Igniting a union - Page 2

Leadership struggle among UC academic employees points to more militancy against budget proposals

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Union reformer Mandy Cohen addresses an April 5 rally expressing solidarity with Wisconsin public employees.
PHOTO COURTESY OF AWDU

However, on May 16, USEJ released a statement documenting a slew of alleged misconduct throughout the election and calling for a rerun. "It is critical that our members have confidence that the election process is fair and democratic," reads the statement. "It seems that several categories of problems, with many more individual examples, occurred that are serious enough to justify setting this election aside."

Whatever happens, reformers at least will have some opportunity to translate their political platform into action. They say they will focus on two areas: increasing the participation and power of the rank and file, and a more aggressive stance toward the university administration and the budget cuts.

"There is real institutional power in this union that should be better mobilized in those fights [for public education]," said president-elect Cheryl Deutsch. "We are hoping to bring into that debate a more mobilized membership ... so that we can be a stronger coalition [with others in California]."

She added that the election was already a huge victory in the long-term plan to increase involvement. A history of member indifference and vacancies in the governing board hopefully will give way to a revival in the higher education labor movement, she said.

But Larimore-Hall expressed strong disagreement with the sentiment that the election was a victory for the labor movement. He said he heard AWDU people tell workers that USEJ represents "centrist sell-outs" and "out of touch union bureaucrats," tactics he criticized. "Going around and telling people their union leaders are corrupt union bosses ... in a culture that is steeped in anti-union rhetoric is an easy thing to sell people on," he said.

Deutsch said she couldn't take responsibility for the actions of a few amid hundreds of supporters and activists, but that AWDU as a whole did not engage in personal attacks. She said she is proud that her winning slate came from rank-and-file workers, not from traditional union leadership and staff.

It wasn't the first time the two factions confronted each other. The origin of the tensions can be traced to the recent wave of budgets cuts at the university, and to the ensuing protests. In the summer of 2009, the UC Board of Regents announced a 33 percent tuition hike; the resulting discontent sparked a student movement with its own fair share of ups and downs. Among the protestors were many graduate students who would go on to become AWDU leaders.

Cohen recalls that in fall 2009, there was a "huge explosion of organizing and activism on our campus trying to organize resistance to the cuts — but not within our union."

Cohen said that she and other graduate students approached the union to encourage action, but that union bureaucracy stifled their efforts. "It was too top-down and difficult to participate. We realized the local wasn't structured in a way that could be powerful."

Larimore-Hall said UAW already was "one of the unions that [the university administration] fears most." He said that AWDU's position overlooks the union's accomplishments on the public education front, citing a petition to Sacramento legislators that USEJ organizers got thousands of members to sign.

Early this spring, the issue of labor properly and sufficiently flexing its muscles came center stage as the UAW and the university negotiated a contract. With no concessions to management and gains such as a 2 percent wage increase and more childcare subsidies, Larimore-Hall said the contract is a resounding success.

Comments

Together the unions need to address the free spending of UC Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau which curbs raises. (The author who has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at UC Berkeley (Cal.) where he was able to observe the culture & the way senior management work)

University of California Berkeley Chancellor Birgeneau gross over spending, inept decisions: recruits (using California tax $) out of state $50,000 tuition students that displace qualified Californians from public university education; spends $7,000,000 for consultants to do his & many vice chancellors jobs (prominent East Coast university accomplishing same at 0 cost); pays ex Michigan governor $300,000 for lectures; Latino enrollment drops while out of state jumps 2010; tuition to Return on Investment (ROI) drops below top10; NCAA places basketball program on probation: absence institutional control.

Californians, UC Board of Regents Chairman Gould, Calif. State Legislature should take note of UC chancellors, like Birgeneau, who ignore California’s deficit and replace them with those who understand the basic concept of public service to Californians.

Posted by Guest on May. 18, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

Decent article. The only substantive detail it skirts over is the fact that mediation broke down. The details of the failure of that process might be interesting.

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2011 @ 2:14 am

If you'd explain that would add to the discussion

Posted by Guest on May. 19, 2011 @ 9:18 am

From my understanding disclosing the circumstances which caused the breakdown in mediation would actually violate terms of the mediation agreement meant to ensure the mediator's privacy. I was never privy to the specifics of that agreement so I don't know exactly what the reasoning is on that (it may have something to do with then using the mediator and their participation for political point scoring). In any case, on my understanding we don't get to know why mediation broke down. Or, rather, those of us who do know something would be acting improperly if they were to reveal the circumstances which caused mediation to fail.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2011 @ 3:21 am

As Californians face foreclosure, unemployment & depressed wages it's time the timid Governor, UC Board of Regents, whining President Yudof showed leadership by curbing costs, particularly wages, benefits. As a Californian, I don't care what others earn at private, public universities. If wages are better elsewhere, chancellors, vice chancellors, tenured, non tenured faculty, UCOP executives should apply for the positions. If wages keep employees committed to UC, leave for the better paying job. The sky above UC will not fall. California suffers from the worst deficit in modern times. UC wages, benefits must reflect California's ability to pay, not what others are paid elsewhere. Campus chancellors, vice chancellors, tenured & non-tenured faculty, UCOP executives are replaceable by more talented individuals.
Curb UC tuition increases:
No furloughs
18 percent reduction in UCOP salaries & $50 million cut.
18 percent prune of campus chancellors', vice chancellors' salaries.
15 percent trim of tenured faculty salaries, increased teaching load
10 percent decrease in non-tenured faculty salaries, as well as increase research, teaching load
100% elimination of all Academic Senate, Academic Council costs, wages.

A rose bush blooms after pruning.

The Governor, UC Board of Regents, whining President can bridge the trust gap to the public by offering reassurances that salaries reflect depressed wages in California. The sky above UC has not, will not fall.
Californians are reasonable people. Levy no new taxes until an approved balanced budget: let the Governor/Legislature lead: make the tough-minded (not cold hearted) decisions of elected leadership. Afterwards come to the public for specified, continuing or new taxes.
Thanking you in advance for your partnership & for standing up for Californians, University of California system.

Posted by Guest on May. 20, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

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