The tentative agreement between our local and the UC was ratified at the end of 4 days of voting–not by a “margin of 62%” as reported in the official email from the Executive Board, but rather with 62% of members in favor and 38% against. In a local where votes almost always end up with 90% or higher in favor of the official position, clearly something has changed. AWDU members have been listening to the officials of our local tell us for months that we are just a small, noisy group of dissidents who don’t represent the opinion of members. Will they still try to maintain that the 1,457 members who voted against this contract through a grassroots campaign (that is, without the help of paid organizers, who were bringing out “yes” votes) are just a small, noisy group?
Here are a few figures that lead us to be very encouraged by this vote, even while we are disappointed that our attempt to get a better contract now, in this campaign, are over:
- Because of the efforts of AWDU and rank-and-file members unhappy with the tentative agreement, discussion about the agreement and subsequent voter turnout was hugely increased in this vote. 3,878 members voted. Our local has never previously released the actual numbers of voters (another small victory in our efforts to increase transparency), but we believe that this is double or triple the turnout of previous elections, such as the strike authorization and the initial bargaining demands.
- At Berkeley, where at least 70 members participated in getting out the vote and volunteered as poll-workers, 958 members voted! In previous elections, before our caucus was active, turnout was less than 200.
- The No vote won at 3 campuses: Santa Cruz (90%), Berkeley (79%), and Irvine (58%). And came very close at UC Davis, where 41% voted no.
The NO vote was truly a grassroots campaign, organized completely on volunteer time. It was strongest at Berkeley and Santa Cruz because these are campuses where activists have been working for months and years to raise awareness about union issues. At every other campus, people organizing for a NO vote were coming together for the first time in the extremely difficult task of opposing elected union officials and staff to say, “No! You are not representing our interests.” At those campuses, information about voting no was circulated in a very short amount of time, through friends and departmental listserves, and was up against the means and authority of union officials and paid staff who spent all day organizing yes votes.
Given all this, it is not hard to imagine that the NO vote was even closer to winning than the numbers suggest. Clearly the message for a stronger, more militant union and a union run more openly and democratically, where the members are in change–this message is resonating on all campuses. This contract campaign may be over but our work is succeeding and will continue.