Report from the Executive Board, May 15th 2011

The first official meeting of the newly elected Executive Board was held at UCLA on Sunday May 15th. All ten candidates from the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) slate were seated as E-board members in the aftermath of a historic election for UAW Local 2865. Below is a narrative summary of the meeting, the major topics of discussion and the decisions taken.

The meeting was attended by 9 of the 10 new E-board members, along with International Representatives Mike Miller and Ken Lang. There were also a number of members in attendance. The meeting opened with the official swearing in of the new officers by International Representative Ken Lang. Following the approval of the agenda  by the E-board, the following topics were discussed.

Transition Issues

The E-board spent much of the first half of the meeting discussing practical issues related to the transition from the outgoing officers to the new team. The main decision taken was to form an E-board subcommittee tasked with investigating the current staffing situation in the local (who is on payroll etc.), along with developing some options for the hiring of specialist staff, such as alternative legal counsel and a bookkeeper. This committee is composed of the President, Financial Secretary and the three Trustees, and it will present a report to the next E-board meeting in June.

It was determined that immediate financial priorities for the local are preparing the Hudson Notice#, and clearing the auditing backlog. On this last point, the local is two years behind on its internal auditing and risks incurring financial penalties from the International if action is not taken to remedy this soon.

Statewide Membership Meeting

The new E-board was excited at the prospect of being able to be part of the first statewide membership meeting in our local’s history to have quorum. The new E-board campaigned on a platform of returning control of the union to its members and a  statewide membership meeting that can actually make decisions is an extremely important step in that direction.

The E-board devoted time to discussing logistics for the meeting, as well as ways to encourage more members to attend and ideas for facilitating the meeting to ensure everyone gets a chance to speak. Motions were passed to authorize travel reimbursements for those traveling from outside the Bay Area to attend the meeting. Additionally funds were approved for the cost of hiring a venue for the meeting, should such expenditure be necessary.

Former E-board member Filiberto Nolasco submitted a letter requesting that the E-board call new elections. The E-board agreed unanimously that discussion on the recent election, and decisions on its validity, should be held at a more representative and less partisan meeting. All such discussion was therefore postponed until the statewide membership meeting.

Creating a Vision of a New Union

The remainder of the meeting was devoted to a brainstorming exercise proposed by President Cheryl Deutsch. The aim was to collect all the ideas and goals that the new E-board has for our local and to begin the process of developing a strategy for making them a reality. It will be up to the statewide membership to decide ultimately on the political strategy the local will follow, and the process of developing it will be as inclusive and democratic as possible. But it will be important for the E-board to have a collective vision of where it wants to get to and a basis for proposing ideas to, and soliciting them from, rank-and-file members.

The ideas produced during the brainstorming exercise fell into six broad categories; social and cultural spaces within the local; ‘big ideas’ (i.e. broader, more long-term goals); promoting and practicing solidarity; winning a stronger contract; union democracy; and member education. Below is a summary of the ideas proposed. They range from immediate and realistic to long term dreams. This is a laundry list, the ideas still need to be discussed and are not yet implemented.

Social and Cultural Space:
Building relationships among union leadership, transforming union office space into usable spaces for members (meeting space, labor library, study space, steward office hours, etc), instituting regular union pub nights and other social events, food at union meetings, creating a local newsletter and making the website useful, fostering student-worker solidarity.

With other unions: reinvigorating the UC Union Coalition, making contact with other locals of ASEs around the country (Coalition of Grad Employees), Central Labor Councils around California. With identity movements: LGBT rights, race, gender, immigrant and social justice movements. Political movements: “equitable wealth” movement, labor studies and scholarship, CA budget movement, public education movement, anti-war movement.

Contract enforcement and negotiations:

A campaign about workload issues, ensuring our contract is enforced. Beginning research to negotiate for class size, cost of housing, dependent health care.

Union Democracy and Transparency:
Creating campus unit budgets, revitalizing the local’s standing committees, improving regional coordination, twice yearly statewide membership meetings, member involvement in VCAP allocations (public ed movement!), “know your rights” campaign, Eboard members should attend meetings around the state, thorough prep for fall orientations, build a stewards network and council, limit appointments for union positions to 50%–same as members, make the JCs real discussion and decision-making space (longer? More frequent?), develop simplified rules for conducting meetings, Eboard meetings should rotate between north and south and between all campuses, create a uaw email for every JC member, committee to organize undergrad tutors, include eboard and staff report at every JC, share responsibilities on the Eboard

Member Education:
Grievance and contract enforcement training for all new JC and Eboard members, contract education/know your rights for members (and departments?), sponsor & organize anti-oppression workshops, organizing trainings, develop strategic research capacity (research on UC higher-ups, etc).

Big Ideas:
Our Union: Get SB 259 passed, orrganize 14,000 GSRS and get them a great contract. Become a force in the fight for racial justice and civil rights. UC: Stop the cuts, reverse the fee hikes, democratize the Regents, defeat Benefits Decentralization. State of California: Free public higher education for all. Get rid of Prop 13, pass a high-earners income tax. Thousands of UC students and workers to occupy the state capitol demanding new revenue. Labor Movement: Get EFCA passed, join the fight back against attacks on public sector unions, organize the unorganized—100% unionization in 5 years, revitalize and democratize the labor movement.

Shifting Power from the Top to the Bottom

The meeting closed with a series of decisions regarding the decentralization of power and decision-making within the local. Over the course of the last few years, power has been concentrated increasingly within the hands of a few officials at the top. AWDU campaigned on a platform of reversing this process and giving members control over their union once again. The E-board therefore voted to grant access to campus-level elected leaders to the email and phone lists for their respective campuses. Past practice required that any email to the membership be vetted first by the President and the Recording Secretary. This has now been amended to allow campus leaders the opportunity to speak to their members directly, with the proviso that the Recording Secretary be cc’d on all correspondence. Similarly, the E-board approved a proposal to allow all Joint Council members to have access to keys to their campus offices if they want them.

The E-board also decided to allow each campus to participate in their regional Central Labor Councils. This has been a long-standing demand of members on a number of campuses and will be an important element of our campaign to develop better links with our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the labor movement.

Finally, the E-board approved a proposal to recruit a graphic designer, if possible from within the membership, to design “Proud member of UAW 2865” cards for members to display in offices and work spaces.

The new E-board is committed to making all of its meetings as open and accessible as possible, and members are encouraged to attend if they are able to. Minutes and a summary report will be made available shortly after each meeting, and the E-board plans to explore the possibility of web-casting future meetings.