May 1, 2011
This message goes out to everyone on the USEJ slate, everyone on the Elections Committee, and everyone who voted in the UAW election.
I am hugely appalled by the incumbent caucus’ decision to prevent the counting of votes at UCLA and UC Berkeley. I have just read the official UAW email claiming that the election has been “partially certified.” AWDU members present at the Los Angeles UAW office have informed our caucus that “At 8 pm after a break begun at 5pm in which election committee chair Travis Knowles was absent with opposition candidate Jorge Cabrera for 3 hours, the election committee returned and certified the election without counting Berkeley or UCLA ballots.” What, I wonder, could “partial certification” mean, and according to what definition of democracy? To be clear about what’s happened: imagine a U.S. Presidential election in which, in the eleventh hour of vote counting, the incumbent party—lets make them Republicans, for the sake of argument—decided not to count the remaining votes from, say, California, New York, Ohio and Tennessee. Let’s say that the incumbent party’s spokesperson went on air with the message, “Because there were challenges from both sides, and because things have been contentious, and because we’ve been counting for so long—48 hours!—we decided to call it a day.” What would you think? Would you believe the principles of democracy were being upheld?
I am even more appalled because today is May 1st, the one day of the year devoted to working men and women, not only in American, but in all nations. This is not the day to trample on the democratic rights of workers, but that is what the power-holders in USEJ have chosen to do. This is not the day to communicate to the honest workers of our local that their votes were not even counted for fear of the results. This is not the day to pretend that the “contentiousness” of an election is grounds for the nullification of the democratic process. On any other day, this behavior would be shameful and intolerable. But today, it is a gross insult and a travesty of the values of “social and economic justice” for which the incumbent caucus claims to stand. It is an insult to all of us, on both sides of the election campaign. This is not the day to defile the honor of public-sector workers; this is a day to stand together, and to cherish one of the few rights afforded us as workers in this country: the right to participate in collective bargaining. Recent events in Michigan, Wisconsin, and elsewhere have shown that this right is under serious threat from the political Right. For too many American workers, May Day has already been tarred by political defeats and betrayals. Still, I did not expect I would be spending my May Day contemplating my own union’s betrayal of my rights as a worker.
Let me pose a question to the supporters of USEJ. When you cast your vote in the election, what image of democracy did you have in mind? Would you have felt comfortable voting for the incumbent caucus knowing that they would try to tilt the election in their favor by whatever means necessary? Are you aware, for instance, that the photograph touted in a recent USEJ email as evidence of voter fraud at Berkeley–it shows a man reaching into the ballot box–was taken prior to voting, while the polling station was still being set up? (Which is precisely what the photograph depicts: a volunteer, not an AWDU member, preparing the polling station for voting.) If you had known to what lengths the incumbents were willing to go to ensure victory, would you have voted for USEJ or for AWDU? As for candidates on the USEJ slate, I cannot understand what you mean by the phrase “social and economic justice.” Is it socially and economically just to shut out voters at UCLA and Berkeley? What should we call justice that exempts itself from judgment? What would you propose? Or are you as appalled as I am? If so, I strongly urge you to condemn your caucus’ leadership for making a mockery of the election, a mockery of union democracy, and a mockery of justice. Moreover, I urge you to join AWDU. The stakes of our caucus are real: union democracy urgently needs defenders. We want to fight with you, not against you, to build a stronger union for all of us.
Make no mistake: infamy is at work in the union. It has draped itself in the costume of “partial certification” and the legitimacy of the Joint Council of the Union, but it is infamy nonetheless. We have all been stained by this insult, and we ought all to fight it—today, tomorrow, and every day until our union is again worthy of that title. Otherwise there will be no union, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar and a fraud.