|For Immediate Release – January 31st, 2011
*Cheryl Deutsch, UC Irvine Candidate for Trustee – 949.422.4367 or Cheryl.deutsch
*Charlie Eaton, UC Berkeley Candidate for Trustee – 510.220.1520 or eaton.charlie
*Jessy Lancaster, UC Santa Cruz Candidate for Trustee – 740.974.3135 or jessy.lancaster
Push by UC Grad Union Reformers Triggers Historic Election
Unions representing graduate students have garnered little public attention in the fight over the University of California and the state’s budget crisis. But a major reform effort within UAW Local 2865 is on the verge of putting the graduate student union front and center.
Now, the push for change in UAW Local 2865 by the reformers has set off an historic election for the union’s Joint Council and Executive Board on February 15th and 16th. The reformers, calling themselves Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU), have organized a slate of 26 candidates whose victory would give them 38 seats and a majority on the local’s Joint Council – its highest elected body. Reformers aim for an even greater transformation of the union in its regular election this May, when all of the union’s officials’ terms will expire.
Reformers hope to make the union an organization that could support and help sustain the mass protests at UC that they have helped organize since the fall of 2009. The stakes are high, given Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed $1.4 billion cut to higher education in California.
“As both students and workers, we can unite as 12,000 academic student employees in a more powerful, more democratic statewide union of people with our fingers on the pressure points of every campus in the UC system,” explained Jessy Lancaster, another reform candidate for Trustee from UC Santa Cruz.
Reformers have already made headway, organizing protests and pressure on UC during fall contract negotiations and for the Oct 7th day of action. On Saturday, January 30th, the union’s Joint Council voted to adopt the reformers’ proposed statement endorsing the March 2nd Day of Action to oppose cuts and the privatization of UC.
“Undergrads are already suffering from crowded classrooms and from their instructors’ economic insecurity and out-of-control workloads. We need investment in UC to solve California’s budget crisis by creating new jobs and innovations that grow our economy,” said Cheryl Deutsch, a UC Irvine graduate student and a reform candidate for union Trustee.
Elections for seats on the Joint Council are rarely contested, and many seats are often left unfilled. But with a reform movement underway, the current union administration recruited dozens of candidates to run against the reformers. The outcome of the election will figure importantly in the brewing fight over state budgets in California and across the country.
UAW Local 2865 represents 12,000 graduate student instructors, teaching assistants, readers, and undergraduate tutors.
Reform Candidates from Groups Affiliated with Academic Workers for a Democratic Union
Trustee – Cheryl Deutsch, UC Irvine, Anthropology
Trustee – Charlie Eaton, UC Berkeley, Sociology
Trustee – Jessy Lancaster, UC Santa Cruz, Psychology
UCB – Head Steward Cate Talley, Comparative Literature
UCB – Head Steward Pablo Gaston, Sociology
UCB – Head Steward Megan Wachspress, Jurisprudence and Social Policy
UCB – Head Steward Manuel Rosaldo, Sociology
UCB – Head Steward Blanca Misse, French
UCB – Head Steward Katy Fox Hodess, Sociology
UCB – Head Steward Micki McKoy, History of Art
UCB – Head Steward Amanda Cook, Sociology
UCI – Head Steward Seneca Lindsey, Earth System Science
UCI – Head Steward Robert Wood, Comparative Literature
UCI – Head Steward Veronique Fortin, Criminology Law and Society
UCI – Head Steward Fabio Chee, Spanish and Portuguese
UCLA – Head Steward Revel Sims, Urban Planning
UCLA – Head Steward Alexei Nowak, Comparative Literature
UCLA – Head Steward Kyle Arnone, Sociology
UCLA – Head Steward Hadley Suter, French
UCLA – Head Steward Jeremy Schmidt, English
UCR – Head Steward Bryan Ziadie, Comparative Literature
UCR – Head Steward Elliot Kim, History
UCR – Head Steward Brian Williams, Political Science
UCSD – Head Steward Megan Turner, Comparative Literature
UCSD – Head Steward Barbara Bush, Communications
Candidate Statements by Reform Candidates for UAW Local 2865 Statewide Executive Board Positions
Cheryl Deutsch, UC Irvine – Candidate Statement for Trustee
I’m running to reform our union. As an activist with the state-wide reform movement, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWaDU), I know our union can do better. Our union can be a force to be reckoned with in the debates over budget cuts, fee hikes, and the apportionment of resources on our campuses and throughout the UC system. Our union should fightto keep class sizes down, to keep graduate student housing affordable, and to improve our health and childcare benefits. But our public strength as a union is only as good as our internal strength, and our union has a long way to go in that regard. I’m committed to building a stronger union through greater transparency, communication, and open decision-making.
