Update to members from the Sit Down and response to USEJ

3 May

Dear Fellow Students,

We are writing to you to inform you of the current state of the UAW 2865 Triennial Elections. For details on events leading up to the current situation, please see www.awdu.org.

We are currently holding an indefinite sit-down at the statewide union office (2070 Allston Way, Suite 205, Berkeley) and at our union office in Los Angeles (900 Hilgard Ave., Suite 307) where about 1,500 ballots remain sealed and uncounted. We will continue our sit-down until all votes are counted!

We welcome you to these open spaces and hope you will join us with energy and ideas for what you want to see happen! At Berkeley, we will hold two membership meetings each day, at 10AM and at 6PM, but feel free to drop by anytime!

On a conference call Monday (May 2nd) afternoon, Mike Miller, our representative to the International UAW, agreed that the neglected votes should be counted. We urged him to contact Elections Committee members to reconvene and count the remaining ballots as soon as possible. Members are waiting at this moment for the election committee to resume counting.

We have the support of fifty-plus labor scholars and faculty members. You can find their letter of support here: http://berkeleyuaw.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/a-call-for-the-immediate-resumption-of-vote-counts-at-uaw-2865-05-02-11-1100am.pdf. We also received statements of support and solidarity from ILWU representatives, the Graduate Assembly at Berkeley and the Berkeley Labor Commission. Please show your support by signing the following non-sectarian petition that calls for a resumption of the count: http://www.awdu.org/count-all-of-the-votes.

If you want details regarding the challenges to ballots as expressed in the multiple emails sent by Daraka Larimore-Hall, the incumbent president of our Local and United for Social and Economic Justice (USEJ), please continue to read below. If you prefer simplicity skip this section: however, please consider signing the petition to get the count restarted.

Daraka Larimore-Hall sent a second of two dramatic emails to many UAW 2865 members on Sunday night. This time, though he continued to attack Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) with baseless charges, he framed his attack as a call for the resumption of the ballot count — which had been abandoned by his allies on Saturday, April 30 at 8pm. However, we were surprised by their demand for special conditions (diverging from normal counting procedures) before counting resumes. The union already has a procedure, laid out in the bylaws (Article 14 section 7) and the election must follow that procedure.

Vote counting is not the product of a negotiation between two slates. It is a democratic process that has bylaws and which had been agreed upon by the Elections Committee at the start of ballot counting. We have followed those rules before and we are prepared to follow those rules now. We are happy to stand together with USEJ in resuming the ballot-counting under the normal election procedures in which (most) challenges are set aside until after the count and then dealt with under procedures laid out in the bylaws and previously agreed upon.

Challenges are an expected part of the vote-counting process, and most do not, according to the bylaws, require counting to stop. But legitimate challenges must be taken seriously. Since the recent email from Daraka Larimore-Hall labels our challenges frivolous and politically motivated, we will describe exactly what our main challenges were and why they matter.

One of our most serious challenges was to an entire ballot box from UCLA in which none of the individual ballots were sealed inside any envelope at all. These are spoiled ballots according to established election procedures, and at the time of that challenge the entire election committee allowed the challenge to stand.

The challenge at UCSD was agreed on by the committee and challengers from both slates. An entire box was filled with ballots that were inside one envelope (marked “secret”), but lacking the second envelope signed by the voter. Normally, the process with such ballots is to mark them as spoiled, and this had been done previously with single ballots, but because this was felt by all to be a case of poll-worker error, the box was set aside as challenged, to be dealt with after the remaining votes were counted.

Regarding the bizarre assertion of ballot stuffing, supported only with a non-time-stamped photograph, we have identified the volunteer poll worker (not an AWDU activist) in the photograph, who was putting together the ballot box in the morning before the voting started. Here is his statement about this sordid accusation: http://www.awdu.org/statement-from-the-poll-worker-accused-of-vote-tampering.

Thank you so much for your interest and concern and please join us in insisting that unions be democratic and we count our ballots,

Jessy Lancaster, UCSC

Gustavo Oliviera, UCB

Activists within Academic Workers for a Democratic Union

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One Response to “Update to members from the Sit Down and response to USEJ”

  1. Brooks May 3, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    AWDU needs to stop trying to run this election and creating self-fulfilling prophecies in the process.

