United for Social & Economic Justice: The Blog

BeyondChron Op-Ed: UAW 2865 Members Call for Fair Election

posted May 20, 2011 5:30 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice


A group of UAW Local 2865 members and officers asked our newly elected Executive Board on Sunday to join us in calling for a fair union election. We are asking that a neutral third party run the balloting and that both parties sign a fair election agreement. However, our new Executive Board, leaders of a slate called Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (“AWDU”), unanimously rejected our call for a fair election despite massive irregularities raised by all parties in the aftermath of the recent leadership election. Our new leaders declined to lead at the worst time possible.

UAW 2865 represents 12,000 academic student employees (teaching assistants, readers and tutors) at the University of California. As public employees, our right to representation is under attack. Our right to an affordable education continues to erode. If we as a union are to bargain strong contracts and fight effectively against budget cuts and fee hikes, our members must have confidence that their leaders were chosen through a fair election.

Our Local Union has contributed a great deal to the strength of the labor movement by helping nearly 20,000 other academic workers form unions, winning ground breaking rights for part time employees like paid family leave and childcare benefits and establishing and expanding fee and tuition remissions for students when they work as academic student employees. We have retained our right to honor other worker’s picket lines. Our strength and integrity is being threatened by our leaders’ refusal to join us in calling for a fair election.

Among the many problems with the election were:

o The ballots remained in the sole possession of AWDU candidates for nearly five days after the Election Committee postponed its counting process amid threats and intimidation from AWDU candidates and their supporters

o A photo of a poll worker with his hand in an open ballot box—in clear violation of election committee protocol--during voting hours

o Written evidence that an Election Committee member from UC Santa Cruz colluded with AWDU candidates to attempt to disqualify opposing candidates, a violation of his mandate for impartiality

o The use of management to influence voters

o Cancellation and delays of voting times and locations without notifying the membership

In addition, AWDU ran a campaign of widespread deception, harassment, and intimidation of candidates as well as voters. In the process of the election, it became clear that these tactics came from several AWDU candidates, who worked previously as paid staff organizers for the National Union of Healthcare Workers (“NUHW”) in their struggles against SEIU and Andy Stern. It became clear that AWDU was getting advice and support from current NUHW leaders and staff in the campaign, election and vote count. The AWDU candidates, in their eagerness to win seats in this election, failed to grasp that our Local Union, UAW 2865, is not SEIU.

AWDU candidates lied about how much salary union leaders earned, falsely accused them of not being students and made baseless accusations that they were “bureaucrats” out-of-touch with the lives of academic student employees. All of our Local Union’s leaders have always come from the UAW 2865 bargaining unit. Our Local Union hires only members of the union as staff. Our Local Union leaders have always organized on a daily basis, on the ground and face to face with our members. We are students, workers, and members of our own local union, and we want to help our union expand our hard-won rights. Our bylaws and UAW constitution have procedures to safeguard fair and democratic elections, with appeal procedures available to all members.

AWDU’s harassment, bringing in another union and faculty supervisors who significantly influence the long-term career prospects of graduate students to intimidate union leaders and candidates for office, and use of deception to defame candidates amounts to no more than bullying. We respect our union and deserve to participate, without any interference from another union or faculty supervisors.

Lest anyone think our call for a fair election is a politically self-interested gesture, let us be clear that many of us who signed onto this call for a fair election are members of the United for Social and Economic Justice slate and actually won our races! AWDU candidates won the Executive Board seats but only half of the elected head stewards on the Joint Council. Despite the fact that many of us are jeopardizing the seats we just won by calling for a fair election, we are doing so out of a commitment to the democracy and strength of our union. We believe very strongly that our ability to stand as a strong voice in the fight to defend public higher education is diminished if we do not choose our leaders through fair elections.

Justice demands that our leaders take a stand for democracy and join us in calling for a fair election.

Xochitl Lopez is a Law Student at UC Davis and the UAW 2865 Head Steward-Elect; Filiberto Nolasco is a History Graduate Student at UC Santa Barbara, and the UAW 2865 Unit Chair-Elect.

