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