    This is what makes me depressed, that the realities of what happened this past weekend still are not understood, that partisanship completely wrecked the counting process and will do so again if we don’t learn from our mistakes. AWDU cannot cool it’s rhetoric down enough to keep from drowning out the real logistical problems that still are unaddressed, and I have no reason to believe that another meeting to continue the counting process won’t similarly be sandbagged. I will leave it to you be fair and balanced, you certainly don’t need my help attacking USEJ.

    After AWDU deputized itself as judge, jury and “stewards of the ballots” I find it equally funny that they are staging a sit-in in a building that they had already occupied during the vote count by their own fiat. I am stunned by the arrogance of AWDU moving their massive political campaign into the heart of the counting process, of course as always under the pretense defending the rights of the people, and thereby co-constructing the confusion that slowed the process down to a crawl and led us to where we are now. Of course AWDU can do no wrong, but if we want a justifiable, legitimate election, we can’t repeat the mistakes that were made this last weekend. The campaigns have to get out of the way, but we’ve already punished EC for their generosity and they won’t help us now. Imagine how long the challenge portion would have taken given the current political climate and unwillingness of each side to stop shouting at each other, and now imagine what Elections Committee members were thinking about as they faced another 24 hours of tedious chicanery. AWDU and USEJ supporters are complicit in this with the words we speak and the allegations we choose to make, and we should be ashamed of ourselves for screaming at each other and throwing out bodies around like children without thinking the problem through. Why can’t we take responsibility for how our words affect the hearts and minds of our colleagues, and the objective conditions within which our political process can remain intact?

    I admit that I can’t keep my ire down when facing an AWDU leadership that encourages people to think in abstractions and to glorify themselves as the saviors of democracy. From the beginning of the “no” campaign I saw their behavior as California politics as usual and just as despicable as the image of the UAW nightmare bureaucracy they have invented. I’m not proud of everything I’ve said, but my indiscretions pale in comparison to the comments that pass for acceptable from some parties to this circus (like when I was accused of paying people to vote during the campaign). The formal challenge against the Berkeley election was not something I ever found particularly persuasive, and if Charlie had bothered to respect the counting process instead of turning the library into his campaign headquarters and mounting a movement against it I would have brought this up against my colleagues during the challenge portion that never happened. If you think AWDU supporters were merely “monitoring the process” and not contributing to slowing it down, then you certainly can’t give Elections Committee credit for being patient. Of course there were no USEJ candidates at the meeting until two AWDU candidates entered the room and began micromanaging their challengers. We made our challenges in an orderly fashion at the beginning. EC voted (informally if I recall) to allow candidates, and the snowball of confusion got rolling. My fault for asking if candidates were allowed, and EC’s for being generous. Candidates should have sat together in the library where they could have kept each other’s political machinations from spinning out of control, but AWDU claimed that public space for themselves while USEJ was expected to sit in the hallway. We cannot let the campaigns run the next ballot meeting, or we will get exactly the same result.

    All of these practical organizational factors are really important. When counting several thousand ballots, delays get multiplied. That’s just for counting the uncontested ballots. The challenge section was probably doomed from the start because of the presence of the campaigns. We needed professionals to run this election, or at least moderators to help us hold a mirror to behavior, considering the roadblocks we erected. Big surprise that some on Elections Committee couldn’t imagine putting themselves through the gauntlet that we are all complicit in constructing, even if I believe that it is true that AWDU rhetoricians deserve the most blame for the political climate. I believe the AWDU attitude toward how this past weekend went down is a symptom of their biggest weakness. AWDU rhetoric encourages us to completely idealize the problems we face, and to be impractical nearly to the point of incompetence.

    Constructively, we can’t now continue to cherry pick the procedures we want to follow, as if the vote count can resume without a Joint Council meeting. That’s what the “count the vote” rhetoric implies. I hope EC or Joint Council members can help us understand this, and if I’m wrong about the procedural stakes then I wait to be corrected.

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