Berkeley Unit Slate

Unit Chair – Jennifer Tucker, City and Regional Planning

I know our union can be a vital space from which to organize against budget cuts and the misplaced priorities of UC administrators and state politicians. At this critical juncture, our union has the resources and institutional leverage to be a powerful force advocating for public education. I’m running for Unit Chair to help build a stronger, more democratic union. More information about our movement to reform our union from the bottom up is available at awdu.org. To support us, please consider endorsing our slate at awdu.org/endorse.

Our union can be a potent force for livable wages, affordable housing and childcare for student-workers. Our power to win strong contracts and better working conditions is determined by the leverage we build on campuses. As Unit Chair I have helped build this mobilization through campaigns to stop cuts to GSI fee remissions. I will continue to increase our representation and mobilization capacities by building an active network of stewards.

Fighting for public education in the era of budget cuts will require organizing thousands of grad students, engaging undergraduates and faculty in creative ways, and building coalitions with other unions, student groups and education organizations. I have the organizing and coalition-building experience needed to bring together diverse groups so that we can reclaim the university as a site of critical scholarship, teaching and learning. I’ve been a member of Local 2865 since 2007 and have worked as a GSI for seven semesters in four departments. I bring five years of work as an organizer and a masters in Public Policy. Currently I serve as the Berkeley Unit Chair and am a PhD student in the Department of City and Regional Planning. The Berkeley campus had unprecedented turnout and signups of union members in last December’s contract ratification vote, in which I helped organize the get-out-the-vote. Working with other members, I have been part of a successful effort to engage more students in the union through department-based outreach. I have served as Berkeley’s representative on the state-wide UAW Elections Committee where I pushed to make the committee more accountable to members through transparency, access to information and fair elections initiatives.

Recording Secretary – Megan Wachspress, Jurisprudence and Social Policy

My name is Megan Wachspress and I am running for Recording Secretary of the Berkeley Unit of UAW Local 2865. I am a proud member of the AWDU – Academic Workers for a Democratic Union – and am running on their slate of reform candidates. You can visit awdu.org for a full statement of our platform.

A little more about me: I am a fourth-year student in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at UC Berkeley. My involvement in the union began in Fall 2009 when I was elected by her departmental colleagues to represent them at UAW meetings and provide information to my fellow Legal Studies GSIs about current issues and actions. Through attendance at local meetings and conversations with fellow active members who were frustrated by the top-down and unresponsive organizational style of the current union leadership, I became involved with AWDU last June and have since been dedicated to expanding involvement in and democratizing the organizational model of UAW Local 2865.

Vision:

As a statewide local there have been almost no communication and an almost utter absence in transparency as to how decisions are made by our Joint Council and Executive Board. As Recording Secretary, I would continue the work to transform our union that AWDU has been engaged in on the Berkeley campus for close to a year. I would prioritize transparency, democratic governance, outreach, and active engagement by the union to improve not just our own working conditions, but the state of university education in California. Much of the work of the Recording Secretary is organizational, requiring them to maintain and provide information in a timely fashion, and to keep track of what is happening on campus amongst members and at amongst leadership at the statewide level. I see my primary task as ensuring that rank-and-file members have access to the decision-making process of both the campus unit and the statewide local as a whole, guaranteeing that members always know how to reach their unit leadership and receive timely responses if they do, and – alongside the unit chair and head stewards – facilitating member-driven events, whether a large-scale protest or a department meeting. These commitments would entail (at the very least) providing agendas and detailed notes of membership meetings to the entire campus before and after those meetings, publicizing the decision-making of the Executive Board, and providing membership with informational materials on Operational Excellence and other ongoing administrative decisions that affect our work as ASEs.

Qualifications:

Over the last semester as an active rank-and-file member and – as of 4/10/2011 – a Head Steward – I have attended bargaining sessions at our most recent contract negotiations, acted as a press liaison during contract negotiations and the October 7th protests to defend public education, organized departmental meetings to update members on both the progress of negotiations and to solicit ideas and involvement, and led mandatory orientations for new ASEs. I have GSIed three times within the Legal Studies department and will be serving as Acting Instructor for another Legal Studies course this summer. My commitment to college-level education extends beyond the UC Berkeley campus; I worked as a TA for three years in college and have been teaching math and philosophy classes at San Quentin State Prison since summer of 2008. Outside of my union work and teaching, I have related experience as a volunteer employment law counselor at the East Bay Workers’ Rights Clinic and a long history of campus activism, including serving as president of my college’s Feminist Majority group and organizing volunteers as part of the Kerry campaign of 2004. I have also attended two Joint Council Meetings – one brought to an abrupt conclusion by a unilateral decision to end rather than consider proposals brought forth by AWDU – and am eager to represent Berkeley at these statewide meetings as part of my official duties. Also important to my task (as specified in the bylaws) of taking meeting notes: I type at 85 words per minute.