Newly-seated Union Officials Refuse to Join in Members’ Call for Fair Elections; Ignore Growing Evidence of Massive Election Irregularities in UAW 2865 Elections

posted May 16, 2011 8:59 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice [ updated May 17, 2011 9:36 AM ]

May 15, 2011

(LOS ANGELES)—In its first meeting as the new Executive Board of UAW Local 2865, the leaders of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union unanimously rejected members’ call for a fair election despite massive irregularities raised by all parties in the aftermath of the Union’s recent elections.

A group of UAW Local 2865 members, many of whom won their races, filed a formal protest of the election with the Executive Board on Sunday, in conformance with procedures under the UAW Constitution and Local 2865 bylaws.  The protest includes 41 specific challenges to the integrity of the election.


“Justice for workers in higher education requires fair union elections," said Filiberto Nolasco Gomez, a teaching assistant who won his race for campus chair at UC Santa Barbara. "If we as a union are to fight effectively against UC budget cuts and fee hikes, our members must have confidence that their leaders were chosen through a fair election. We asked the Executive Board to join in our protest and call for a fair election, and they refused to take a position."


UAW 2865, which represents 12,000 ASEs at the University of California, held triennial officer elections on April 26 -28.  The elections were hotly contested, and allegations of irregularities and improprieties were raised by all sides in the election.  All of the newly seated Executive Board members are affiliated with “Academic Workers for a Democratic Union” (AWDU).


"This group (AWDU) claimed throughout the campaign that they stand for democracy, fairness and transparency,” adds John Gust, the newly elected campus chair at UC Riverside.  “Their refusal to join us in calling for a fair election is the height of hypocrisy, especially after the widespread deception, intimidation, and egregious irregularities of this election.”

“The list of irregularities is so long that it’s impossible to ignore; members’ valid concerns must not be ignored.” states Xochitl Lopez, a successful Head Steward candidate at UC Davis.


Highlights of the protest letter include:

· The ballots remained in the sole possession of AWDU candidates for three days after the Election Committee postponed its counting process on April 30

· A photo of a poll worker with his hand in an open ballot box during voting hours

· Written evidence that UC Santa Cruz Election Committee member Adam Hefty colluded with AWDU candidates to attempt to disqualify opposing candidates, a violation of his mandate for impartiality

· Cancellation of voting times and locations without notifying the membership


The letter can be viewed in its entirety by clicking here: http://www.uniteduc.org/home/acallforfairelections


In calling for a fair election, members seek to have the election run by a neutral third party, and ask candidates to sign an agreement to engage in a fair election. Since the Executive Board refused to act on the protest and abruptly ended discussion on the topic, it will likely be discussed at a membership meeting.

###

A Call for Fair Elections

posted May 15, 2011 11:17 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice

We are writing to express our deep concerns over the conduct of our union’s recent officer election. We have read the Election Committee’s report on the enormous volume of challenges and accusations from both sides of this election over the past week. Both sides have won positions but our opinion is that the election is tainted and that allowing this election to stand as legitimate could do serious long-term damage to the reputation and function of our union. As the UAW International Union’s Guide for Local Union Elections states:

“The UAW Constitution is the living law of our Union. It guarantees basic trade union rights to all members. It is intended to protect equally the rights of individual members, and of the Union as a whole. The most important of these trade union rights is the right of the membership to fair, democratic election procedures in all instances when they vote to choose their officials. In order to guarantee this right, the UAW Constitution provides basic regulations for the conduct of elections for local union office.”

No matter who wins the election, it is critical that our members have confidence that the election process is fair and democratic. And so it is with a profound sense of personal and professional obligation to the integrity of the union that we are protesting this election and requesting that it be set aside and re-run.

