Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Our peers in California, rank and file members of UAW Local 2865, are voting this week on a contract that they don't support. Across the state, members are voting "no" and in doing so, are demanding an end to undemocratic bargaining practices and that the union begin to mobilize the membership's power in a real and meaningful way. Here are some of the letters in support of a "no" vote that are being circulated by the membership of UAW Local 2865:
- “Why We Are Voting No” by AWaDU (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union)
- letter from UCI head steward Cheryl Deutsch
- letter from 5 members of the bargaining team
- letter from the Ethnic Studies Graduate Alliance
- letter of solidarity from the CUNY Adjunct Project
Fellow grad students and UAW Local 2865 union members,
I’m writing to tell you why I will be voting NO on the tentative agreement reached last week between our union and the UC.
I believe our current union leadership conceded to this agreement after disingenuous efforts at both organizing and bargaining. I think we can do better.
Our union has fallen prey to a number of undemocratic practices that obstruct member participation and leave us strategically vulnerable in contract negotiations. Efforts at member outreach have been superficial at best. When it came time to set priorities for this round of negotiations, for example, UCI was almost entirely left out of the loop. Those of us who have made efforts to find out more information and/or get involved have been ignored or talked down to. As you can see from the emails that the leadership occasionally deigns to send out, communication within and from the union is not easily forthcoming, while the information that does get sent out is often vague and confusing. Participation seems always already foreclosed. The sum of all these undemocratic practices is a weak union poorly positioned to win anything but a weak contract.
While the gains on childcare subsidy in the tentative agreement are a step in the right direction, its provision for a 2% annual raise is insufficient to keep pace with the increasing cost of living. (Just think about the automatic 6-7% increase in our grad student housing rent every year here in Irvine…) If ratified, this agreement will become our contract for the next three years. The union leadership never even brought to the bargaining table issues like guaranteed affordable housing (i.e. not VDC and Puerta Del Sol, the expensive private housing that we can’t reject without losing our housing guarantees…) or the issue of ‘new’ fees like the $200+ per quarter that we now pay. Putting a limit on runaway class sizes and teaching loads has never even been on the leadership’s radar.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way… Not everyone involved in bargaining was on board with this agreement: all present representatives from Berkeley and Santa Cruz objected to the agreement and refused to sign it. You can read their statement here:
They believe, like I do, that we deserve a stronger contract. This, in turn, demands a stronger union. Together, we are part of a large and growing group of union members across the state working together to build a more democratic union. We believe a NO vote on the tentative agreement will be an important first step in this direction.
Voting NO on ratification of this agreement will send our union representatives back to the bargaining table for a fresh start and a mandate to push for a strong contract that includes:
- Wages that keep pace with the cost of living
- A full fee remission (including that bullshit $200+ per quarter)
- Full childcare subsidies
- Guaranteed affordable housing
- Adequate appointment notification and security
I encourage you to join me in voting NO on this agreement. You can pledge to do so here:
Voting will take place next week, Monday through Thursday, outside SST. There will be a union meeting on Monday, Nov 29 at 5:30pm in SBSG 3323.
Finally, you might hear rumors that a vote against this contract is a vote to go on strike. This is not true. With a NO vote, we can go back to bargaining with the UC stronger than ever.
Remember: THE UNIVERSITY WORKS BECAUSE WE DO…
Department of Anthropology
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Open letter to the bargaining team for UAW Local 2865by For a Democratic University, an independent graduate student labor group at University of Washington
As rank and file members of UAW 4121, For a Democratic University (FaDU) fully supports the efforts of University of California’s Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) to build rank-and-file power, gain a strong contract, and increase transparency and democracy in their union. FaDU spent much of last spring calling on our elected union leadership, who were engaged in tough bargaining with University of Washington management, to fight for workers and to call a strike if necessary. After multiple contract extensions and implied strike threats, 4121’s bargaining team agreed to a temporary contract with no substantive gains for Academic Student Employees (ASEs), leaving us vulnerable to further cuts this year. Having backed off the strike, the bargaining team lost the opportunity for even modest gains for ASEs.
Now we see a similar drama unfolding at University of California. Members of UAW 2865’s contract expired September 30, but you, members of the bargaining team, have extended negotiations rather than calling a strike. As AWDU members stated so clearly in April, “[w]e already know that the autocratic managers of the university will not listen to us unless we force them to. Since we are left with no choice, then we must use force: we must strike to make our demands heard.”
