Dear UAW activists,
In the course of the contract ratification vote, there has been a significant change among the members of our local. For some of us, this is a change we have been working for in more or less organized ways for months or years. We have been raising concerns about our union and working every day to develop in practical terms a different kind of unionism; one that is more democratic, more participatory but also more militant. In the process of these negotiations we have managed to involve (from the beginning of bargaining to the ratification vote) dozens of UAW members who have become activists and hundreds of members who are now aware of and engaged in their union.
At UC Berkeley, we have been able to accomplish this because we organized ourselves in an independent caucus (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union). The caucus provides us with a way to work within the official structures of the union, while still clearly and respectfully expressing our differing views of how a union should function—and putting those views into practice.
AWaDU has been an amazing tool to organize the rank-and-file members at UC Berkeley. We have more than 40 members now, and an active network of close to 300 members. UC Santa Cruz also has an active caucus, which has managed to expand itself through the election campaign. Santa Cruz was the starting point of the last attempt to build a reform movement in our local, UAW Members for Quality Education and Democracy (UAW-QUAD), which was formed in 2007. In fact, throughout the history of our local rank-and-file activists have been working to create a more democratic and active union.
As exciting as our on-the-ground organizing at Berkeley and Santa Cruz, this contract campaign has allowed us to meet activists at other campuses (Irvine, Riverside, L.A., San Diego, Davis, Santa Barbara) who also share the same concerns we have with the way our union is usually run—these concerns include: lack of democracy in decision making, lack of transparency, lack of cooperation with other UC unions, disrespect for the rank-and-file members, and a tendency to conciliate with the UC administration instead of mobilizing the membership to fight for our rights and needs.
For us, the importance of the organizing done during this contract vote does not end just because the NO vote campaign did not win. Making connections between our campuses and building a coordinated reform movement is the key to transforming our local. In the past, reform attempts have been isolated at one campus. We think that now, before the end of the semester, is a key moment to consolidate our base and our efforts on the northern campuses and also to build these new connections with other campuses. The best way to do this is to meet up; to take an open accounting of the election campaign (an assessment of our goals, of the problems encountered, of ours successes and mistakes) and also to discuss what kind of union we want to rebuild, from the bottom-up and what are our new short-term and long-term perspectives.
We would like very much to have these strategic discussions with all the honest activists of the union with whom we have been working or that we have just met: first to share our experiences here at UC Berkeley and Santa Cruz of more than 9 months of grass-roots organizing, but also to learn from the experiences of other activists on other campuses, and of course, to see how we can consolidate our forces to really change the way things are done in our union. Because we believe that this union, UAW 2865 belongs to us, the ones who build it every day with the rank-and-file members!
Come and join us at the Statewide Reform Caucus meeting Saturday Dec. 11th at UC Berkeley! The meeting will begin at 1pm. We will circulate a proposed agenda and further details this week once we get a sense of attendance.
This will hopefully be the first of regular meetings, which can alternate locations. The next Joint Council meeting will be held on January 29th, and activists from the northern campuses will be traveling to LA. This would be the perfect opportunity for a second meeting.
For those of you coming from southern campuses: members at Berkeley can arrange accommodations on Friday or Saturday night for everyone making the long trip up north. If the trip is too long or expensive for a large group from your campus, please send a couple of representatives! We will also try to contribute to your travel costs. Get in touch with us, even if the physical trip is impossible, let’s make this work!
Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, UCB and UCSC