October 2018 Vacancy Election
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Northern Vice President
I am running for Northern Vice President on the OSWP slate because in the wake of Janus, our union, and the labor movement more broadly, are in crisis. We need a highly organized rank-and-file capable not only of withstanding wave after wave of attack but also of advancing a politics of social justice and working-class power. This won’t happen on its own. We need leaders with the vision and skills to get us there.
I am running on two simple proposals: bring our union up to 90% membership statewide and dramatically increase the participation of every member. To achieve this, I will work with union members across the state to build a network of 400 Departmental Stewards in every department, on every campus. This layer of union leadership will serve as the first point of contact regarding contract violations and workplace concerns. These stewards will be best positioned to bring their co-workers into the union, achieve supermajority membership, and lay the foundation for unionizing GSRs/RAs. They will work closely with departmental leaders to ensure information can be swiftly communicated from each department up to the Joint Council and Executive Board. Effective systems and clean lines of communication will improve our ability to meaningfully engage every member.
I am a third generation unionist with elected shop stewards on both sides of my family. I have worked on campaigns to organize restaurant workers, immigrant car-wash workers, low-income tenants, payday loan users, airport workers, hotel workers, and now graduate student workers. In my home department, I have brought our membership up to 95%, run a departmental steward election, and developed a departmental organizing committee to keep all rank-and-file members informed and engaged. Over the last two months, I have kick-started the departmental steward program at Berkeley, with elected stewards or upcoming elections in at least five departments. Over the past year, I have developed leaders in our lowest density departments including Business, Mathematics, Statistics, and Chemistry and signed up hundreds of co-workers through membership blitzes at San Diego, Irvine, and Davis. I have worked side-by-side with leaders on every campus by door-knocking, doing walkthroughs, and running meetings. My rich network of comrades across the state will enable me to hit the ground running.
We are in the fight of our lives. Amid the endless wave of right-wing attacks on the working class, it is our duty as unionists to ensure the survival of our organizations as the last line of defense. Every fresh onslaught of right-to-work, assaults on immigrants, repression of women, police brutality, and the trampling of voting rights chips away at our power to resist. Riding out the storm is not an option. We will either run aground on treacherous shoals or stand up, unbowed and wrest control from the billionaire class. The choice is clear. I am dedicated to building a powerful union that fights and wins. Please join me in that struggle. The future of our union and our class depends on it.
Our union has won considerable gains at close of our bargaining round – such a process would not have been possible without workers as yourselves thinking about the role of our labors at the UC, formulating demands, volunteering your time for organizing and building collective power, and mustering the courage to fight. We have witnessed in this struggle the nobility of humanity shine forth from our work-weary bodies, and the legacy for a public university rekindled.
With sober senses, we must reckon with the crisis our campuses are facing: near half of our members’ needs were not met by the current contract, and even the gains won from the most recent contract only allay, as you may feel, a condition of general precarity, amplified most to our members from marginal backgrounds. In addition, the conservative right has launched an attack on public unions in their Janus decision, and thus, one of the few remaining instances of our collective power. Navigating such a critical moment for our union requires a steadfast commitment to workers’ capabilities in directing their course of action through their autonomous organization, along with a dash or two of bureaucratic efficacy.
Unfortunately, efforts towards such ends have faltered in fidelity. In our union, social justice organizers and issues have been met with indifference and callousness, and the needs of rank and file members who voted to fight for a better contract have so far been unaddressed (such as, what to do with the loss of Appendix E after contract negotiations, which gave international grads and out of state undergraduates partial fee and tuition remission, respectively). The result is that entire campuses are disappointed and frustrated with our union, leading to the loss of their crucial participation.
As NVP, I would begin with centering the margins, facilitating the distribution of power away from its current concentration and towards a distributed leadership across our campuses (you may consider my election as a member from Santa Cruz a step in that direction!). This, I believe, is a precondition for a democratic union that can meet the dire challenges outlined above. Additionally, I would prioritize the development of strong organizing structures – namely, supporting head-stewards across every department – that enable workers to demonstrate their collective power in efforts like our current Graduate Student Researcher unionization campaign, or autonomous action set forth by individual or collective campuses, like the solidarity currently being built between different workers at the UC, such as the workers of AFSCME, in their particular struggles. Differences will arise, and workers’ reason as a force for emancipation will compel me to listen.