Thus far, UC managment have made it clear that they refuse to provide ASEs with a decent wage. In more than two months of bargaining, UAW 2865 has obtained only extremely minor improvements in managements’ offers. It’s time for action. We call on you to call for a strike in early December and begin devoting the union local’s resources toward member mobilization. UAW 2865 members have already made it clear that they won’t accept a below-inflation wage increase. They are willing to fight, and you are their elected representatives. As ASEs and rank and file members of UAW, we are in solidarity with UC workers and call on you to begin strike preparation immediately.
For a Democratic University
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Thursday, Sept 30, 4:30 PM
4116 University Way
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Over the summer, FaDU is having an open reading group on the university, race, and labor. We are very excited about these readings, and would like to invite anyone to come and participate in the discussions! The first meeting will be next Tuesday at 4 PM at Allegro Cafe. This is our planned time, but if people who really want to come cannot make it there's a possibility for change. We hope to see you there, and please e-mail FaDU if you have any questions! Feel free to invite any interested friends.
Act I: critiques of the university
June 29: "Like Being Mugged by a Metaphor," a feminist/woman of color critique of university (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you need this)
July 6: another university critique? (still working on this one!!)
Act II: effective organizations for movement building
July 13: The Tyranny of Structurelessness http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/hist_texts/structurelessness.html (along with a summary of it, perhaps?)
July 20: two chapters from Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement
Act III: workplace organizing
July 27: Don Hamerquist Workplace Papers http://www.sojournertruth.net/unionsorganizations.html
August 3: Punching Out - Martin Glaberman
August 10: Soldiers of Solidarity: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1967324,00.html
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Members of the rank and file labor organization, For a Democratic University, vote NO on the proposed contract between our union, UAW 4121, and University of Washington. We vote no because:
- We feel this contract does not reflect the desires of members
- No substantial gains have been made, especially in terms of childcare
- This contract contains no wage increases or protections against fee increases
- A weak contract will set a precedent that will weaken the positions of other campus workers
- We feel contract negotiations lacked democracy and transparency
- We have not been given adequate time to read, analyze, and debate the proposed settlement
- A one-year contract gives UW a year to prepare to weaken our contract next year, when the state of funding for public education may be even worse
While we acknowledge the intensive work put forth by the bargaining team, we feel an important opportunity has been lost that reflects the state of labor at large in the United States. These contract negotiations show the inherent problems in business unionism, and the belief that change happens behind closed doors. Furthermore, we disagree with belief of the bargaining team that the power of the strike lies in the threat. FADU believes the power of a strike lies in an actual work stoppage.
On March 4th and May 3rd, the university was scared not just because Academic Student Employees took action, but because of cross-workplace organizing with custodians, construction workers, and trades workers. Our biggest (and only) gains came in the days before the contract was over, and were likely due in no small part to the mobilization of workers across campus. FADU believes we lost a great opportunity when UAW leadership decided not to strike on May 3 because the contract extensions marked the end of progress (as far as we can tell without direct access to meetings) in negotiations.
FADU does not take issue with individual members of the bargaining team but rather with the structure of top-down unions that can be undemocratic and tend to serve the interests of management more than workers. However, we do have critiques of the ways in which the bargaining team has acted during these negotiations, in particular not offering open meetings or full disclosure of bargaining sessions, and the series of unsupported ultimatums offered to the university. We demand access for rank-and-file to union resources. We will continue to fight for a democratic union and a democratic university. We will continue to build rank-and-file power to mobilize for a strong contract in the coming year.
For a Democratic University
Thursday, May 6, 2010
**Text of letter--Forward widely**
Dear hunger strikers at UC Berkeley and supporters,
As members of Democracy Insurgent, International Workers and Students for Justice, and For a Democratic University--multi-racial worker/student groups dedicated to anti-imperialism, worker rights, and immigrant rights based in the University of Washington as well as the broader Seattle community--we are heartened by your struggles of people of color, women, workers, and students at Berkeley, at the same time as we are disgusted by the manipulation of the deepening crisis by the rulers at Berkeley and beyond. At the University of Washington, we have also been fighting back, across race and gender, and as workers and working class students against cuts that gentrify the University and against police abuse of workers and activists. We denounce the white supremacist, anti-immigrant regime, and those of us who are immigrants fight despite the threat of deportation.
