Igniting a union - Page 3

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

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

But Deutsch says that the contract is a perfect example of her disillusionment with traditional union organizing and the previous leadership. Union members ultimately voted to ratify it despite AWDU criticism that the union didn't seek enough input from members or push for a better deal. AWDU gained traction and established a significant public presence for the first time with this opposition.

"It's not that I think it's the worst contract we could have gotten," she said, explaining that her problem is with the process, not necessarily with the results. If more members had been consulted and included, she would have been content. She mentioned the dire need for affordable housing at the Irvine campus as an example of member concerns that were not prioritized.

Peter Chester, chief contract negotiator for the university, said that in the "current budgetary circumstances," UAW did "very well" and expressed concern that the slate, which opposed the contract, did so well among academic workers.

But the victory by reformers probably signals a new militancy in the union, which is expected to resist proposals to privatize campus services and push for a stronger voice in the tough decisions facing the university system. Cohen said that making the case for taxing the rich to pay for public education is the wider goal and the reason she ran for a position at the union.

"It's eye-opening to be a student and benefit from education here at the UC, but also to identify as a public employee," she said. "When I got to the UC, I was so proud. And then this struggle came to my doorstep, and I didn't have a choice in this moment." 


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