Head Steward – Rob Connell, African Diaspora Studies

I am running for a Head Steward position in the Berkeley local to do my part in the building of a strong union that not only defends and expands the wellbeing of its membership, but also fights for social/economic justice and pulls its weight in the broader international labor struggle. As a first year PhD student in the African Diaspora Studies program of the African American Studies (AAS) department, I have taken an active role in union mobilizing and the campaign to stop the Operational Excellence fiscal assault against the AAS, Ethnic Studies (ES) and Gender & Women’s Studies (GWS) departmental cluster.

In general I have been the union liaison within those departments and have organized membership meetings. I am also a founding member of both the AAS/ES/GWS Coalition and the African Diaspora Studies Student Collective. My long term goal is to make the union more responsive and aware of the particular needs of the student workers in my departmental cluster and create an atmosphere where more will see the value of, and be comfortable with, active union participation. As such I envision my tenure as Head Steward to be a continuation in an official capacity of the work I am already doing.

I bring with me over a decade of experience in union and movement organizing in my native Canada. As an undergraduate at York University I twice helped mobilize my fellow undergrads in support of our TAs and instructors in their hard fought strikes. Later, as a municipal employee, I was a picket captain when our union went on strike and I have experience organizing within communities of color, starting with my own.

I am running for Head Steward under the banner of the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU –www.awdu.org), which promises positive action to put control and guidance of the union firmly where it belongs; in the hands of the membership as a whole! In these trying times we need a fighting union of mobilized rank-and-file – so endorse the AWDU slate and let’s take back our union!

Solidarity Forever!

Head Steward – Natalia Chousou-Polydouri, ESPM

My name is Natalia Chousou-Polydouri and I am a 4th year PhD student in Environmental Science, Policy and Management. I am running for Head Steward of UAW 2865 as part of the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) slate. You can learn more about our platform at  http://www.awdu.org and you can endorse our slate at  www.awdu.org/endorse.

I have been active in the fight against budget cuts and fee hikes during the past two years, and I was disappointed that our union did not take an active role in it. Then, negotiations for our new GSI contract were about to start and the current union leadership was not seeking input from the membership concerning our needs.

So we founded AWDU at UC Berkeley in order to make our union democratic and make it fight for our needs . Since then, AWDU members have organized department meetings, defended our needs for childcare, full fee remissions, dependent health care coverage, appointment security and affordable housing during contract negotiations, and organized the No Vote campaign when the final contract failed to fulfill our demands. We also have revitalized the membership meetings, which are now places where actual decisions are made.

I am committed to direct and participatory democracy and bottom-up decision making, and I want to help invert the power stucture of our union. Elected representatives exist to carry out members’ decisions, coordinate our union statewide and facilitate communication, not to make decisions in place of the members and give orders. Member participation and empowerment are the only guarantees which will defend and expand our rights as students and workers. Help us transform our union by voting for the entire AWDU slate!

Head Steward – Manuel Rosaldo, Sociology

I am running for Head Steward to fight back against the privatization and dismantling of our public education system. As a first year PhD student in sociology at UC Berkeley, I have already seen the impact of budget cuts in my department: increased teaching loads, growing undergraduate class sizes, and decreased research funding opportunities. I believe that our union has the potential to become a potent and enduring force against these cuts—but the current union leadership is letting us down. That is why last semester I became an activist with Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU)—a group dedicated to building a more democratic, activist and powerful union. With AWDU, I helped mobilize students on UC Berkeley’s campus to win a better contract and I travelled to UCLA and UC Irvine to collaborate with likeminded activists.

In addition to my experience with AWDU, as a Head Steward I would contribute an array of experience as a student, labor and community organizer. As an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, I organized students to help campus janitors win union recognition and a living wage. Upon graduating, I worked for two years as a labor community organizer and labor researcher for the UNITE HERE! and SEIU labor unions. I then completed a Masters in Global Affairs at New York University, where I participated in a campaign to push the university into recognizing our grad student union. These experiences have convinced me of the power of democratic unions led by an active rank-in-file to bring change. If you also believe in this power, then please vote for me as Head Steward. To learn more about AWDU and to get involved, please check out www.awdu.org.

