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To the tune of “Rocky Racoon” by the Beatles.

AWDU walked into the room
only to find lonely ballots
AWDU had come to spoil the fun
of all those Admin Caucus bosses

Our rivals it seems had broken our dreams
by ditching the votes of our members

The turnout was high, but USEJ denied to count Berkeley’s 800 ballots

A nice volunteer, got caught in a smear for putting together the boxes
The big guy walked in and grinning his grin, said, “kenny, boy, smile for the camera!”

We got on HuffPo, it wasn’t enough though,
they kept up their tactical stalling.

We said, “USEJ you met your match!
You better count that last batch
or the rank-n-file, the rank-n-file will come calling!”

A.W.D.U kept watching the room,
forced USEJ back to the table.
The ballots checked out and they left no doubt
of union democracy’s revival!

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Dear fellow graduate and undergraduate students,

We are excited to announce that our votes have finally been counted and our reform slate has won 75% of positions on our UAW 2865 union Joint Council!  The 80-member Joint Council is the highest elected body of our union with representatives from every campus.

55% of voters also cast their ballots for our Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) reform slate for the UAW 2865 Executive Board – electing our candidates to all 10 positions on the Board.  The Elections Committee has certified these election results as true and fair.  You can get the full results at www.awdu.org.

The election itself and our struggle to count every vote has already transformed our union.  The debate and struggle were contentious.  But this struggle opened up a huge new space for thousands of our members to participate in deciding how to defend our interests as a union.  Turnout in the election increased to about 3,400 votes from just a few hundred votes in the last Triennial Election for the Joint Council and Executive Board.

The struggle to count the votes also deepened member involvement in our union.  Last Saturday, when three members of the election committee halted the vote count, abandoning the ballots of 1500 members regardless of their votes, UAW members spoke up.  Thousands of members wrote letters, signed petitions, and made phone calls to demand that the votes be counted.  Members organized to guard the ballots that the statewide officials abandoned in the UCLA office.  Members rallied, marched, and sat-down at the UAW statewide office.  It was an unprecedented display of member power and the result was the resumption of vote counting by the statewide officials.

Now it is time for us to bring this strength to our fight against the attacks on higher education.  As a next step, we are calling on all graduate students and undergraduate tutors – no matter who they supported in the election – to come together for a statewide membership meeting of the union on May 21st to chart the way forward.  We’ll get you more details soon.  But high on the agenda is stepping up the fight against increasing class sizes, fee hikes, rising housing costs, new budget cuts, and UC management’s capping of funding for fee remissions and health benefits for graduate student employees.

We will stand together against the attacks on higher education, in real unity borne of fruitful discussion that includes disagreement.  A grassroots, bottom-up union is strong when it provides space for open debate, and we hope that every member continues to express criticism when necessary.  We also know that many members of the USEJ slate and many USEJ supporters never wanted to stop the vote count in the first place.  We hope that the Elections Committee’s dismissal of the fabricated allegations by some of the outgoing union officers will help up us begin a more honest dialogue with each other.

The incredible diversity of our newly elected Joint Council and entire union is a vital strength that we must actively build upon.  By working together, including with the new Joint Council members from USEJ, we will win historic advances for the rights of student-workers and the expansion of public education.  We look forward to building a new kind of union together.

In Solidarity,

Amanda Armstrong, Rhetoric – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

Matt Bonal, Rhetoric – UC Berkeley

Rachel Brahinsky, Geography – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

Shane Boyle, Performance Studies – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

Dan Buch, Sociology – UC Berkeley

Chris Chen, English – UC Berkeley

Kfir Cohen, Comparative Literature – UC Berkeley

Mandy Cohen, Comparative Literature – UC Berkeley – Statewide Recording Secretary-Elect

Rob Connell, African-American Studies – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

Alex Dubilet, Rhetoric – UC Berkeley

Charlie Eaton, Sociology – UC Berkeley – Financial Secretary-Elect

Barry Eidlin, Sociology – UC Berkeley

Eli Friedman, Sociology – UC Berkeley

Pablo Gaston – Sociology – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

Jessie Hock, Comparative Literature – UC Berkeley

Nick Kardahji, History – UC Berkeley – Trustee-Elect

Sarah Knuth, Geography – UC Berkeley

Katy Fox-Hodess, Sociology – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