I look forward to our collective engagements.
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My vision for our union is one of justice and power. I believe unhesitatingly that the union is for everyone. Our power comes from our numbers and from our willingness to embrace and defend each other with solidarity.
We have work to do to make our union truly representative and truly strong. Our union must be a strong organizing union: one in which all represented workers are card-signing members, every department has at least one department steward, and Research Assistants have a strong contract that represents their interests and protects their rights. A union that is truly for everyone is one with supermajority membership across all campuses. It is one in which we can harness the power of our 17,000-strong collective body to pursue justice around the issues that affect us as a diverse group of workers.
Our union is within reach of real power—both on the shop floor and in the political arena. Our issues are those of all people of California: living wages, affordable housing, accessible healthcare, gender equity, racial justice, immigrant rights. I believe we must see our union as a central force in our workplace, our state, and the larger structure of the UAW, and we must build strength, and hone strategy, to do so. It is time for our union come into its power.
I became active in UAW 2865 through my work with Bruins Against Sexual Harassment, a graduate student organization that organized for justice for survivors of sexual harassment and violence. Through the 2017 protests of UCLA History Professor Gabriel Piterberg—who, thanks to student-worker activism, was finally fired—I became passionate about militant unionism. As UCLA Recording Secretary since April 2017, I have worked tirelessly to build membership on my campus, helping to increase our campus to majority. I have led delegations, organized direct actions, recruited new leaders, and worked closely with coalition groups. As Co-Chair of our union’s bargaining committee during the most recent round of contract negotiations, I fought for our new sexual harassment and discrimination protections, immigration protections, raises, waivers, and union access.
As a member of the Executive Board, I will continue to work tirelessly with other unionists to bring our union back to strength after the recent years in which we had no organizing program, low membership, and little participation. I will continue to prioritize building our union’s power by supporting a robust statewide organizing program oriented toward strengthening our own bargaining unit and toward unionizing Graduate Student Researchers and Research Assistants. I will continue prioritizing racial and gender justice within our union and outside of it. I will also work to establish a strategic political program that develops our union’s potential for external power. In this way, I believe we can not just survive this anti-union era in which we find ourselves, but thrive.
My name is Veronica Hamilton and I am running for the position of Recording Secretary as part of a slate of workers for a militant, democratic, bottom-up union. I am a social psychology PhD student at UC Santa Cruz and my research and activism is committed to addressing the dehumanization of low-wage workers. As an undergraduate in the UC system from 2009-2014, I was here for our last three contract campaigns and I have participated in the massive movements against UC greed since 2009. Prior to attending UCSC as a PhD student, I worked with Meet and Confer (a stand-in liaison group between grad students and the administration) at the University System of Maryland to help address the pervasive issue of student debt and low student-worker pay. I know how it feels to not have the strength of a union backing you up, because graduate students weren’t allowed to unionize in Maryland. I know that our union can be powerful and now’s the time to show our power.
I am running on the stance that the best way to build a strong union is to show what we can do. According to research, the best way to increase member engagement is through direct action and there is a lot we still need to fight for! Nearly half of voters in August voted against our current contract because it doesn’t provide enough. What’s worse is that many of our members weren’t in session yet and didn’t even know about the vote! There were many shortcomings of this contract, including a relatively small wage increase, nothing to address our housing crisis, and the elimination of partial tuition remission for undergraduate students and partial fee remission for international graduate students. This is unacceptable! An injury to one is an injury to all! We are unwilling to allow the UC divide us as workers!
Our workers are living in one of the worst housing crises in CA history, mobilization through the #metoo movement has brought to light unacceptable cases of sexual harassment in the workplace (e.g., Gopal at UCSC), and, in our current political moment, it is crucial to stand up against corporate greed. I have already begun working on addressing worker needs by helping to create and disseminate a petition about housing at UCSC, which is our first step toward addressing housing precarity and the excessive cost of housing on campus and in Santa Cruz.
It’s time that this union represent all of our workers. We need campus diversity in our executive board. UAW organizers at UC Santa Cruz have pushed our union to become more militant by exercising the collective power we have as both students and workers to improve the living and working conditions for all in our campus community. It’s time to balance the political power in our union. It’s time to fight for what we need. The best way to do that is to start the work NOW, not when we meet some artificial requirement of 90% membership.