Head Steward – Amanda Armstrong, Rhetoric

Hi, my name’s Amanda.  I am a third year student in the department of Rhetoric at Berkeley; and have taught R&C classes for the past six semesters.  Since the fall of 2009, I’ve been involved in efforts to defend and reclaim public education in California.  These efforts, while so far of limited success, have given many of us confidence that mass mobilizations of students and workers are possible throughout and beyond the UCs, and have revealed to us how willing management is to use severe tactics – including police violence, conduct prosecutions, harassment and surveillance – in order to prevent the democratization and de-privatization of California public institutions.  I’m committed to strengthening the power of workers and students at the UCs – through strikes, building occupations, and other direct actions.  I believe that, for such actions to be successful, adequate networks of care must be established, so as to reduce, as much as possible, the harm faced by protesters at the hands of police and management.

I see the union as an institution that, in addition to improving the working and living conditions for graduate students, can help enable such mobilizations, provided that it is run by its members and that the elected leadership recognizes the value of strikes and other collective actions.  Right now, the union is not inclined in these directions, but this could begin to change if AWDU candidates win a majority of positions on the executive board and in the joint council this year.  Last year, during the contract campaign, AWDU members organized department meetings to formulate members’ bottom line demands; we pushed the bargaining team to hold firm to these demands, but were consistently outvoted by the current union leadership and their supporters.  During this process, a fraction of the membership, of which I was a part, supported the organization of a wildcat grade strike, as we thought this was one of the only ways that graduate students would be able to bring our collective power to bear on the contract negotiations.  Ultimately, the membership was not given a chance to decide collectively whether we wanted to pursue a grade strike, or any other mass work stoppage.  Instead, we were forced simply to vote yes or no on a contract that met virtually none of our demands, and didn’t meaningfully improve our living conditions.

Currently, I’m involved in the campaign against so-called ‘Benefits Decentralization’ – a UC-wide policy that would reduce GSI-ships, increase workloads, and set in place a structural antagonism between department staff and graduate students.  As a Head Steward, I will continue to fight Benefits Decentralization and other damaging policies, will work to increase grad student participation in various organizing efforts, and will press for the radicalization and democratization of our union.  I am committed to non-hierarchical organizing models, and to treating respectfully those members of the union with whom I disagree.

Head Steward – Larisa Mann, Jurisprudence & Social Policy

I’m Larisa Mann, and I’m running for Head Steward in the Berkeley Unit of UAW Local 2865, which I’ve been a member of for 6 of my 7 years as a PhD student in Jurisprudence & Social Policy at Berkeley Law.

When I came to Berkeley, I joined UAW 2865 in order to participate in protecting my rights and help make working while in graduate school a livable experience.  I’m running as an AWDU member because in my first six years here, all my requests for information or for help from the union went unanswered. So I organized within my department, putting together a coalition to negotiate and win financial support for attending academic conferences. More recently I catalyzed my colleagues to successfully resist being required to pay for our own course materials for GSI-ing. Battles like these have shown me how the UC’s main priority is using resources to protect those at the top. This must be fought at the campus and UC-wide level and in conjunction with others in similar struggles.

When I saw how AWDU members shared information and resources to help academic student employees organize and represent themselves, invited discussion and shared decision-making power, I knew this is the kind of union I want to be in. It’s also what will advance academic workers and public education: a democratic union.

Graduate students are especially vulnerable because our work is often isolating and personalized. My goal is to increase member participation through making the union relevant to the struggles we face in the workplace, and through connecting people already fighting the same fights. When we recognize that an injury to one is an injury to all, we build a strong and trustworthy network of people, and we have a much better chance at material success. The AWDU platform (awdu.org) discusses this in more detail, please consider endorsing our slate at http://awdu.org/endorse.

Head Steward – Pablo Gaston, Sociology

I’m Pablo Gaston, and I am running for Head Steward at Berkeley.  I am a third year in the Sociology Department, and have been a member of UAW Local 2865 since 2008.  I would bring a wealth of experience to the position, both as an active member and current head steward in this local, and as a former organizer and strategic researcher with SEIU.  I am committed to working in a positive and constructive manner with any member who wants to have a voice on the job and in their union.

Public sector unions are at a critical juncture today, and we need to make sure we are as strong as possible.  As a Head Steward, I will work to rebuild the Berkeley unit’s representation capacities by recruiting more Stewards in as many departments as possible. Stewards are key cornerstones of any union, but the vast majority of Steward positions in Berkeley remain unfilled.  I will work with other Stewards to undertake proactive contract enforcement campaigns, to make sure our rights are protected and our working conditions improved.  I firmly believe that we can only tackle systemic problems such as workload violations if we work together to make demands, rather than filing grievances on our own.