Having read through the Election Committee’s report (attached) and the various emails, blogs & user comments, as well as our own observations, it seems that several categories of problems, with many more individual examples, occurred which are serious enough to justify setting this election aside. They include:

1) The membership has a right to be confident that ballots and voting materials will be secure throughout the voting and counting process.

a. This is why it is a very serious violation of the Election Committee protocol that one slate’s supporters (AWDU) was left alone with the ballot boxes for 4-5 days, after the elections committee felt compelled to suspend counting on April 30.

b. poll worker at the Sather Gate voting location at UC Berkeley was reaching into a wide-open ballot box during polling hours on April 27,

c. daily reports were not submitted from UC Davis campus for any day of the election, in violation of the election committee protocol, that detailed how many ballots were used that day at each voting location at UC Davis and therefore helped safeguard that ballot-stuffing did not occur,

d. several ballot boxes at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego did not, pursuant to election committee protocol, contain a proper “slot” on top for inserting cast ballots. As a result, the boxes were not sealed when that poll closed in accord with election committee protocol so that it could be verified that ballot stuffing or tampering did not occur,

e . several ballot boxes, from UC Berkeley lacked proper seals and signatures prior to being opened for the count so that it could be verified that ballot stuffing or tampering did not occur,

f. During the counting of ballots from UCLA and UC Berkeley, candidates were allowed to handle ballots during the counting process in violation of election committee protocol and the Guide to the Elections Committee compromising the neutrality of the count,

g. outer envelopes were not used consistently for balloting at UCLA, UCSD and UCSB in violation of election committee protocol intended to guarantee that voters only cast one ballot,

h. no ballots were returned or counted from UC Merced, disenfranchising the entire campus.

3) Election committee members MUST be fair and impartial to facilitate a fair election and to maintain the membership’s confidence in the integrity of the Local Union’s democratic processes. According to the UAW Guide to Local Union Elections:

“Throughout the election process, [election committee members must] be guided by three principles. First, you must be fair and impartial, treating all candidates equally and avoiding any acts of favoritism or even the appearance of favoritism. You should maintain a businesslike relationship with all candidates even if you work with or are personal friends with any of them. Second, you must follow the election provisions in the Constitution and bylaws as well as any other union election rules as long as they are not inconsistent with federal law. Finally, you should uphold American democratic traditions by protecting the right of every member in good standing to nominate candidates, run for office, and vote by secret ballot for officers of your local union.”

A number of accusations have been made on this subject, including allegations that election committee members actively campaigned for candidates/slates, that election committee members gave partisans access to confidential information in order to advantage AWDU, and that election committee members (and in at least one case, former member) attempted to “rig” voting in their favor.

a. Contrary to the impartial role prescribed in the Guide, elections committee members/alternates from Davis (Nick Perrone), Berkeley (Lizzy Matuitzi), and Santa Cruz (Sara Smith and Adam Hefty) openly campaigned for AWDU either on blogs during the lead up to the election or, in some cases, during the election.

b. Written records show that Santa Cruz election committee member Adam Hefty colluded with AWDU leaders to plan strategies challenging the eligibility of opposing candidates in direct violation of the proscription against favoritism.

c. Sara Smith, Santa Cruz Election Committee member, used her position to limit voting opportunities on her campus by reducing the number of days of voting on the “science hill” part of campus from three to one. Then, after advantaging herself, resigned from the committee and ran for office.

d. Prior to and during the election, Santa Cruz Election Committee member Adam Hefty

spoke openly in the press (Daily Californian, April 28, 2011)and on his own blog (slugorganizingcommittee.wordpress.com, April 21, 2011) about how the election procedures were insufficient to ensure a fair election, having the effect of suppressing turnout

4) The Membership has the Right to a Free and Fair Nominations Process Where All Members Feel Welcome to Participate. AWDU candidates such as Charlie Eaton engaged in intimidation of opposing candidates, with the goal of getting them to withdraw their nominations

a. Santa Cruz Elections Committee member Adam Hefty used his position on the committee to work with AWDU to attempt to falsely and disparately disqualify USEJ candidates, such as Sayil Camacho

b. The Election Committee allowed a candidate to run who had no proof of

membership eligibility

c. AWDU candidate, Justin Clement, at UC Davis deliberately lied about which slate he was running on in an attempt to block USEJ from having a candidate