Like you, we see the immigrants rights and anti-budget cuts struggles as one, as a shared struggle against neoliberal policies that aim to privatize our universities, split our communities apart, and imprison our youth in jails and ICE detention centers.
On May Day this year we marched with 10,000 others in support of workers rights and against an increasingly repressive and violent anti-immigrant regime. We chanted "Boycott Arizona" and "No borders, no state/no bosses, no hate", in opposition to the racist SB-1070 and the white supremacist, anti-immigrant practices within the state of Washington, including the expanding Tacoma Detention Center, run by the Geo Group, and the newly proposed detention center in downtown Tacoma which would hold up to 1500 prisoners.
On May 3rd, students, workers, teachers, and community members formed picket lines from 4:30 AM to 2:30 PM at UW to protest budget cuts that have resulted in the loss of at least 850 jobs and have precipitated ever worsening abuse of immigrant workers, in addition to 29% tuition hikes and cuts to essential student services.
In denouncing SB-1070, we must also recognize that it codifies practices already occurring in Arizona and across the U.S. This law is a continuation of the ongoing attack in this country on immigrant families and workers and other people of color, in the middle east through both direct military occupation and financial support, and around the world in neo-colonial practices.
Ahead of May 1st, Democracy Insurgent, with the support of FaDU and other groups, released a statement linking the struggle against budget cuts to immigrant struggles. This document is available at www.democracyinsurgent.org.
Our groups support all of your demands and deeply respect your efforts. Please keep us updated and let us know what support we can give.
International Workers and Students for Justice
For a Democratic University
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Resolution of UAW local 4121 membership calling on the bargaining committee to call a strike.
Whereas UAW Local 4121 and the University of Washington have been in bargaining for two months without reaching a new collective bargaining agreement;
Whereas the University of Washington has the financial resources to resolve this labor dispute while making improvements to the benefits and compensation of UAW 4121 members;
Whereas the University of Washington’s corporate benefits administrators have made profits off of UAW 4121 members by agreeing to inflated health insurance premiums in order to receive kickbacks from the health insurance carrier;
Whereas the University of Washington’s top administration payroll has only increased as vulnerable workers, such as UAW 4121 members, have been forced to shoulder the burden of budget cuts;
Whereas the Student Worker Coalition at the University of Washington has called on a strike on May 3 after the expiation of the current UAW 4121 collective bargaining agreement with the University of Washington;
Whereas the lead bargainer for the University of Washington, Lou Pisano, circulated an email calling on management to retaliate against employees participating in job actions; thereby directly attempting to silence the membership;
Whereas other campus unions, including SEIU 925 and WFSE 1488, have already passed resolutions in support of a UAW 4121 strike.
Be it resolved that the membership of UAW 4121 calls on the bargaining committee to exercise the authority granted by the membership by a vote of 90% on February 26th, 2010 to call a strike if an agreement cannot be reached with the University of Washington;
Further, the membership urges the bargaining committee to seek strike sanctions from the Martin Luther King, Jr. County Labor Council, increase grassroots efforts to organize for a strike, and continue to reach out to other local unions for support.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Open Letter To the Leadership of UAW 4121:
We the members of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) are writing to express our wholehearted endorsement of the recent letter you received from For a Democratic University (FaDU), and to encourage you to immediately begin grassroots mobilization for a strike beginning on May 3rd. We believe that without a credible threat of a strike, the administration of the University of Washington will not agree to a fair contract.
AWDU is a recently founded organization which consists of rank and file members of UAW 2865 from the University of California. We here in California have experienced the most severe budget cuts anywhere in the country, and the damage to our university had already been considerable. As you are surely aware, students and some campus unions here at UC have been in full revolt for the entire academic year as the lowest paid employees have been laid off, classes have grown in size and been cut, and ASEs are asked to take on more work responsibilities for no additional pay. We have been following the evolving situation at UW, and understand that conditions are very similar. Indeed, the crisis of public education is a national and international phenomenon. We believe that students, workers, and especially student-workers need to be on the front lines in the struggle against the continual privatization of education. The managers of public universities around the country are increasingly swayed by the logic of the free market and wish to run education like a business. We must be unequivocal in our position that we will not accept this, and that we will fight to defend public education.
