off to a busy start…

31 Jan

In the face of the Governor’s announced cuts to the UC and with layoffs being announced across campus thanks to Operational Excellence, Berkeley members of UAW 2865 and AWDU have had a busy start to the semester. We’ve had our first membership meeting, the second statewide meeting of AWDU, and the Jan meeting of the Joint Council of our local. In the next couple posts we’ll give updates about what’s been going on.

Berkeley Membership Meeting

Last week more than 40 members from over a dozen departments came to the membership meeting to have a discussion about the issues facing us as workers and students and start to develop our plans to combat these problems.

Creating a stewards network

Caucus members presented an initiative to create an active stewards network on campus. Our union bylaws allow for one steward for every 50 members–which means we could have around 40 stewards, and yet we have only a handful currently. Having an active body of stewards would go leagues toward creating a functioning local, as stewards enable communication between members and the union leadership. As we discussed our ideas for what the union should be doing this semester and beyond we realized that a stewards network will be crucial to all of our further work.

To learn more about becoming a steward and what they actually do, check out our pamphlet.

Investigating workload violations

We also proposed an initiative to begin investigating violations of workload limits for GSIs and readers on our campus. We know that as a result of the budget cuts, many departments have cut sections and reduced the numbers of GSIs, resulting in full and overfull classes, which means heavier workloads for GSIs. Many of us work beyond our appointments because we care about our students–but this puts an undue strain on ourselves and hurts our students. This semester we will collect information about workload violations which we can use to file collective grievances and change practices of overworking GSIs.

Exposing Operational Excellence

As we get continued news of layoffs and reorganization due to Operational Excellence, we discussed ways to support workers that are being laid off. We all know that the loss of experienced staff hurts our university; our staff help us apply for funding, organize our classes, manage requirements and much more. Our departments would fall apart without them.

We want to encourage our members to talk with their departmental staff about the effects of OE in their departments and learn how things are changing. These conversations will help us find ways to publicize the effects of OE and potentially stop some of them. Already, students have come together to stop the lay off of one librarian at the East Asian Library. The loss of this one staff position would also have meant a 35% decrease in that libraries opening hours.

Next steps

In order to plan for the March 2nd Day of Action to Defend Public Education, our members decided to hold an organizing meeting on Feb 8th. Grad students and UAW members played a huge role in organizing the Oct 7th Day of Action, and we recognize that in order for this day to have an impact, we need to come together and collectively decide on the form of our involvement. The meeting also raised the question of what kind of involvement our unit and local should have in statewide questions of UC governance and budget decisions, we plan to start this conversation at the Feb 8th meeting, as well. You can see the rest of the report from the membership meeting here. Let us know if you have more ideas to add, or want to help get any of these projects off the ground!

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