5) The Membership has the Right to a Free and Fair Elections Process Where All Members Feel Welcome to Participate—AWDU engaged in bullying & intimidation during the election and count. Many of the accusations are extremely serious and raise deep questions about the freedom and fairness of the election.

a. AWDU candidate Eran Zelnik intimidated a voter at UC Davis on

the evening of April 27th, until she left the area without voting.

b. AWDU repeatedly disseminated false information about opposing

candidates regarding union staff income, student status and candidate eligibility

c. Numerous candidates and campaigners from AWDU engaged in campaigning inside the no-electioneering circle, including Sunny Lim at UC Santa Barbara, Charlie Eaton and Mindy Chen at UCLA, and others at UC Berkeley

d. AWDU candidates, including Cheryl Deutsch at UC Irvine and Renee Hudson at UCLA, followed opposing candidates around with derogatory and intentionally inaccurate signs that misled and discouraged voters from participating

6) The Democratically Elected Election Committee Promulgates Rules and Procedures for the Elections to Guarantee the Membership’s Right to a Free and Fair Election. Numerous violations of the basic protocols for running the elections occurred during the voting.

a. Polls opened between ½ hour and an hour late at multiple voting locations at

Davis, Los Angeles, Irvine, and Santa Barbara

b. Voting was cancelled entirely at one of the Berkeley polling locations on the

evening of April 27, without notice to the membership.

c. Voting was cancelled for the entire day at UC Merced on April 28.

d. Poll workers at UCLA and UC Davis told voters they needed to show ID in

order to vote, discouraging participation

e. Poll workers at UC Davis told potential voters they needed to pay money in

order to vote

7) AWDU Improperly Used Union and Employer Resources

a. AWDU used faculty members, including Patricia Morton, who are supervisors to this bargaining unit, to disseminate their campaign material

b. The UC Berkeley Labor Center, an employer facility, hosted an AWDU meet-the-candidates forum without the USEJ being offered the same opportunity

c. AWDU recruited faculty members, who are supervisors to this bargaining unit, to support their position in the dispute over ballot counting in an attempt to influence the Elections Committee

d. AWDU UC Davis advertised on fliers that their caucus meeting would be at the same

time and location as the official April Union membership meeting at UC Davis, giving the impression that the caucus was the “Union.”

e. Molly Ball, the UC Davis Campus Recording Secretary at the time, put AWDU vote turnout on the official agenda of the March campus membership meeting.

8) The Membership has a Right to an Election Free from Interference by outside Parties, Including Faculty and Other Unions.

a. AWDU recruited faculty members, supervisors, from inside and outside the University of California to support their position in the dispute about ballot counting

b. AWDU used legal counsel affiliated with another Union to help direct their

strategy during the campaign and the dispute regarding counting the ballots

c. AWDU hosted numerous speakers and supporters from other Unions into their “occupation” of the statewide Union office, including Sal Rosselli from NUHW, Mike Walker from UAW Local 1700, and others

9) The Membership has a Right to Have the Election Results Counted and Tabulated in a Free and Fair Manner. In addition to the issues mentioned above, numerous other irregularities occurred during the counting of ballots that call into question the integrity of the process.

a. AWDU candidate Kyle Arnone admitted on a national news blog (Huffington Post, May 5, 2011) that his “side” only challenged ballots at UCLA to respond to USEJ’s challenge of ballots at Berkeley, that it was strategic rather than based on merits.

b. AWDU activists and candidates, including Charlie Eaton, Kyle Arnone and Bron Tamulis, intimidated and acted in a threatening manner to Elections Committee members and individuals from the other “side” when the count was halted on April 30.

c. AWDU representative Bron Tamulis used a homophobic slur to refer to one of

the challengers from USEJ during the ballot count at UCLA on April 30

d. USEJ Challenger Des Harmon was audio recorded without his consent, and pictures were taken of ballots he challenged on Friday, April 29. When the person who was recording and photographing him (Kyle Arnone, AWDU candidate for Trustee) was asked to leave, he became belligerent, insulting and using foul/threatening language toward both Harmon and the members of the Elections Committee. When he finally did leave, Charlie Eaton (AWDU candidate for Financial Secretary) advanced threateningly on Elections Committee chair Travis Knowles.