Zachary Levenson, Sociology – UC Berkeley

Munira Lokhandwala, Film – UC Berkeley

Katherine Maich, Sociology, Berkeley

Callie Maidhof, Anthropology – UC Berkeley

Larissa Mann, Jurisprudence & Social Policy – UC Berkeley

Daniel Marcus, Art History – UC Berkeley

Micki McCoy, History of Art – UC Berkeley — Head Steward-Elect

Blanca Missé, French – UC Berkeley – Guide Elect

Megan O’Connor, English, Berkeley

Aaron Platt, Sociology – UC Berkeley

Manuel Rosaldo, Sociology – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

Gustavo Oliveira, Geography – UC Berkeley

Chris Schildt, City and Regional Planning – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

Jessica Smith, Chemistry – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

John Stehlin, Geography – UC Berkeley

Cate Talley, French – UC Berkeley

Alex Tarr, Geography – UC Berkeley

Jennifer Tucker, City and Regional Planning – UC Berkeley – Campus Unit Chair-Elect

Daniela Urban, Law – UC Berkeley

Megan Wachspress, Jurisprudence & Social Policy – UC Berkeley – Campus Recording Secretary-Elect

Josh Williams, Performance Studies – UC Berkeley – Head Steward-Elect

Brandon Wolf, Performance Studies – UC Berkeley

Molly Ball, English – UC Davis – Outgoing Campus Recording Secretary

Justin Clement, History – UC Davis – Campus Unit Chair-Elect

Tim Gutierrez, Sociology – UC Davis – Head Steward-Elect

Brenda Medina-Hernandez, History – UC Davis – Trustee-Elect

Andrew Morgan, History – UC Davis – Head Steward-Elect

Tom O’Donnell, History – UC Davis – Candidate for Head Steward

Nickolas Perrone, History – UC Davis – Campus Recording Secretary-Elect

Brian Riley, Education – UC Davis – Graduate Student Association Chair

Blake Ringeisen, Biological Systems Engineering – UC Davis

Jordan Scavo, History – UC Davis – Head Steward-Elect

Jessica Taal, Education – UC Davis – Head Steward-Elect

Chima Anyadike-Danes, Anthropology – UC Irvine – Head Steward-Elect

Jordan Brocious, Physics – UC Irvine – Sergeant-at-Arms-Elect

Ben Cox, Anthropology – UC Irvine – Head Steward-Elect

Cheryl Deutsch, Anthropology – UC Irvine – President-Elect

Anne Kelly, Earth System Science – UC Irvine – Campus Recording Secretary-Elect

Seneca Lindsey, Earth System Science – UC Irvine – Head Steward-Elect

Nick Seaver, Anthropolgy – UC Irvine

Bron Tamulis, Political Science – UC Irvine

Natali Valdez, Anthropology – UC Irvine

Robert Wood, Comparative Literature – UC Irvine – Campus Unit Chair-Elect

Carolina Beltran, Spanish & Portuguese – UCLA

Mindy Chen, Social Welfare – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward

Will Clark, English – UCLA

Erin Conley, English – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward

Yu-ting Huang, Comparative Literature – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward

Renee Hudson, English – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward

Dan Lichtenstein-Boris, Public Health – UCLA

Dustianne North, Social Welfare – UCLA

Alexei Nowak, Comparative Literature – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward

Jeremy Schmidt, English – UCLA – Candidate for Unit Chair

Hadley Theodara Suter, French – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward

Julia Tomassetti, Sociology – UCLA – Candidate for Recording Secretary

Zachary Williams, Political Science – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward

Elise Youn, Urban Planning – UCLA

Chris Carlson, Mathematics – UC Riverside – Steward-Elect

Elliott Kim, History – UC Riverside – Southern Vice President-Elect

John Armenta, Communications – UC San Diego – Candidate for Campus Recording Secretary

Muni Citrin, Communications – UC San Diego

John Higgins, Literature – UC San Diego – Candidate for Campus Unit Chair

Megan Turner, Literature, UC San Diego

Olivier Dufault, History – UC Santa Barbara

Sunny Lim, History – UC Santa Barbara

Josh Brahinsky, History of Consciousness – UC Santa Cruz – Campus Recording Secretary-Elect

Erin Ellison, Psychology – UC Santa Cruz

Rachel Fabian, Ocean Studies – UC Santa Cruz

Michelle Glowa, Environmental Studies – UC Santa Cruz – Head Steward-Elect

Donald Kingsbury, Politics – UC Santa Cruz

Jessy Lancaster, Psychology – UC Santa Cruz – Outgoing Campus Recording Secretary

Brian Malone, Literature – UC Santa Cruz – Outgoing Campus Unit Chair

Mark Paschal, History of Consciousness – UC Santa Cruz

Jeb Purucker, Literature – UC Santa Cruz

Sophie Rollins, Literature – UC Santa Cruz

Jeff Sanceri, History – UC Santa Cruz – Graduate Student Assembly President

Trevor Joy Sangrey, History of Consciousness – UC Santa Cruz

Sara Smith, Labor History – UC Santa Cruz – Northern Vice President-Elect

Anika Walke, History of Consciousness – UC Santa Cruz

Mary Virginia Watson, Politics – UC Santa Cruz – Campus Unit Chair-Elect

From the sit-in at the UCLA UAW office. Yuting Huang, AWDU candidate for Head Steward at UCLA, responds to USEJ’s slander.