A second-year PhD student in Anthropology at UC Irvine, I became a Head Steward last year when I saw that our campus suffered from a severe shortage of elected representatives. As a newly elected officer, however, I was given no support from the statewide union leadership. Still, I worked with our campus Recording Secretary to organize departmental meetings about healthcare negotiations, as well as a grade-in to raise awareness about the work we do as TAs/GSIs. We created a Facebook group for easy communication with our membership and revitalized monthly membership meetings: moving them back on campus to convenient times and locations. In order to build rank-and-file power, I also began organizing weekly meetings this fall: as rank-and-file members organized under the banner of Academic Workers for a Democratic University (AWaDU), we spread the word about contract negotiations through departmental listservs, information panels organized by student associations, our Facebook group, a new blog, and an op-ed in our campus newspaper. As a result, turn-out in the contract ratification vote was almost ten times higher than any union election in recent memory.
I’m running for Trustee in order to bring these practices of transparency and communication to our union as a whole. In the name of better transparency, I’m committed to making sure that you know who your elected union officers are: publishing their photos and individual contact information on our union’s website. I will also work to improve communication within and from the union, so that you, as members, have relevant, substantive information you can use. My vision is for a union whose presence on every campus makes it a resource and a venue in which to discuss and take action on issues that are important to you. Finally, I’m concerned about our union’s dependence on non-student paid staff for organizing work; paid staff who are not answerable or even available to our membership. I’m committed to making ours a more democratic union, and, as Trustee, I will work to ensure that our union is run by students for the benefit of students.
Charlie Eaton, UC Berkeley – Candidate Statement for Trustee
I am running for Trustee because our university is in crisis, and we need major changes. I have worked for 10 years to help make this kind of change, first as a union organizer and now as a graduate student in Sociology at UC Berkeley.
I believe our union could be a force for livable wages, affordable housing, and childcare for student workers. I believe we could help stop the fee hikes, budget cuts, power grabs by UC executives, and growing class sizes. Public investment in UC could be part of a long-term solution to California’s budget crisis by creating new jobs and innovations that grow our economy.
But I think we can only make these changes with a movement that harnesses the broad public support for UC and stops business-as-usual at the university until state and UC officials agree to what we need. As a union, we could be a critical part of such a movement. To me, this would take welcoming more involvement from of our members and making our union stronger and more democratic.
I have worked actively to strengthen our union and make it more democratic. I joined Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) in November and opposed our most recent proposed contract with UC. I thought we needed to give members a chance to fight for wages that keep up with the cost of living, guaranteed remission of all fees, and more adequate childcare subsidies. I have since then helped organize meetings with more than 100 members at UCLA, UCSD, UC Irvine, and UC Merced to invite them to get involved in our union. As Trustee, I will advocate on our union Executive Board to create the space for all members to participate in key decisions about how our union will build student and worker power to fight the cuts and protect our rights. This practice of democratic exchange can create better ideas and plans that more of our members will want to carry out.
In working to involve more members, I have tried to learn from other student activists and from my past organizing. As a student organizer with Jobs with Justice in 2002, I organized a successful campaign by students and workers at the City University of New York to win in-state tuition rates for undocumented students and protect financial aid. In organizing marches by thousands of students, hunger strikes, and civil disobedience, I learned to work with diverse student organizations on CUNY’s campuses. In 2005, I saw how powerful decisions made by members can be when I helped organize a successful strike by housekeeping and dietary workers in Chico California with SEIU – United Healthcare Workers. I saw this again in 2006 when I helped 10,000 homecare workers in Fresno bargain a contract that won dental benefits and a 20% wage increase over two years.
As Trustee, I hope I can work with you as well to build a more democratic, member-driven union.
Jessy Lancaster, UC Santa Cruz – Candidate Statement for Trustee
I’m a reform candidate of AWDU running for Trustee, and I believe that through reform our union can become a force of good to help both our members and our university. My vision of what the union can become includes member-driven ideas and actions, more transparency in decision-making, and a more democratic approach to everything we do as a union.