e. AWDU staged an “occupation” of the statewide Local Union office and the campus office at UCLA in an attempt to pressure the Elections Committee to make decisions that were beneficial to their side

f. Challenges to numerous Berkeley boxes were rendered void when Elections Committee members Adam Hefty and Lizzie Mattiuzzi decided unilaterally to combine ballots from those boxes with all other ballots, thus tainting the entire Berkeley vote

g. Candidates, including AWDU presidential candidiate Cheryl Deutsch, were allowed to handle ballots and other materials during the counting process, in violation of the rules and the UAW Guide

h. Challengers who had not registered prior to the count were allowed to act as challengers during the count

I. The Elections Committee allowed at least one ineligible challenger to act as a

challenger throughout the counting process (Brian Riley from UC Davis who

did not even become a member until after the voting started

In our opinion, these challenges raise sufficiently serious concerns to warrant our request that the this election be set aside and work together to re-run the election as soon as possible. We’ve seen this union do better. We know this union can do better. We call on all sides to collaborate on ways to make a second go-round a fair and impartial process.

Christian Acevedo

Rob Ackerman

Maree Afaga

Arash Arfaee

Steven Attewell

Jacob Burstein-Stern

Marko Budisic

Kevin Brighton

Jorge Cabrera

Sayil Camacho

Irene Chen

Carmen Cortez

Cassandra Engeman

Zarah Ersoff

Donna Fenton

Erica Fontana

Shahin Golshan

John Gust

Des Harmon

Angel Hinzo

Heather Hurwitz

Bob Long

Xochitl Lopez

Aliana Lopez de Victoria

Leslie Manjarrez

Lisa Millora

Ryan Mohr

Johnathan Muliang

Filiberto Nolasco

Gray Raulerson

Manuel Rios

Alicia Siu

Rachel Vandagriff

Marie van Staveren

Coral Wheeler

Election Results

posted May 8, 2011 10:50 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice

Fellow UAW 2865 members,

The election committee and a team of volunteers has wrapped-up counting the remaining ballots . For a complete set of results, and their full report, visit the UAW 2865 website: www.uaw2865.org .

According to these results, USEJ won victories at the San Diego , Los Angeles , Riverside, and Santa Barbara campuses and has secured half of the seats at the statewide bargaining team.  We also won positions at Davis and Merced.   Unfortunately, we lost the Executive Board offices.

This election has been challenging, to say the least.  From the ultra-negative campaign run by our opponents to the very serious issues involving the conduct of the election and the vote count that followed, this election has raised a number of questions about the future of our union. While the count has been completed, these questions remain unresolved by the elections committee and are subject to members’ appeal rights. More information about these issues and the process for resolving them is available in the Election Committee’s report.

On behalf of everyone involved in USEJ, we want to thank our supporters who have stood by us along the way, in our efforts to keep things positive and issue-focused.

For our part, we look forward to working with all members to continue building a strong, united, activist union at UC.

Updated Testimony

posted May 7, 2011 4:39 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice

We've just added new testimony about the intimidation & harassment experienced by USEJ candidates and their supporters during the election.

Labor scholars: "We were too hasty"

posted May 6, 2011 3:37 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice

Faculty members Dick Flacks (UCSB) & Chris Tilly (UCLA) release a public statement acknowledging earlier public statements made by faculty regarding our union elections were "too hasty".

Thanks to both Professors for taking the high road.

Count ALL the Ballots!

posted May 6, 2011 3:14 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice [ updated May 6, 2011 4:09 PM ]

Dear Fellow UAW 2865 Member,

Our message is simple: count all the ballots.

While there have been a number of problems with our opponents’ conduct, as
well as the way the election has been run, the USEJ team wants to see every
vote counted. The political gamesmanship by our opponents, their lawyer and
members of the elections committee publicly committed to them is simply out
of hand.

At the Los Angeles vote count, AWDU is using every trick they can think of
to game the system.

