The union that houses all of the University of California’s 12,000 TAs – the UAW – will be holding statewide elections from April 26-28 (next Tuesday-Thursday). The current leaders of the UAW local have displayed a consistently conservative and accomdationalist approach towards working the UC administration and an undemocratic and highly centralized, bureaucratic relationship towards its own members – determining from afar what campus campaigns will look like. The UAW has actively worked to disenfranchise members both overtly – illegal vote counting tactics – and subtly through years of bureaucratic management that has hidden the leadership from accountability. In response to a flurry of anti-democratic actions in the wake of a contentious contract ratification earlier this year – wherein the current UAW leadership negotiated a terrible contract that actually decreased our pay, while attempting to increase the Executive Officer’s, in January – the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) caucus was formed in order to sweep the deeply conservative forces out of office. In their place, AWDU is running a slate of candidates who have all been deeply involved in recent attempts to fight privatization and inaugurate a truly democratic university.
AWDU can already count some success: since we began organizing against the contract last quarter, voter participation has increased dramatically, opposition meetings have been well attended and numerous unfilled local positions have been filled. Further, AWDU has fought to include the rank-and-file in the negotiating process whereas the current UAW leadership is quite happy to see that we remain shut out of any decisions – preferring instead that we simply ratify their actions. Since AWDU’s inception, the UAW has been forced to take a more proactive stance on issues that are important to graduate students; while pressure is a fine first step, the upcoming election is our chance to simply push them out of office altogether.
This election is important generally for activists across the state: an active and progressive graduate student union is one that can agitate for a general strike, rally for Ethnic Studies and other democratic programs, and more generally agitate for economic justice and democracy within one of California’s leading employers. Against us is an entrenched, though weakening, UAW machine that has proven itself willing to engage in any number of sketchy tricks in order to maintain power. Their perversely and ironically named caucus, United for Social and Economic Justice, has been a parody of activist grievances and aims to mislead as many grad students as possible into siding with the leadership’s ineffective and misguided governance. AWDU has vociferously opposed this model of organization, but to truly break their power, we need all the help we can get – both from grad students and from activists. In order to mitigate their economic advantage and incumbent position, AWDU encourages all grad students to spend 5 minutes between the 26th and 28th and vote for the AWDU slate. Every vote counts and each vote for AWDU is a vote to move the UAW towards the front lines in the battle against budget cuts, administrative collusion and a political future in which the people themselves determine the shape of their lives.
AWDU Slate: http://tinyurl.com/AWDU-Slate
AWDU Platform: http://tinyurl.com/AWDU-Platform