CAPS Rank and File fighting union election Bulletin #2

 CAPS Rank and File fighting union election Bulletin #2
Brother and Sister CAPS members,
Last November the CAPS board and Staffers ran their little dog and pony show across the state to sell to the membership the very same rotten contract we rejected just three months earlier in straw polls at the informational summer meetings.   I made interventions at the meetings in an attempt to persuade the membership to reject the rotten contract.  But to do so I had to fight for the right to address the membership and put a discussion of strategy and tactics on the agenda.  This should not be such a hard thing for a member  of a union to accomplish but I found out that indeed this organization has been manipulated to prevent any one member from  putting any union business before the other 2,500-3,000 members.  I also found out that others had tried before and been driven out of the organization.
In review of that episode find attached find a compendium of communications produced during the November meetings.  In particular we reproduce a letter entitled “Check Elitism at the Door” a response to the viewpoint of Chris Voight that scientists are superior beings, heads above the lowly working class and therefore too elite to engage in class struggle, better for us to let the lawyers fight for us.  And even more interesting we reproduce a letter from Lauran Wold an ex CAPS board member who came to the realization that CAPS is little more than a trough from which Blanning and Baker drinks.  Also included in the compendium are reports from two of the three informational meetings I attended in the Bay Area.  Most interesting was a statement from CAPS board member David Miller that no one pays attention to the bylaws.   Well that really got my goat!
So after my pointing out how their refusal to abide the bylaws was a breach of contractual agreement, a breach a fiduciary responsibility, and a theft from the members of dues by denial of rights, the board (most likely under the influence of  Blanning and Baker in the guise of Austin and Voight)   amended the 2007 bylaws last February without telling the membership in hope that no one would notice what had been stolen from us.  As I suggested yesterday call or email CAPS and ask for your own copy of the 2007 and 2011 bylaws and read them side by side.
The CAPS FIGHTING UNION CAUCUS is against suing the union because we believe labor needs to clean its own house.  But we have no objection to CAPS suing Blanning and Baker’s appointed Executive Director and the entire law firm both individually and collectively for breach of fiduciary responsibility and denial of our rights for 10 years while taking our money and directing it to their coffers.  The way I figure it, at approximately 1.5 million a year, for ten years of theft of services, they owe us near about 15 million dollars.   That would really start a nice fat job action fund!
But I digress,  when I first heard about the meetings in Summer and fall of 2010  I expected them to be the 2007 bylaws mandated annual membership meetings.  But much to my surprise I found out that they were informational meetings, which members could ask questions at but not set agenda points during.
I should have had a clue about the lack of democracy when I first joined CAPS.  Six months into my membership I called the office and said, “I’m a new member, I can see we are heading into a catastrophic situation that the membership needs to address, when is the next membership meeting?”  The reply I got was, “we don’t have anything to tell you at this time” and then I got the long song and dance about the pay parity case and how it was going.  It crossed my mind to say, “maybe the membership has something to say to you” but I was new and just feeling things out and did not want to step on any toes at the time.  But as I got more familiar with the membership and got a copy of the 2007 bylaws and financial statements it started to become clear to me what CAPS has become, or what is was created to be, a funnel taking scientists money and giving it to Blanning and Baker at the rate of close to 1.5 million dollars a year.
To keep this little racket going Blanning and Baker  had to steal our bylaws mandated rights and convince members of the board that bylaws don’t matter. In so doing this law firm has devalued our labor year after year by signing contracts without COLA’s conceding on furloughs (now PLDs), increasing our contributions to pensions and medical all without a fight.  How did they get away with it?
Blanning and Baker staff and CAPS leadership push the position that scientists are not workers, that somehow, according to Chirs Voight  we (See  attached letter “Check elitism at the door”), are too prestigious to get our hands dirty in the class struggle and that the only option we had, was to go along with what Governor Brown had to offer (basically the Schwarzenegger contract), the membership accepted the  same rotten deal we had rejected  a few months earlier.
We see this as a sign of resignation and demoralization because the members did not have leadership with a strategy and tactics capable of defeating the lies of the top 0.01% and their bought and paid for media pundits who offer a dialog that spans the entire alphabet from A-B (CNN-FOX).  Listening to these corporate paid pundits our leadership and staff laments the “fact” that the public hates us.  Despite the fact that more scientific polls show the public is on our side.    Miscalculating the public viewpoint, and relieved that they do not have to do more than sell the membership concessionary contracts and more lawsuits, CAPS (Blanning and Baker) staff threw in the towel and protested when workers (at the DTSC meeting) demanded that we hold Brown to his perceived pro-labor image.
The CAPS FIGHTING UNION CAUCUS has commenced on a campaign to end the domination of CAPS by a law firm which is both incapable of serving our interests and dedicated to taking our dues into their balance sheet.  Please call CAPS or write the office and ask for a record of financial statements for the duration of your membership.  The staff is obligated to make those records available to you.  What you will see is that your dues money has been sustaining Blanning and Bakers habitual need to go to court.  Despite loosing case after case Blanning and Baker never actually lose.   Why?  Because they get paid at our expense despite loosing.  There is a term that defines the behavior of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result!  It is called insanity.
But we have a choice keep the current leadership and the thieves of Blanning and Baker in place or lift ourselves out of our B&B imposed apathy and miasma and organize unit by unit, job site by job site and form a democratic CAPS capable of uniting with the 1.5 million public workers in California to defend our rights and working conditions against the  interests of the 84 California billionaires who are laughing all the way to the bank while your 401k’s evaporate!   The choice is yours organize or watch the top 0.01% strip us bare while Blanning and Baker shrug their shoulders and say,”that’s the best we could do.”
We still need people to step forward and take the lead by running for office.  You have until August 26th to get a petition with 10 CAPS members’ signatures on it to run for office.
If you find this discussion of value please forward it to other CAPS members around the state.
Charles Rachlis for the CAPS FIGHTING UNION CAUCUS