We are very tired.

We are tired from sleeping on the office floor for the fifth night, only to make sure of the integrity of the ballots. When no attempts whatsoever had been made from either the current administrations of UAW 2865 or the candidates from USEJ (many of whom serve as current staff and leaders) to attend to the boxes, we took it upon ourselves to guard the two locked doors 24/7 because we respect the members who voted and we want their ballots to be counted.

We do not know whether counting the ballots will win us the election. Given how heavily outnumbered I was when campaigning at certain polling locations at UCLA, I personally do not think I will win a position. But this is an election, and counting the votes is what we should do. To do that, we must secure the integrity of the ballots. That is why we are doing what we are doing. We do not understand why the current leadership never made any attempt to secure the ballots. I believe they owe the voters the responsibility to secure the fairness of the ballots.

But while we struggle to do the job of the election committee neglected to do, everyday we wake up to yet another public slander on our friends from the current president of UAW 2865. They are slanders that use shiny keywords with immediate effect and little content, but they hurt, deeply.

I started the campaign talking to members on campus what we envision to be a better union. I was ecstatic to hold long conversations with students across the campus who share my concern for the budget cuts and the same devotion to our students. But four o’clock in the morning last Wednesday, the night after the first election day, I found myself writing a response to accusations of racism targeted at my slate. At noon on the same day, I found myself outside math science building, bewildered, trying to tell voters that we do not hate scientists, if ever the four canvassers from USEJ were not physically blocking me from getting near the voters. Today, I found myself reading another email from the UAW president telling me I am probably an intimidating, harrasing thug since I am an AWDU candidate.

I am five feet five, Asian, an international student, and a woman. I am indeed a humanities student, but I teach at least 10 science students every quarter in the past 6 quarters. I never thought of emphasizing any of these things because I am not running for identity, I am running for a vision of a democratic union.

I care to win only because I think the campus deserves a more involved union. But if the strategy to win requires public slanders and personal attacks, I do not care to win enough. I refuse to dance around their accusation and provocation any longer. I have never called anybody names, and I am not about to start. I will not stop fighting for public education, and it will just be a pity if I am not able to be involved in the union.

All my friends in AWDU share the same sentiment, and I am deeply sorry for my friends whose name have been thrown about in careless accusations.

We have just learned that the elections committee of our local convened today at 12:30pm and agreed to restart the counting at 9am on Thursday (5/5)! This is a huge victory for rank-and-file members who joined or supported the sit-in at the statewide offices in Berkeley and LA and for everyone who helped with emails, media contacts, petitions and with securing support from progressive faculty and labor activists!! By drawing on the proud tradition of rank-and-file activism and direct action in the US labor movement, the tradition which built the UAW in the first place, members made clear that they would not stand by and allow themselves to be disenfranchised.

AWDU candidates and supporters look forward to the resumption of the count and will be present to help ensure it proceeds without unnecessary delays or suspensions. It has been our position all along that win or lose, AWDU is committed to an elections process that is free and fair, and that allows ordinary members to decide how their union should be run, and by whom. Given the extraordinary and outrageous circumstances in which the count was suspended, we plan to continue the sit-in until the voting process is fully complete and a certified result has been issued.

After halting the vote count last night (in the face of a possible AWDU victory), UAW President Daraka Larimore-Hall sent a frantic (and bizarre) email to thousands of members across the UC system.  While we assume that most members will treat this email much like they treat any spam, a friend and colleague at UCSD has responded to Larimore-Hall reasonably and patiently.  We think this response effectively demolishes Larimore-Hall’s late-night ramblings and we publish relevant excerpts below:

“Later in the evening, I was forwarded an e-mail that Mr. Larimore-Hall allegedly sent to a list of supporters making allegations of vote tampering and homophobic slurs from AWDU representatives.  Regardless of truth value, the decision to air this kind of dirty laundry in public seems to pose a threat to the bargaining strength of our union.  It suggests to the University and the public more broadly that we are incapable of settling disputes and differences of opinion within our ranks in an orderly manner.  It feeds popular misconceptions about union corruption.  It also feeds misconceptions within the University about the immaturity of graduate students. Surely there must have been a tactful way to address your concerns of fraud and bullying that would have more properly balanced the rights of members to know the nature of the current disputes over the election, and yet also would have stopped short of feeding the types of popular misconceptions about the lack of process, democracy and maturity within graduate student communities and within organized labor.