I am a fifth year psychology student at Santa Cruz. I have been the recording secretary at Santa Cruz for over a year, and have had a chance to see how the union is run. I think members ought to be where our power comes from – we need a membership that is informed and involved. I am committed to actively engaging and listening to members.
Background on UAW Local 2865 and Academic Workers for a Democratic Union
Academic Workers for a Democratic Union was founded in 2010 by reform-minded members of UAW Local 2865, a union of 12,000 graduate student instructors, teaching assistants, readers, and undergraduate tutors at the University of California. The reformers want to change the union to be stronger and more democratic in order to fight cuts, fee hikes, and major work problems at UC like class size and workload.
AWDU and Reformers strongly opposed a proposed contract that the current administration of UAW Local 2865 agreed to with UC in November of 2010. The agreement lacked wages that keep up with the cost of living, adequate child care reimbursement, or guaranteed remission of all fees.
The reformers have already made headway since then in changing the union’s orientation to the budget crisis – on Saturday, January 30th, the union’s joint council voted to adopt the reformers’ proposed statement endorsing the March 2nd Day of Action to oppose the cuts.
But the problem has not only been an unwillingness of the current leadership to fight for the needs of graduate students – even as tens of thousands of students rallied against cuts and fee hikes in recent years. Critically, weak structures for democratic participation in the union have hindered member involvement.
Under the current union administration, the number of elected representatives on its Joint Council, the highest elected body in the union, fell to only 28 out of 80 total possible positions. Reformers responded by calling for the vacancy elections in order to fill out the Joint Council terms until they expire in May.
Reformers have organized a slate of 29 candidates for the 48 vacant positions on the Joint Council in order to bring more active members into the union. Four of the reform candidates were uncontested. Elections for seats on the Joint Council are rarely contested – but with a reform movement underway, the current union administration recruited dozens of candidates to run against the reformers.
Victories by the 25 other reform candidates would give reformers 37 seats on the Joint Council (reformers hold 9 seats on the Council already and two of the Candidates are running for a 2nd position on the Council). Reformers would then hold a majority out of 71 elected representatives on the Council (the number of representatives on the Council would remain less than 80 because some representatives hold 2 positions on the council and no candidates accepted nomination for 5 of the vacant positions).
Most of the candidates for seats on the Joint Council are running for Head Steward positions. Head Stewards are responsible for democratically involving members from a group of departments in the union and for organizing members around issues that matter to them like workloads, cuts and fee hikes.
Three of the reform candidates – Cheryl Deutch from UC Irvine, Charlie Eaton from UC Berkeley, and Jessy Lancaster from UC Santa Cruz – are running for the three open Trustee positions on both the Joint Council and the union’s 9 member Executive Board. Trustees have the additional responsibility of monitoring the union’s finances. The reformers want to let members democratically participate in deciding how to best allocate the union’s $2 million annual budget for urgent fights against budget cuts, fee hikes, work load problems and more.
With the reform campaign underway, the current union administration delayed one of its controversial proposals involving union finances – to increase the pay of the union’s executive officers by substantially more than their recent settlement with UC, which left members with wages that fail to keep up with the cost of living. If reformers prevail in the election, the pay increase for Union officers would almost certainly be off the table because it would need a 2/3 vote for approval at the Joint Council.
The reformers have emphasized the need to strengthen the union by making it more transparent and democratic. “Our actions as a union are strongest when the most members possible decide upon them and want to carry them out. As reformers, we will change our rules to require a consensus for major actions that each campus unit can freely decide to participate in. Further, all meetings attended by a majority of executive board members will be noticed on the union’s website and open to all members,” said Jessy Lancaster, a reform candidate for Trustee from UC Santa Cruz.
More information on the reform effort and (AWDU) is available on several websites set up by campus groups affiliated by AWDU:
Academic Workers for a Democratic Union at UC Berkeley — http://berkeleyuaw.wordpress.com/
UC Grad Students for a Democratic Union at UC Irvine — http://ucgradstrike.wordpress.com/
UC Los Angeles Activists — http://phsuaw.tumblr.com/
UC Santa Cruz Graduate Student Organizing Committee — http://slugorganizingcommittee.wordpress.com/
UC System — http://ucstudents.org