Time for Sanity and Unity

November 29, 2010 § 33 Comments

We’ve had enough. While we face drastic cuts to higher education, and workers throughout California are seeing their wages, pensions and health care slashed, a small group of UAW members have decided to create a circular firing squad. We are UC grad students and UAW 2865 members, and we started this blog to answer back. We’re not forming a “caucus”, and we don’t plan to spam members pretending to be the union, but we want our voice out there.

First, we are sick and tired of the baseless ad hominem attacks from opponents of the contract. The elected leaders of our local are everyday people who have made huge sacrifices on our behalf, working countless hours that they could have been spending on their academic work defending their fellow student employees. They are fellow graduate or undergraduate students who bust their asses for us. These are the people who self-appointed “rank and file” zealots have called “scumbags”, “collaborators”, “sellouts” and “careerist bureaucrats” who “collude with management.”

These attacks are increasing in vitriol. At the recent UC Regents meeting, an anonymous group surrounded one leader, hurling insults (“Santa Cruz hates you!”) and shoving a video camera in his face while they pretended they were Michael Moore.  Right after that, the local union President was secretly recorded at a meeting and her comments posted on a blog. Now, they are circulating defamatory, photoshopped pictures comparing people to dictators.

All this over a proposed contract that raises wages and benefits, strengthens our rights and gives away nothing. It’s just crazy. The only people who benefit from this kind of divisive behavior is the UC administration.

Certainly there are opponents of the contract who are well-meaning and interested in building a stronger union and a better work environment. However, there are also many  who have never really acted in good faith, and who have clearly been following an agenda all along:

  • They’ve always wanted a strike, and so didn’t care what happened at the bargaining table. Activists at Berkeley and Santa Cruz have been pushing for a strike from the start of bargaining with the UC, and were poised to reject any contract, no matter how good. Berkeley didn’t even take part in several of the key organizing projects for the campaign, including the childcare delegations that led to a nearly 300% increase in the subsidy. Instead of a grade-in in the Spring, they held an ice cream social. Instead of helping to get the 6,000+ signatures on a public statement that showed unity and resolve to the administration, they formed strike committees and circulated an online petition.
  • They have jeopardized key bargaining demands. At the same time that the union was holding out in negations for a guarantee that future bargaining teams would be compensated for bargaining (which ensures participation), the Berkeley leadership unilaterally withdrew a related grievance, weakening our position at the table.  We managed to preserve this benefit, but no thanks to the people now campaigning against the contract.
  • They are willing to risk what we’ve won. As the bargaining team has explained in it’s recent statement, the only thing we know about what happens if the contract is rejected is that we don’t know what will happen. It is quite likely that the UC will refuse to bargain, will appeal to the “impasse” process and try to drag us through a lengthy, legalistic battle that could well end up with a worse deal than we started with. During that time, which could be as long as a year, we won’t get wage increases, childcare increases or non-resident tuition remissions.
  • They are grossly out of touch. We just don’t buy the idea that UAW 2865 members, nevermind the broader community, will support a strike over what amounts to $32/month in pay increases. Not when public employees are taking such drastic hits and the State government is talking about reopening the budget for further cuts. That’s just not the foundations of a successful strike. Case-in-point, the generally pro-union Daily Cal editorialized in favor of a yes vote.
  • They don’t care about the larger context. While the union worked hard to defeat Meg Whitman and stop the anti-government onslaught from reaching California, all the Santa Cruz and Berkeley members of the union’s board voted as a block against doing get out the vote activity. One of them said getting out the vote was “a colossal waste of time”.

Instead of attacking people and trying to get people to vote against a great contract, we should be putting our energy into fighting the UC’s cuts, demanding restoration of higher education funding, and standing up for the public sector in general. We think the proposed contract is a great step in all of those directions, as it totally rejects the austerity program the administration has in mind for students and employees at the UC.

– UAW For Sanity

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Fact Check on the UAW 2865 Contract Campaign

November 29, 2010 § 4 Comments

There’s been a lot of misinformation sent out, often using spam programs, from various groupings opposing the contract. We wanted to set the record straight on a few things.

Myth #1 Voting “No” just means going back to the negotiating table and getting more good stuff.