One AWDU leader admitted yesterday in an online post that their challenges
to ballots cast at UCLA and elsewhere were a "strategic response to
USEJ's challenges at Berkeley" - http://tinyurl.com/3zdjp48

Enough games.  Count all the ballots now.

Daraka Larimore-Hall
President, UAW 2865
Candidate, United for Social & Economic Justice

www.uniteduc.org

Wow. AWDU Leader admits ballot challenges are just "strategic"

posted May 5, 2011 6:12 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice [ updated May 5, 2011 11:10 PM ]

In his own words, in the .

Of course, challenges are required to be sincere - e.g. someone voted that should not have...or balloting locations are shut down or canceled without notice...or ballot boxes are opened after the start of balloting.

AWDU: continuing to create a new standard for "transparency"

Ballot Count Update!

posted May 5, 2011 6:06 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice

Word from Los Angeles is that ballot counting is about to begin.

The elections committee convened at 9am and has spent the day performing a
complete inventory of all ballots, ballot boxes, vote tallies & challenges.

Thanks to your public pressure and good decisions by the elections
committee, our opponents have stood down from their disruptive, circus-like
tactics.  The elections committee is hard at work moving the count forward.

Other updates:

1. Both USEJ & AWDU agreed to a mediator to ensure that the process stays
civil & moves forward unimpeded.  However, AWDU attempted to insert
language in the mediation agreement that would violate the UAW 2865
bylaws and the UAW constitution.  This language was clearly engineered
by AWDU’s attorney.   We strongly believe that any mediation agreement
must respect the rules; rules that preserve democracy in our union.  We
want to ensure that the Elections Committee retains full authority over
all election procedures, including the role of the mediator.  We’ll keep
you posted as discussions unfold on this matter.

2. Because the elections committee has cleared the counting room of
extraneous people, and been allowed the time and space to take stock of
the entire situation, they will likely be able to start with a
significant amount of ballot counting given that the various challenges
will be assessed one-by-one.

We’ll keep you posted as the count progresses.

Solidarity,

Daraka Larimore-Hall
President, UAW 2865
Candidate, United for Social & Economic Justice

Help Stop the Lies & Misrepresentations: Your Testimony

posted May 4, 2011 5:16 PM by United for Social and Economic Justice [ updated May 5, 2011 10:28 AM ]


Ever since the ballot count in the current election was temporarily
suspended, a number of our supporters – and candidates – have expressed
concern over the impact of the current election controversies on the
strength of the union.

I’m concerned too.

This was not the first contested election in our union’s history, and it
won’t be the last.  That said, the level of vitriol, personal attacks and
outright lying is unprecedented – and it needs to stop.

We’ve received a number of responses to our email yesterday calling on
members to help in our campaign to get AWDU to STOP their tactics of lying
about USEJ candidates and intimidating election volunteers.  A member from
UC Berkeley wrote in to say:

“I was also told by a man supporting the other slate that Daraka Larimore
was not a student, earning big $ and out of touch with GSIs.  This guy was
handing out fliers for the slate a few feet from the voting table and I saw
him harass another student who said he had not voted.  This doesn't seem
like OK election day activity!”

Another from UCLA

“When I approached the voting table, a man started calling out to me,
asking if I was a graduate student.  He tried to give me a flier and
convince me to vote in for the AWDU.  I refused the flier and tried to
ignore him since I came to the polls knowing that I wished to vote for the
opposing slate.  However, I felt quite intimidated by his close proximity to
the table and rather aggressive demeanor.  After, I finished voting, he
loudly asked me what department I am from.  This felt intrusive as I had
made it clear that I was not voting for his party.

"Although this man's behavior did not alter my voting decision, I felt very
uncomfortable during this voting experience and am concerned that other
students who may have come to the polls without having made a solid decision
on their candidates may have felt intimidated into altering their voting
choices."

What happened to you during the election?  Please keep sharing your stories
with us: [email protected]  The more complete our picture
about what exactly happened during the election, the better our position to
help make sure appropriate safeguards are in place for future elections.

Solidarity,

Daraka Larimore-Hall
President, UAW 2865
Candidate, United for Social & Economic Justice

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