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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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

 

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 general strike if Wisconsin passes legislation stripping Wisconsin’s public workers of their collective bargaining rights. The resolution passed unanimously.

Resolution in Solidarity with the Public Workers of Wisconsin:

WHEREAS, Working people in the state of Wisconsin are standing up to Governor Scott Walker’s recent attempts to strip public employee unions of collective bargaining rights; and

WHEREAS, Governor Walker has moved to cut taxes for the richest citizens and largest corporations of Wisconsin while cutting funding for the services all Wisconsites depend on – including but not limited to services such as public education and public safety – a plan estimated to remove hundreds of millions dollars from the state’s budget, further deepening Wisconsin’s fiscal crisis without providing a fair solution for all citizens of the state; and

WHEREAS, Governor Walker has admitted that the proposal to eliminate collective bargaining rights for public workers is not a budget issue at all, but is instead simply the initial step in a much broader attack on unions and workers’ rights that threatens to spread; and

WHEREAS, The dire situation faced by working people of the state of Wisconsin –unionized or not – is part of a general assault in the United States and throughout the world against public education, against the public sector more generally, and particularly against working people; and

WHEREAS, if the bill in Wisconsin attacking the right of public workers to collectively bargain passes, this portends a much broader attack on the union rights of public workers in other states. In Ohio, a bill has already been introduced to limit the rights of public workers to collectively bargain and in California lawmakers have introduced a bill that would do away with collective bargaining of the state’s pension benefits; and

WHEREAS, public sector employees are disproportionately women and people of color; and

WHEREAS, Governor Walker’s attacks on organized labor will disproportionately negatively impact poor and working people; and

WHEREAS, We are proud to be Union Workers, and Proud of our Sisters and Brothers standing up to this attack in Wisconsin; and

WHEREAS, We are strongest when we stand and fight together,

WHEREAS, the people of Wisconsin have a long history of bravely standing up for their rights as workers, a courage exemplified today by the Wisconsin Federation of Teachers, the Teaching Assistant Association, the Service Workers’ International Union, and AFCSME, to name but a few; and

WHEREAS, Wisconsin has always been a paragon of working-class, labor, and union values;

Be it RESOLVED: The United Auto Workers Union Local 2865, Santa Cruz, representing Academic Student Employees of the University of California, Santa Cruz do hereby support and call on its members, and workers throughout the United States, to heed the call for a GENERAL STRIKE called for by our Sisters and Brothers in Wisconsin’s South Central Federation of Labor if Governor Walker of Wisconsin succeeds in his efforts to roll back over 50 years of progress fought for and won by organized labor in the United States of America.

Be it further RESOLVED that we encourage other units in our local to pass similar resolutions.

Solidarity Forever.

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

The UAW 2865, the union that represents 12,000 Teaching Assistants, Grad Student Instructors, Readers, and Tutors at the University of California, is extremely centralized.** Nobody can so much as jump without the President authorizing the lifting of our feet off of the ground.

The President has the authority to appoint people to any position within our Union. The appointee stays in their position until the next Vacancy Election. Why bother having an election, when the President can appoint their hand-picked choice?

Most recently, last Friday, February 18th, during the Executive Board meeting of UAW 2865, Christine Petit announced her resignation as president of the Local. Per our bylaws a new president can only be elected in next May’s (2011) triennial election, and not in Vacancy Elections. (edit: this post has been edited to reflect this clarified understanding of the bylaws)

Our bylaws also stipulate that, with the President’s resignation, Daraka Larimore-Hall, a long-time member of the Administration Caucus, as Northern Vice President automatically became President. Now, rather than call another Vacancy Election, Daraka will appoint somebody as Northern Vice President. Rather than resign prior to the vacancy election, and allow members to actually elect our next Northern Vice President, Christine chose to resign before the last election and therefore guarantee that the new president, member of the Administration Caucus, will have the power to appoint the next Northern Vice President.  (UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, The Daily Cal, published an article that can be found here.)

On February 3, 2011 the Election results were announced for our recent statewide Vacancy Election. The new Executive Board members are listed: Jeff Otter, Cheryl Deutsch, and Charlie Eaton. Yet, something curious happened – the UAW website (uaw2865.org) listed Filiberto Nolasco as “Guide-Elect,” though nobody actually ran for the empty Guide position (which, incidentally, Filiberto had vacated just a few weeks earlier). Filiberto recently confirmed that he was appointed to the Guide position by the President. The statewide Elections Committee, on which I sit as the UC Santa Cruz representative, wasn’t even notified of the decision.

Also, at UC Irvine the Unit Chair was recently removed from his position by the President/E-Board for not attending Union meetings. Rather than hold a vacancy election to elect a new Unit Chair, and despite the protests of the reform-minded elected leadership at Irvine, the President of the Union insisted that somebody must be appointed.

Our Union cannot claim to be democratic when the President has the power to appoint people to any position he/she pleases. Our union leadership can only be truly representative if the membership elects their own representatives. This should be obvious, and yet our leadership suppresses all efforts at reforming the Union to make it more democratic.  It’s clear that a Union is only as strong as its membership is engaged and mobilized, and we cannot expect members to get involved in an unrepresentative, top-down union, one that sees it’s members as foot soldiers to carry out decisions made by a small group of distant people on the Executive Board.

Academic Workers for a Democratic Unions is organizing to reform UAW 2865 – to empower members, to make our Union more democratic so that we can mobilize to defend our rights as workers at the University of California and join the larger struggle in defense of public education and social justice.

A strong union is a democratic union.

**A list of other Anti-Democratic Practices Within UAW 2865:

All emails are vetted by the statewide President of the local – campus leadership don’t have access members’ emails.

All written materials and websites must be vetted by the President. Even campus leadership (head stewards, Recording Secretary, Unit Chair) aren’t allowed to create a flyer without it being edited and approved by the President of the Local.

All campus-based actions, events, and campaigns must be approved by the President, the Executive Board or the Joint Council. Dare to organize an unauthorized protest, and risk being yelled at by statewide leadership or removed from your elected position within the Union.

The Joint Council, which meets quarterly and consists of representatives from each UC campus represented by the UAW (so not UCSF), is controlled by the Executive Board, the President, and UAW International staff. They come to Joint Council meetings with a set agenda and a series of reports and essentially suppress most proposals they don’t suggest themselves.

Each campus leadership does not have automatic access to at least minimal funds to use to make flyers, buy refreshments, reserve rooms, etc. We can’t even buy a ream of colored paper without the President asking us to pledge not to use said paper for “unauthorized” petitions, flyers, or other literature.

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 (uaw2865.org) 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.