I am running as an affiliate of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, a reform caucus within Local 2865. For the past year, AWDU has sought to build student-worker power by increasing direct member participation in our union.  We believe we should work together, not alone, to fight for social and economic justice for our members and our communities.  To learn more about AWDU and to get involved, check out http://www.awdu.org.  Feel free to contact me at gastonpu[at]gmail.com.

Head Steward – Rachel Brahinsky, Geography

I’m running for Head Steward because I want to be a part of a unionism that is relevant, vital and growing. That’s why I’ve been a part of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union for the past year. AWDU is a caucus within UAW 2865 that is working as a positive force to make the union better and stronger through openness and democracy – rather than relying on the old-school tactics that have been killing the labor movement, as the current leadership has. Check out our ideas for transforming UAW 2865 into a social justice union at http://www.awdu.org. Please vote, and recruit all your friends to vote; you can add your name to our endorsement list at www.awdu.org/endorse.

Head Steward – Katy Fox-Hodess, Sociology

Working in the labor movement before graduate school — as an organizer for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, an investigator to a labor-side employment law firm, and a researcher for a women’s labor committee in Santiago, Chile — has provided me with a wealth of experience that I will bring to the Head Steward position. I am currently a second year graduate student in sociology studying organized labor and working-class politics. I have been a member of the UAW since 2009 and have worked as a Reader or as a Graduate Student Instructor every semester.

Since 2010, I have also been an active member of the UAW Reform Caucus (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union – AWDU). I joined AWDU last year because I believe our union can and should be stronger and more democratic. Our union should not rely on a top-down, ineffective, bureaucratic structure, but instead on the active engagement of the membership.

Having a stronger, more democratic union will allow us:

  • To do a better job of enforcing our contract;
  • To win greater concessions in bargaining from the University when we negotiate our next contract (such as a living wage, health benefits for dependents, and remission of campus fees);
  • To play a greater and more effective role in the fight for public education, by working in solidarity with our undergraduate students and fellow campus workers.

As Head Steward, I will continue the work we’ve begun through AWDU of developing an extensive stewards’ network, with the goal of seeing at least one steward elected to each campus department with graduate students. Stewards serve as the “eyes and ears” of the membership, ensuring that the concerns of graduate students are relayed to the leadership, and ensuring that important information from the leadership is conveyed back to the membership. Ultimately, I hope that we can change our local union’s by-laws to institutionalize a Steward’s Council, which would allow us to put real decision-making power in the hands of the members.

I also hope to continue the work we’ve begun through AWDU of building solidarity alliances with faculty, lecturers, campus workers and undergraduate students, as well as the broader labor movement and public education movement in California. As graduate student workers, we occupy a unique position on campus as students, workers and teachers. As such, we are ideally situated to play a critical role in the fight to preserve the public mission of the University. By developing a stronger organization at the grassroots level, we will ensure gains not only for our membership but also for the broader movement for affordable higher education and decent employment in the public sector.

An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

Head Steward – Jessica Smith, Chemistry

My name is Jessica M Smith and I am a third-year student in the Department of Chemistry at UC Berkeley.   I am running for Head Steward of the Berkeley Unit of UAW Local 2865 as a member of the AWDU slate of reform candidates. You can visit http://www.awdu.org for a full statement of our platform.

Beyond my general agreement with the platform put forth by AWDU, I hope to represent the interests of students in the sciences on the Berkeley campus as part of the UAW 2865 Joint Council.  We make up a substantial chunk of the campus and have increasingly large teaching loads.  I will prioritize systematically organizing against workload violations in these departments if I am elected, keeping in mind the specific departmental culture of the natural sciences.

I have also been involved in curbing the proliferation of online education, particularly the UC Cyber Campus promoted by Dean Edley. As I have done in the last year, I will continue to create space for students, faculty, and particularly GSIs, readers, and tutors to engage the administrators who have formulated this project largely behind closed doors and with private donations.  Challenging this kind of decision-making is just one example of how our union should be fighting to maintain the quality of public higher education.

My main qualification for Head Steward is that I’ve held this position at Berkeley for the last year.  I don’t have previous experience working with a union nor do I have any aspirations to draw a paycheck from any union in the future.  I’m running for this office to remove decision-making power from union bureaucrats so that the direction of UAW Local 2865 can be determined by regular graduate students.  Go rank-and-file!  Go Bears!  Go rank-and-filers who are also Bears!