“More alarmingly, some of the evidence to which Mr. Larimore-Hall points is dubious in the extreme.  He provides a photograph of an unnamed “AWDU supporter” that he claims is “opening and rummaging through” a ballot box while polls are open.  The photographic evidence does not seem to justify this claim in any way; the poll worker’s face is not visible, making him impossible to identify as an “AWDU supporter.”  The contents of the box are not visible, meaning that this could easily be a picture of somebody assembling an empty box rather than someone rummaging through a filled box.  Moreover, there is no tape on the top of the box (as there would be had it been sealed shut in order to accept ballots) further suggesting that the photograph does not actually depict what Mr. Larimore-Hall claims it does.  The supposed infraction is taking place in broad daylight and in a very public place (with neutral parties in plain sight); this seems a wholly unlikely scenario in which fraud would occur without being detected and stopped by a member of the public or of the union. No explanation is given as to why the person who took the photo did not immediately step in to prevent and report the alleged fraud as it was taking place.  I could probably go on and on.

“Once again, what’s at stake here is much larger than the substance of the claim that has been submitted.  Even if one were to assume that this is genuine evidence of election fraud – and nothing about the photo adequately justifies this claim – the decision to release such poor evidence of fraud in such a public manner, prior to any review hearings or any systematic response has been made, places Mr. Larimore-Hall’s judgment and discretion under suspicion and sheds a poor light on the union.

“My point in writing this letter is not to diminish the serious nature of the allegations of fraud being made at the moment.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  Charges of election fraud cast a long shadow on the actions of our union, and should be dealt with systematically, swiftly and with a realization that any verifiable instances of fraud stain not only to the person found guilty, but also the democratic structures and representative capabilities of our union as a whole. Given this seriousness, and given the gravity of the charges being made, it seems wholly inappropriate for evidence of fraud to be released to the public before it has been vetted and judged for accuracy by a systematic, neutral body of our union like the elections committee or a full, closed membership meeting.  When the evidence carries with it the obvious problems that I’ve noted in this case, the public release of these allegations is downright shameful.

“My hope is that the e-mail released under Mr. Larimore-Hall’s name was either a forgery, or was released publicly in error and haste.  If this is not the case, I urge him to retract these allegations pending a formal hearing and publicly acknowledge the impropriety of his e-mail.   This seems fully warranted regardless of the truth of the allegations and the outcome of the elections.  Should Mr. Larimore- Hall fail to take these actions, he risks embarrassing our union and himself, something that I’m sure he’s not eager to do given his long service to UAW 2865.”

Daraka Larimore-Hall has two jobs.  He is currently the President of UAW Local 2865 and is seeking a full three-year term in next week’s elections.  He is also the Chair of the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party.  I think this is a problem.

As UAW president, Larimore-Hall participates in the disbursement of thousands of dollars of members’ voluntary political action contributions to California candidates.  Undoubtedly, most if not all of these candidates are Democrats.  I am not accusing Larimore-Hall of any improprieties, but there is a clear conflict of interest here.  I think UAW members should be uncomfortable with an elected Democratic leader being in a position to help make contributions directly from our union coffers to Democratic candidates that he helps to choose–especially when the success of those candidates will undoubtedly help his own political career in the Democratic Party.

What makes this even more problematic is the lack of transparency in this process in our union.  There is absolutely no mechanism in place to keep members informed of the political contributions that the UAW makes using our voluntary political action contributions (VCAP).  Members–including those who contribute to VCAP–do not receive reports on VCAP spending, nor do members of our Local’s ostensible governing body, the Joint Council.

There is a broader question here, of course.  While the interests of the ASEs in our union indeed often overlap with the interests of Democratic politicians, there are certainly situations in which this is not the case.  In the current California budget debacle, Democratic politicians are well on their way to endorsing cuts to unions and to public education.  As a union, we will need to make tough decisions about how to fight back and we will soon need to consider the question of whether, as a union, we can support certain Democratic politicians.  If we are going to have that discussion, we need a leader whose political commitments aren’t entirely determined by his other job.  As long as Daraka Larimore-Hall holds both his current jobs, there is no way for UAW members to have confidence that his political decisions are in our best interests.

There is an alternative, of course.  Instead of a Democratic UAW, we can choose a democratic UAW–a union run by rank-and-file members who do not serve the interests of major political parties.  Daraka should keep his job with the Santa Barbara Democratic Party.  And we should elect a new president.