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My name is Cory Mengual, and I am running for the position of Trustee as part of the slate that will fight for a fair share. We believe in a bottom-up, democratically run union, where union spaces are ones where every voice and perspective is valued, and where dissent and deliberation prevail over hierarchy and authority. I believe we can be a better union, and I believe we should be doing more to stand up for the most vulnerable members of our community. This means standing up for international students and the rejecting the elimination of Appendix E from our contract; this means standing up for students of color by demanding accountability and preventative actions in response to instances of racial profiling and excess force by UCPD; and especially, this means insisting on the financial supports working students and their families need to survive. The time has come for the UC to cease profiting from the affordable housing crisis—the rents must come down, and now!
I am a Sociology PhD student at UCLA. I have been a rank and file member since 2016, and it has been a great honor to serve as a union steward for my department at UCLA and work for our union as an organizer during the March to Majority. I am also currently the Co-president of the Sociology Graduate Student Association, and am committed to building student worker institutions that are more inclusive, supportive, and transparent spaces.
In every campus across the state of California, student workers are confronting an affordable housing crisis of epic proportions. Instead of guaranteeing affordable housing for all and ensuring equal access to higher education, UC administration officials use student housing to generate revenue. Funds gained from students should be used for student benefit, and not to pay for executive bonuses and donor events.
While student workers are only offered a 3% annual raise, the university raises rents by 5% or more, even as much as 12% per year—so that every single year, our rent consumes a larger and larger share of our income. While Janet Napolitano receives a housing stipend of $9,950 per month, and faculty can receive support on their mortgage, student workers get left out in the cold.
The university justifies these housing increases as necessary to cover operating costs, and yet only offers their maintenance workers a 2% raise. The truth is that the university extracts millions of dollars in surplus revenue from student workers through rents every year.
Enough is enough. Our work does not decrease in value with each year, it grows. Our wages should be increasing to reflect that.
I am devoted to protecting student workers’ rights, increasing wages, and improving working conditions for all students. I strongly believe that the university is obligated to provide a living wage to all academic workers. Financial, mental, and physical wellbeing should not be contingent on access to familial resources.
Andrew Y. Elrod
In my experience, a discomforting amount of teaching and research at the University of California is conducted to fulfill bureaucratic requirements long severed from any conscious consideration of how best to educate our students into independent, critically minded adults. Given proper organization and representation, graduate students are uniquely positioned to begin to reverse this historical transformation of public higher education in the United States into a form of labor-market credentialing and subsidized industry research. UAW 2865 has the potential to provide this organization, to steer the UC towards becoming a fully accessible public higher education system and to restore its sense of civic purpose. This is why I am running for Trustee for UAW 2865 on the Organizing Student-Worker Power (OSWP) Slate.
Changes at the university-wide level over enrollment and funding are most palpable in the classroom, the laboratory, and in office hours—that is, to those Teaching Assistants, Research Assistants, Readers, and Tutors performing the essential research and teaching functions at the core of the university. Yet to the central decision-making authority of the UC system, the University of California Office of the President (the UCOP), these effects of policy are hardly visible. The UCOP is of furthest possible remove from the academic work of the UC system.
The UCOP and the Graduate Division are incapable of correcting these trends without input from those teaching and doing the research work. That is why student workers—as those witnessing at first hand the ultimate effects of managerial decisions over research and education priorities—are uniquely positioned to participate in the formulation and oversight of university policy. But to do so effectively, they must have an instrument requisite to the task. They must have a form of democratic representation, and one that is, crucially, independent of the UCOP administrative bureaucracy. Furthermore, for that tool to make effective interventions in university policy, it must have the power and influence of a mass membership behind it. Only with the support of members such a device place meaningful pressure on university decision makers to restore a sense of public purpose to the UC, rather than continue the bureaucratic drift away from quality undergraduate education.
Luckily, graduate students in the UC already have an instrument for influencing policy at hand: our union, UAW 2865. I am running on the OSWP slate because I believe organization does not happen on its own: only through building the membership and providing them with the statewide coordination to bring sufficient pressure on the requisite offices of the bureaucracy can we have a shot at shaping the future. The demonstrated alternative has been to decentralize all union decision making and wait for spontaneous organization. But unless we take the initiative, we will be left waiting. The university is itself centralized; only by collecting and focusing our own diffuse efforts and coordinating across the state can we hope to build enough power to influence it.