Head Steward – Josh Williams, Performance Studies

I am a PhD student in the Theater, Dance and Performance Studies Department, and have extensive experience with political performance, both here in the United States and abroad.  In my capacity as a theatre artist and educator, I have worked with people of all ages and backgrounds on issues ranging from HIV/AIDS prevention and homelessness to poverty, racism and religious intolerance.  For the past year and a half, I have also been employed as an academic tutor at struggling and underfunded Bay Area schools, and consequently understand firsthand the challenges facing public education in California.

I have stood with the UAW since arriving at Berkeley in 2010, and continue to be active with on-campus organizing in defense of public education and the rights and dignity of students and student workers.  I am also now a member of the reform caucus within the union – Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) – and am proud to call for progressive change in the UAW’s governing structures and philosophy.  I believe that a democratic union is a strong union, and that greater rank-and-file participation will allow us to advocate for the needs of students and student workers more effectively.

To learn more about our movement to reform our union and empower student workers, visit awdu.org.  If you like what you see, please consider endorsing our slate at awdu.org/endorse.

If elected Head Steward, I will work towards:

  • better and more comprehensive enforcement of our contract
  • tougher, more progressive leadership in bargaining with the University, aimed at securing a living wage, healthcare benefits for dependents and full remission of campus fees
  • greater inclusion of rank-and-file members in union decision-making through active recruitment of department stewards
  • broad-based solidarity amongst graduate and undergraduate students, faculty and staff in defense of public education at the U.C. and in California as a whole

I believe that the U.C. once was, and can be again, a shining example of the ways in which public institutions of higher learning can be good for students and workers alike.  In order to restore the University to its former place of honor, we must first reform our union from within.  A UAW reinvigorated by grassroots activism and rank-and-file participation can – and will – lead the way to a new era of public education in California, and I plan to be a part of that effort.

Head Steward – Shane Boyle, Performance Studies

I have been actively involved in our union at UC Berkeley for four years. From 2008 until 2009 I served as a head steward. Before that I attended meetings and helped with member recruitment. I must say, these early experiences with the union were uninspiring – at best. Not only did I find the statewide union leadership’s practice of democracy and member involvement to be a mockery of both concepts, but I was consistently troubled by the fact that rank and file members had little say over the causes, candidates, and parties our dues and political contributions supported. It was not until the Spring of 2010 when I became a part of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) that I regained confidence in what a union of academic students employees can accomplish (www.awdu.org). As a head steward, I will work hard to mobilize students on the campus level at a time when our university, our public sector, and our futures are being attacked daily from the right and the so-called left in Sacramento.

Head Steward – Chris Schildt, City and Regional Planning

I am running for Head Steward for UAW Local 2865. I am a first year Masters student in City & Regional Planning, and have been a member of UAW since last Fall. I am a candidate with the Academic Workers for the Democratic Union (AWDU) slate because I believe our union must be more powerful and engaged with our members than it currently is, and I believe AWDU has the vision to turn us into the fighting union we need to become. You can visit http://www.awdu.org for a full statement of our platform.

Since my days as an undergraduate at Berkeley, I have seen class sizes grow and “tuition” double. Graduate students in professional degree programs – such as myself – are especially vulnerable. Oftentimes, we aren’t in our programs long enough to learn our rights or get involved in union leadership. As your Head Steward, I will focus on outreach to new graduate students – particularly those in professional programs – in order to build our voice within the union and on campus.

I have the skills and experience to be a successful Head Steward. As an undergraduate at Berkeley, I organized with UC-AFT to win a better contract for our lecturers. After graduation, I worked at an advocacy non-profit to win affordable housing and better jobs for low-income Latino families in the Bay Area. I have a deep commitment to racial and economic justice at all levels of society – especially our public universities. I am a proud member of UAW 2865, and I look forward to contributing my energy to the fight for graduate student workers’ rights and public education.

Head Steward – Micki McCoy, History of Art

I am running in affiliation with the statewide reform caucus, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU). As our bylaws state, the highest authority in this union is its rank-and-file membership, and the democratic reforms that AWDU has recently introduced aim to take that authority out of the hands of elected leadership and return it to the membership. This, in turn, will strengthen our union’s ability to bargain and enforce our contract, to protect the rights of all academic student employees, and to continue the fight for public education.

One Response to “Berkeley Unit Slate”

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  1. Announcing the AWDU slate! « Academic Workers for a Democratic Union - April 15, 2011

    […] out the statements by our candidates for Executive Board and for Berkeley Unit leadership to get a sense of the amazing people who have come together to represent AWDU in these […]

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