Brian Malone
Graduate Student in Literature
Santa Cruz Unit Chair 2009-11

In an unsigned post, the United for Social and Economic Justice (USEJ) Caucus has accused members of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) of “dirty tricks” around the upcoming triennial elections.  I am the outgoing Chair of the UC Santa Cruz Unit and, since most of the USEJ’s charges focus on UCSC, I find myself in a unique position to respond to the lazy insinuations and attempts at misdirection.

The USEJ Caucus accuses one of our Santa Cruz members, Sara Smith, of manipulating elections protocol to her (and AWDU’s) benefit by proposing too few polling locations at SC for the upcoming elections.  Let me by perfectly clear: the proposal that Sara brought to the Elections Committee was a request from the elected campus leadership at UCSC.  Our campus leadership, in consultation with members, made a decision about where to place campus polling locations; Sara communicated our wishes to the Elections Committee.  There was no secrecy, manipulation, or conflict of interest.  Rather, this was an example of campus autonomy, collective decision-making, and transparency—not coincidentally the values that AWDU is trying to bring to our union.

In the interest of transparency, let me explain why we made the elections proposal that we did.  Our proposal took into account the fact that, unlike many other campuses, our leadership at UCSC is completely volunteer.  None of us are on the union payroll.  Unlike a number of current UAW leaders, we are all graduate students and most of us continue to teach while we hold elected office.  Furthermore, unlike on many other campuses, the UAW does not provide us with paid staff members at Santa Cruz to do “get out the vote” activities or to work at the polls.  We have significantly limited resources on this campus.  Even so, our proposal for polling places included longer hours and more polling locations than for any UAW election at Santa Cruz in recent memory (including, for the first time that I can recall, a polling station at Family Student Housing).  And, based on voter turnout on our campus in the two elections last year, we expect record turnout next week—despite the supposedly limited number of polling locations.  In no way are we “limiting participation” at UCSC, and when 60% of the SC unit turns out to vote next week (a higher turnout than on most other campuses, I predict), the emptiness of the USEJ’s charges will be clear.

The USEJ’s attempt to challenge AWDU on “union democracy” is a classic case of misdirection.  There are two components to democracy in this upcoming election: 1. opportunities for members to vote, and 2. the guarantee that all members’ votes will count.  USEJ wants you to pay attention to the first, so that you won’t start asking questions about the second.  Make no mistake: even if the UAW Elections Committee set up a polling place in every building on every campus, there would be no reason for members, under current elections protocol, to have any confidence in the outcome of the election.  There are several serious problems with the elections protocol established during the contract ratification vote:

  1. Ballot boxes are not secure.  During a multiple-day election, ballot boxes are stored overnight in UAW offices.  In this upcoming election, a number of candidates who are current officers (including Daraka Larimore-Hall, Jorge Cabrera, and Donna Fenton) will have keys to one or more of these campus offices.  One way to protect against this type of tampering would be to count all ballots at the end of each day; the Elections Committee has consistently refused to consider this option.
  2. Multiple ballot boxes on each campus means the possibility of repeat voting.  In current protocol, there is no way to verify the identity of voters nor to determine whether they have voted previously at a different ballot box.
  3. Voter rolls are not released at the end of the election.  Without this information, there is no way to check who voted.  Voter rolls for civil elections are a matter of public record in California and should be so in our union as well.

Members of AWDU have recently made or tried to make proposals to solve all of these issues, but they have been consistently voted down or stonewalled by members of the USEJ Caucus.  If the USEJ has recently become concerned with democracy and transparency, they could begin by creating a new elections protocol—one that recognizes vote security as essential to any democratic activity.

Finally, I can’t help but find ironic the USEJ’s sudden concern for participatory democracy at Santa Cruz.  The UAW Executive Board (including current USEJ candidates Daraka Larimore-Hall, Jorge Cabrera, and Donna Fenton) certainly wasn’t interested in democracy at UCSC when they voted to reject a resolution recently passed by our members that innocuously requested campus contact information be included in emails from the UAW to our campus membership.  When we recently requested a list of member phone numbers for our unit so that we can make nonpartisan election reminder calls to turn out voters for next week’s election, the current leadership ignored our request.  Indeed, the current UAW leadership has gone out of their way to ignore Santa Cruz for the last three years—until they want our votes.  And, despite their recent use for UCSC for political grandstanding, they will ignore us for three more years if they win. That’s how much the USEJ cares about democratic participation at Santa Cruz.

Brian Malone
Graduate Student in Literature
Santa Cruz Unit Chair 2009-11

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