Contract opponents have tried to have it both ways on this issue. Sometimes they argue that the UC will beneficently agree to more negotiations if the contract fails, and sometimes that we will need to “shut down” the university to get a better deal.  We don’t know if they are confused, disingenuous or just naïve.

Let’s be very, very clear about something: this tentative agreement is NOT the University’s “last best and final offer”- the University has explicitly reserved the right to make other proposals if this package is not accepted. It is completely irresponsible to tell people that a no vote just means we go back to the table and get more.

What’s likely to happen? A very, long, drawn out process that favors the employer and won’t produce a better deal. This is what happened to the California Nurses Association, a strong, well-mobilized union that is not afraid to strike. After going through “impasse” and “fact-finding”, despite getting a favorable proposal from an arbitrator, they had a contract full of cuts imposed on them.

As for a strike, we think that even in the event of widespread participation, there would be very little sympathy in the broader community when schools, health care and pensions are being eviscerated- people would think we were crazy for turning down this contract.

Myth #2: Grassroots members were not involved in the campaign

There has been a lot of talk about how there needs to be a “real” contract campaign. This claim just seems ridiculous to us, as grassroots members who participated, and encouraged others to participate, in the actions around this contract campaign that started as far back as the early Spring. Beginning with voting on our initial bargaining demands and to authorize the bargaining team to call a strike, member participation has been the cornerstone of this campaign. Thousands and thousands have signed statements, attended protests, called administrators, held departmental meetings and formed delegations to the chancellors. Berkeley leaders decided that many of these actions weren’t cool enough- activists from other campuses had to call Berkeley members to sign them up for the Report Card we issued to the administration. Instead of a Grade-In to launch the campaign as we did at other campuses, they held an ice cream social. Instead of visits to the administration on child care, they stood in front of the administration building and handed out fliers- after telling the rest of the bargaining team that they were in fact doing a delegation.

Myth #3: There is nothing in the proposed contract that protects against class size increases or outsourcing of our jobs.

Our contract contains very strong language protecting us from unreasonable workloads through a sped-up grievance process that ends with a neutral arbitrator.  The best way to bring class sizes down is to enforce this strong language through members taking action. However, back in July, Berkeley leader Jessica Taal told the press that UAW 2865 members were “afraid” to stand up for themselves and file grievances over workload.

There are also strong prohibitions on contracting out the work of our bargaining unit to people not covered by the contract. This could be handled either as an Unfair Labor Practice charge, or a grievance under the contract.

We call bullshit on this one.

Myth #4: The UAW 2865 Leadership are a bunch of bureaucrats who voted themselves huge pay raises.

First of all, the elected leaders of the union, including the bargaining team, and the executive board, are grassroots members of the union. They are no different than the elected leaders at Berkeley or Santa Cruz who like to denounce the “leadership” for being out of touch because they disagree with them. The “no” campaign likes to play on conservative, anti-union stereotypes of corrupt union bosses in order to claim that they are the true voice of the membership.

At the last meeting of the union’s board, a unanimous proposal was passed to change the pay rates of the President and Vice Presidents to be tied to the Associate position rather than the “TA/GSI” position. Thus, union leaders would still be paid the same rates as the people they represent. None of the representatives from Berkeley or Santa Cruz voted against the proposal.

Myth #5: The Bargaining Team was heavily split on the contract/dissenting members of the bargaining team were “forced out”.

At the final meeting between the UC and UAW, the bargaining team voted 9-3 to accept the current agreement. Recently, a message went out with names of five members of the bargaining team opposing the contract- two who were no longer members of the team and one who was not present at the final meeting.

The two ex-members had been removed because they missed two well-noticed, QUARTERLY meetings of the statewide council. These meetings are set six months in advance, and you can request an excused absence for a range of legitimate reasons, including school or work conflicts.

They have said that that because they were somehow excluded from the committee, presumably because it’s more glorifying than admitting they just didn’t show up to meetings and were held accountable. Furthermore, one of the former bargaining team members and a leader of the “no” campaign simply stopped attending meetings half way through negotiations, left town and didn’t organize for any of the mobilization activities voted on by the team. He was, however, happy to take payment from the University for bargaining activities- payment the union had to fight to preserve in this contract. He wasn’t even removed for those shenanigans.

– UAW For Sanity