Many unions around the world have been complacent for too long, and incorrectly believed that they could merely service their membership by providing regular, if modest, increases in wages and benefits. What this crisis reveals is that if unions do not involve themselves in political fights, even the modest economic gains members have enjoyed for the past couple generations will evaporate. University administrators have been attempting to use the difficult economic situation as a scapegoat for their crisis of priorities and mismanagement of the public good of higher education. Changing this situation requires that students and workers must insist on exercising collective power in determining the structure and content of the university. We already know that the autocratic managers of the university will not listen to us unless we force them to. Since we are left with no choice, then we must use force: we must strike to make our demands heard.
We would like to second what the members of FaDU said to you in their letter. The power of the strike does not end once you go on strike. Strike mobilization does indeed build power, because when it is done in a democratic manner it empowers people to feel that they can have a say in their own lives. If grassroots mobilization is done effectively, then the actual strike can be an incredibly powerful weapon against privatization and autocratic decision making by management. Each day that we refuse to teach classes, each day that undergraduates, professors, staff and other university workers stand shoulder to shoulder with us on the picket line, our strength builds and we exact a greater symbolic and material toll on the administration.
The strike not only can help us win a better contract, but it is a method for reconfiguring power relations and therefore for democratizing the university. Democratization is the only means by which we can reconstitute the public character of the university, as management has already shown that they will push ahead with full privatization if left to their own devices.
We are in this fight together. When the call for a day of action to defend public education on March 4th grew out of a mass democratic conference here at Berkeley, we were excited to see that students and workers in Washington and around the country took it as an opportunity to take action. This of course is not a coincidence as the crisis of capitalism has affected all of us, albeit in different ways. We need to maintain our common commitment to resisting privatization and ensuring that all people in this country, regardless of race, class, or nation of origin have access to free quality public education, and that the people who make the university work have good, secure jobs and benefits. Now, the call to action has come from the students at UW, who will go on strike on May 3rd in solidarity with ASEs represented by UAW 4121. Therefore we endorse the call for immediate grassroots strike mobilization of the members of UAW 4121, and we stand in solidarity with all students and workers at UW.
Academic Workers for a Democratic Union
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
On May 3rd, students will set up picket lines to fight for an accessible University. This strike is set to coincide with the end of UAW 4121's contract. FaDU is a member of the strike committee to plan for this strike. Meetings are at 7:15 PM on Thursdays in Smith 405-We need YOU! Go to nobudgetcutsuw.blogspot.com for more info!
UW in Crisis: A Call to Action
by For a Democratic University, a graduate student labor group
- Worried about losing your funding?
- Living paycheck to paycheck, and unable to afford increased fees and health care premiums?
- Teaching oversized classes where you're forced to hire a grader or give scantron tests instead of assigning papers?
- An international student who could lose your visa?
- A parent or caretaker with no childcare?
In its negotiations with UAW 4121, the union which represents academic student employees, the UW bargaining team has proposed a contract that will make all of these cuts to ASEs likely for next year! The UW has said that it will cut over 450 teaching assistant positions, close all tutoring and writing centers, and take away our layoff protections.
After over a month of bargaining, the UW team has not moved on these positions, and they have also walked out early of at least one meeting without giving prior notice to our union's bargaining team. They've also been insincere about our own money, and the Union estimates they have overpaid $10.6 million to our insurance company! Members of FaDU (For a Democratic University), a group of rank and file graduate workers, think these are unjust labor practices. We are prepared to strike May 3rd, the first day after our contract expires, to demand:
1. Cap all quiz sections at 20 students each. For those paid at TA level for teaching full classes, we demand commensurate wage increases.
2. Freeze tuition for everyone; ensure funding security for all graduate students.
3. Provide free quality childcare for all UW workers.
4. Provide every worker on campus including TAs, RAs, and custodians with the same health care as the top UW administrators, at a rate that we can afford.
5. Ensure that we have clean, safe labs and classrooms. Hire back all laid off custodians and tradespeople and do not lay off any more.
6. Open access to UW to all university employees.
7. Make no cuts to the WFSE workers statewide health care plan; give the workers back the money the government took from their health care fund.
