, while statewide the “yes” side won 2421 –  1457. Clearly, we are disappointed with this outcome.

That said, a lot of positive things came out of this contested campaign.

  • The no vote galvanized people all around the state to build a bottom-up, democratic, fighting union worthy of the name, in solidarity with our students in university struggles. The campaign energized hundreds of TAs, readers, and tutors around the state who have felt disaffected from the union’s official line of march. We took significant strides to broaden and deepen our ties. The history of our local is strewn with former activists who got burnt out by the autocratic, pyramidal, and often bizarrely ineffective organizing style of our union officialdom’s central clique. In the past, those people have usually drifted away from labor politics and campus activism entirely. Now, we have begun to find each other to a degree which is both qualitatively and quantitatively significant. And we’re not going away.
  • Berkeley and Santa Cruz voters rejected the contract in droves, 79% and 90% respectively, with the greatest levels of turnout we’ve had for any union vote in over a decade. 58% of Irvine voters and 41% of Davis voters also voted against this contract. Statewide, election turnout was extraordinarily high, and this was reflective of the fact that people were engaged in a contentious, democratic discussion about the union for the first time in years.

There are things about this vote that leave a bitter taste in our mouths.

The elephant in the room (insert your own favorite hackneyed metaphor here) is the question of whether there was vote fraud in this election, and, more generally, whether the voting procedure was free, fair, and transparent. We should emphasize that this concern is not just the “sour grapes” of no vote campaigners; it’s being raised independently by rank-and-file members who were uninvolved in campaigning. There are at least four related concerns: 1) was there fraud, 2) was it enough to change the outcome, 3) what is the political, strategic efficacy of no-vote forces focusing on the question of fraud, and 4) were voting procedures free, fair, and transparent, and if not, how can we hold the officialdom’s feet to the fire, avoid their usual shenanigans with the bylaws, and get free, fair, and transparent procedures next time? (more…)

In the final hours of voting on a proposed contract (go vote if you haven’t!), serious concerns have emerged about whether the UAW 2865 contract ratification vote has been administered and will be counted in a free, fair, and transparent manner. We believe that there are probably  enough “no” votes for us to win this election even with a certain amount of fraud and/or tampering on the part of Administration Caucus members. (The Administration Caucus has been the central apparatus of the UAW’s single-party state for over 60 years, and the entire inner circle of UAW 2865 leadership are Administration Caucus members.)

  • There are concerns concerns that votes will be counted in an irregular manner. The chair of the Elections Committee, Fawn Huisman, has refused to share information with the Elections Committee members on other campuses about daily campus turnout figures, despite stipulating before the beginning of the vote that she would do so. When asked the reasons for this change by Elections Committee members and dozens of rank-and-file members, she offered no explanation.
  • This makes it impossible for members of the elections committee to track possible irregularities in campus voting patterns day-by-day.
  • The chair of the Elections Committee, Fawn Huisman, stipulated a procedure in which there would be no count of the votes on each campus; instead, all votes are being sent to the union’s UCLA office to be counted. (The union’s headquarters are in Berkeley, so this choice of location already raises eyebrows.)
  • For every previous union election, votes have been counted on each individual campus and the results sent to statewide headquarters.
  • This is the first seriously contested election in the history of the local, since certification at UC Santa Barbara.
  • There are allegations that the same leadership team fixed the results of a previous vote. (See “Pyrrhic Victory at UC Santa Barbara: The Struggle for Labor’s New Identity.” Pp. 91-116 in Cogs in the Classroom Factory: The Changing Identity of Academic Labor, edited by D. M. Herman and J. M. Schmid. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, p. 105.)
  • There have been other, local irregularities:
    • Use of a transparent ballot box at UC Santa Barbara – one side of which remained transparent days later in the vote after it was first brought to the attention of elections officials.
    • Poll-workers who are paid staff at UC Irvine telling voters how to vote, in violation of a union rule that electioneering must take place at least 10 feet from the polls.
  • Two scenarios for vote-tampering have been suggested:
    • Top Administration Caucus members could stuff the ballot boxes and alter the voting rolls at Southern California campuses where are running the elections and have easy access to the ballot box outside of voting hours.
    • Top Administration Caucus members could replace entire sets of ballots from those campuses with “yes” votes and mix the ballots from various campuses before counting them.

In light of these concerns, we demand a campus-by-campus tally of the votes tonight so that members can have faith in the results. We also demand that all Elections Committee members have full access to voting rolls and day-by-day turnout figures for every campus.

We realize these are serious allegations. Our concerns about possible fraud are just that – concerns, based on real historical patterns and current anomalies. We have just received word that members will be allowed to observe the vote count, a positive sign for transparency.

To those who would use these concerns to fuel an anti-union agenda here or elsewhere: get your sorry act out of here. We are pro-union, and we are engaged in the process of reforming our union, fighting for transparency and a real contract campaign, because teaching assistants, readers, and tutors need a democratic, creative union consisting of all of us fighting for fair treatment on the job in solidarity with students and other campus workers. We criticize officials who have misused our union, but we will not allow their misdeeds or anti-union propaganda to divide us.

¡Adelante!

Update: Each campus will be allowed one No and one Yes challenger and all union members will be permitted access to witness the ballot counting.

Counting will start 10pm or later.  Having members present will pressure union officials to be civil.  PLEASE JOIN US! @UAW UCLA office, 900 Hilgard Ave., Suite 311, Los Angeles, CA 90024

Very helpful guide to the tentative agreement on a new contract for teaching assistants, readers, and tutors from our friends at Academic Workers for a Democratic Union:

What am I voting on?

On Tuesday November 16th, a tentative agreement was reached between the representatives of the UC and the UAW Local 2865 bargaining team on a new contract. As per the Local bylaws, this agreement is subject to ratification by a majority of voting members. The election will be held Monday November 29th through Thursday December 2nd.

Why are you recommending a ‘no’ vote?

Simply put, the agreement as it stands is not good enough. The wage offer (2% per year) is an insult to underpaid and overworked ASEs, and the childcare subsidy, whilst a step forward, is still wholly insufficient for those ASEs who need it. But there is also a larger issue of how the contract campaign was run. The failure to seriously engage members in the campaign, the top-down and undemocratic nature of decision making about strategy, and the failure to properly prepare for possible strike action, made a weak contract almost inevitable.

But didn’t the UC offer us the possibility of more than a 2% annual wage increase?

Yes, but it is very unlikely that we would get more than 2%.To see raises above 2% would require that the state allocation to the UC increase beyond the 2007-8 level. Given the cuts to that funding in the last two years, it is improbable that the 2007-8 level will be restored, let alone exceeded, during the lifetime of this agreement.

Ok, but isn’t asking for better wages unrealistic?

By organizing and involving members more effectively in the bargaining process we have the power to exert far greater pressure on the UC than we have done to date. Such pressure could very well result in a much better offer. The fact is that the potential strength of this union has not been fully realized.

But the UC says there’s no money for pay increases.

That’s a fiction as even the most cursory glance at the facts reveals. For example, in the past year alone, the UC has paid out more than $11.5 million in bonuses to executives, and last year spent more than $2 million on bottled water. To put that in context, providing decent childcare subsidies that actually meet the cost of such care would cost, SYSTEMWIDE, around $500,000 per year, and a 4% raise would cost around $6 million per year. But as the faculty group SAVE has pointed out (along with many others) the issue is deeper and more structural. There is a serious problem of administrative bloat in the UC. For instance, 25 years ago there were 4 vice-chancellors at Berkeley, now there are 10, each with their own staff of assistants and advisors. Do we need such people more than we need well-paid ASEs? (more…)