About Mad Scientist

Member of California Association of Professional Scientists
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1 Response to CAPS Rank and File fighting union election Bulletin #2

  1. CHECK ELILTISM AT THE DOOR (reprinted from leaflet distributed to CAPS members in November 2010)

    At the DTSC CAPS site meeting last week Chris Voight took time to explain to the assembled that CAPS members are professionals, that many members have advanced degrees and that we are not like those other workers; in particular he referred to janitors and administrative workers. Presumably we do not act like them and we struggle for our rights in a more refined manner!

    This is not the first time I have heard this line of reasoning from of CAPS staffers. Members should take offense at this attempt by our staff to separate CAPS members from, create an air of rarified elitism over, and there-by prevent solidarity in word and deed with, our co-workers who are janitors, admin staff and the like; most of whom may not have had the opportunity for the elevated level of education that CAPS members had access to.

    Luckily this embarrassing derogatory attitude was not embraced by the CAPS VP (Valarie Brown) who told us that she started as an administrative person herself. Kudos to Valarie Brown for speaking to the issue of worker equality and not bowing to the elitist viewpoint that Chris has adopted.

    There is no room in the trade union movement for this type class-ism and our board should admonish CAPS staff to change their attitude or keep it to themselves. Ultimately this type of class-ism prevents us from uniting with our natural allies and puts us in the camp of the elite the very bosses, bankers and speculators who own the politicians we have to negotiate with for our contract. This attitude, on the part of our staff, indicates that staff has internalized the dominant ideology which drives a wedge separating the middle class and the traditional working class and, in turn use that separation to impose the austerity on us all with out a fight.

    This commentary by Chris Voight was Blanning and Baker’s way of telling us that our options, of how to fight against the attack on our wages and benefits, are limited to reliance on the courts and the politicians (the two failed options they are masters of). Those may be the only options Blanning and Baker are capable of envisioning but they are not the only options. Only a few weeks ago the RNs at Children’s Hospital in Oakland (many with advanced degrees and commanding salaries which might make State Scientists feel like janitors and administrative persons) took strike action for three days. It is not unheard of for workers in similarly “rarified positions” and with advanced degrees to show a little muscle.

    Despite CAPS staffers claim that they won the furlough case, it was pointed out from the floor, that in actuality the loss of over 60 days pay so far and ongoing furloughs, indicates that the abstract paper win in the courts has translated in to concrete hardship for our members. While parity issues were addressed as the perpetual legal battle they have become, no one mentioned that we have lost close to 18% for lack of COLA’s over the last 10 years. Of course parity would be nice (if it is ever won) but regular COLA’s are essential!

    When one rank and file member suggested that we press Jerry Brown to end the furloughs on his first day in office, Chris and the assembled board members admonished us to not pressure Brown or expect much from him as he is already under the right wing gun and media scrutiny for supposedly being in the pocket of the unions. Ending the furloughs, we were told, is going to take time, a long time. And again we were assured the furloughs are, in our legal expert opinion, illegal. One might then ask, if they are indeed illegal, what’s would be the problem of insisting that the new governor abide the law?

    One might also ask why did CAPS give support to a politician who we can’t even ask to take our cause immediately. But it is clear why. The CAPS staff and apparently the board have distain for any type of independent economic or political job action by the rank and file worker members of CAPS which might confront the cozy relation the lobbyists have developed in Sacramento or threaten to by-pass the court based solutions which keep CAPS funds flowing to Blanning and Baker and which just lost us 60 days and counting of pay already.

    There were plenty of opportunities to build joint action with other state workers during the period of the furloughs. If the State Scientists and Engineers (also under the influence of Blanning and Baker) took to the streets and mobilized their members these highly educated and relatively well paid workers would have inspired others and could have changed the dynamics but when other state workers marched on Sacramento, held pickets at state buildings and highway overpasses, reached out to the communities of public services and education which were being cut the CAPS leadership and staff did nothing. This is proof positive that the current staff and leadership has no winning strategy.

    As for the view that professionals don’t take job actions like those other lowly janitors and administration workers, consider the Doctors in Luxembourg :

    “Doctors in Luxembourg continue protest against health reforms

    Thousands of health workers may strike indefinitely in Luxembourg later this month. They are seeking to pressure the government to abandon its health reform. Members of the Association of Doctors and Dentists in Luxembourg (AMMD) trade union have worked half their normal hours in recent weeks. Their action began on October 22.
    Medical workers are concerned that the reform, which gives the state greater control, would mean an end to patients being able to choose which doctor to visit. There is also fear over a proposal to place the personal details of patients into a national database.
    On Wednesday, AMMD General Secretary Claude Schummer said that the members of the union would continue to provide reduced services. Representatives of the union had “unanimously decided to carry on with the strike but would not enhance the measures taken so far”, she said.”

    Charles Rachlis
    Associate Industrial Hygienist/
    Richmond Campus Health and Safety Officer

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