8. Pay for all of this by cutting regressive taxes and replacing them with a progressive income tax on corporate profits and on the wealthiest WA residents.
We are for a strong fighting union! A strong union needs a strong rank and file!
E-mail Faduni@gmail.com to pledge here that you will strike with undergrads on May 3!
Monday, March 29, 2010
At 5 PM, UAW 4121 will have an action at Mary Gates Hall-look for details from our union's bargaining team.
April 5th 5 PM Smith 205--GENERAL ASSEMBLY to build for strike and make demands. Meet with members of WFSE 1488 (trades, librarians, and custodians), students, and others to strategize on how to build for our strike and how to win our demands.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
What is our union’s bargaining team asking for?
1. Increase earnings for all ASEs to keep pace with increases in cost of living, work requirements and peer wages
2. Secure improvements to the current health program, such that services are adequately covered, ASEs with extraordinary costs are protected, dependents are more affordably covered and plan administration is improved
3. Ensure that ASEs' ability to maintain quality in their jobs is not hindered by inadequate staffing or resources.
A strong contract should not stop here! FaDU also demands:
1. Free, quality childcare for all ASE’s
2. Smaller class sizes for teaching assistants; no class size increase due to “budget cuts”
3. The same health insurance plan offered to permanent UW employees.
However, the University has responded to the union bargaining team with regressive cuts and punitive takeaways:
1. Elimination of wage increases
2. Weakening of layoff protections for ASEs who have already been offered appointments
3. Changes to variable pay practices, such that ASEs currently being paid above base rates could be dropped to lower pay rates
4. Placing the burden of paying health insurance premiums upon ASEs.
Mark Emmert keeps telling us to lobby Olympia and that Olympia is the problem when it comes to budget cuts. Yet at the opening of bargaining, the UW administration attacked our union on its political work in Olympia against privatization of tuition setting authority (the defeated “Kilmer bill” would have transferred tuition control from the legislature to the un-elected UW Board of Regents). Is the University administration retaliating against our union for lobbying in Olympia? Is Mark Emmert acting in good faith when he tells us to organize in Olympia and not on campus?
At every contract negotiation, the administration always demands cuts – they say this is to increase productivity, but for us it means more work under worse conditions and lowers the quality of education for everyone. An economic crisis, when job prospects are insecure and budget cuts seem inevitable, is the perfect opportunity for UW administration to demand deeper cuts to grad student workers than ever before. But what we really need right now are better working conditions, and we need improvements beyond what the union has asked for. We need a quality health insurance plan like the one offered to permanent university employees – our current plan doesn't even cover basic preventive care. We need small class sizes so that we can actually teach; many TAs currently teach to 50-150 students. And we need childcare – the cost of which currently consumes our entire paycheck. The University partially subsidizes childcare for students, but the wait list can take years.
We do essential work for this university, from writing multi-million research grants to teaching quiz sections and full classes, but we are also at the lowest end of the salary scale. Mark Emmert earns a whopping $900,000 per year while a typical research assistant earns $20,000 annually. Mark Emmert’s job is not the most important on campus! Without our labor in the classrooms, in the labs, in university writing centers, the university would not function. This is the power that UW administration will respond to, not to charts that show how poor we are or how the budget cuts have hurt us. Administration already knows this; they write our paychecks! Our labor is our power.
What can we do fight for the wage increases, better health care, smaller class sizes, and child care that we need? The University has entered negotiations aggressively; they've shown us that they will not give in unless we demonstrate that campus business can't and won't continue without us. Therefore, it is crucial that we build a strong movement of all workers that will force the University to compromise their exploitative plans to OUR demands, not the other way around. Ultimately we will need to strike, but this is something we have to build toward.
Here are some steps that For a Democratic University proposes:
- “Grade-in” March 16, 1-5pm, HUB 1st floor (by info desk):
Grade and work together as we tally how much money we make for the UW
- March 31, 3:30 PM, South Campus Center (behind Health Sciences):
Picket outside the first union / administration bargaining meeting of spring quarter.
- April 5, 5 PM, Smith 205: Grad student general assembly
- Week of April 12, time/place TBA:
Special panel with international students for immigrants’ rights!
- April 30: End of contract negotiations.
- May 3: First Monday after negotiations end. UAW 4121 members strike!