home ‎ > ‎

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.