Executive Board Slate

President – Cheryl Deutsch, UC Irvine

A second year PhD student in Anthropology at UC Irvine, I’m running for President to continue reforming our union.  Alarmed by the state’s budget cuts, the UC’s choice to balance those cuts on the backs of students and workers, as well as the weak presence of our union in those debates, I became a Head Steward last year when there was not a single elected union representative on campus.  I phone-banked members to collect data on how the budget cuts were affecting them as workers.  I organized departmental meetings to facilitate conversation about changes to our healthcare benefits, as well as a grade-in to make visible the work we do as Academic Student Employees.

It was during contract negotiations this summer and fall, however, that I realized the lack of union presence on my campus was not an anomaly but something of the norm statewide, and that our union suffered from something more than just a shortage of member participation.  I believe the incumbent leadership has made only superficial and disingenuous efforts at organizing, relying on a handful of paid staff rather than empowering elected officers and members as organizers.  The sum of these practices is a weak union poorly positioned to win anything but a weak contract.

At Irvine, we now have elected officers and informal stewards networks stretching across the social sciences, humanities, and physical and natural sciences.  We have substantive monthly membership meetings, departmental meetings, and are in the midst of launching workload enforcement and affordable housing campaigns.  I want to bring this kind of vibrancy to the union as a whole, and I’m running for President to ensure that no campus will ever go neglected by the union again.

In February I became a Trustee on the Executive Board in the hope of making institutional change towards empowering the rank and file.  I made proposals to institutionalize orientations and organizer training for Campus Unit officers, to make elected officers’ contact information available on our website, and to prioritize Campus Units (rather than the statewide headquarters in Berkeley) as the primary points of contact for members across the state.  The incumbent leadership blocked or voted down every one of these proposals.

I’m privileged to be running for President on a slate of stellar candidates from the large and growing statewide reform movement we call Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU).  You can read more about our vision for reforming the union – including concrete actions we will take if elected – at awdu.org.

As an environmental, political, student, and labor activist, I bring to the table 10 years of organizing experience: I have managed and led a broad range of campaigns, media and member outreach, fundraising, as well as direct actions.  As a student committed to a career in academia, I will work as President to put the union back into the hands of actual student-workers.  I’m committed to open and honest communication and maintain a passionate belief that nobody’s point of view should ever be dismissed.

Northern Vice President – Sara Smith, UC Santa Cruz

I am running for Northern Vice President of UAW 2865 as part of the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union slate. Our websites: http://www.awdu.org and slugorganizingcommittee.wordpress.com. As a student of U.S. labor and social movement history at UC Santa Cruz, I take my inspiration from past and current struggles for racial, gender, and queer justice, and from the history of workers’ struggles. I’m running because I want to help democratize our union so that it can be a force for social change.

  • Experience: I’ve been active in efforts to reform and democratize UAW 2865 since I began graduate school six years ago.  As part of a reform-minded minority on the bargaining team during contract negotiations a few years ago, I helped push for greater transparency and democracy in the negotiations process. I’ve helped to lead many individual and collective workload grievances, organized union presentations in departmental and campus-wide orientations for several years, organized departmental meetings, helped to lead campaigns to fight cuts to graduate student healthcare, and on and on. I’ve worked hard to strengthen the rights, pay, and benefits of UAW 2865 members.
  • Participatory Democracy: If elected, as Northern Vice President I’ll support membership empowerment at the campus level, while coordinating across the UC to increase our power. This is in sharp contrast to the practices of the current leadership (many of whom are running against AWDU in this election), which promotes a hyper-centralization in which the ten-person Executive Board and the President make nearly all of the decisions for 12,000 members
  • Quality of Education: For the past several years I’ve worked to push our union leadership—with much pushback—to take seriously the need to fight ballooning class sizes. As educators, we must take seriously our mission to protect and improve the quality of education at the University of California
  •  Defend, Reclaim Public Education: For the past couple of years I’ve been centrally involved in the movement against the budget cuts and the fee hikes. Our union should be taking a leading role in this movement.
  • Fighting Discrimination: When on the bargaining team, I was active with a group of reformers, which promoted queer labor rights and the rights of international students, and fought for the childcare subsidy and paid leaves. When the majority of the bargaining team gave in on the issue, I worked with activists at UCSC to fight for, and ultimately win health insurance that did not discriminate against transgender students at UC Santa Cruz. I’m also actively supportive of the struggle to establish Ethnic Studies at UC Santa Cruz. Our union must prioritize struggles against institutionalized oppression.

If you vote for Academic Workers for a Democratic Union slate, we’ll continue to take direct action, to mobilize to defend and strengthen our own rights, as well as organize in solidarity with other workers, students, and the community.

Southern Vice President – Elliott Kim, UC Riverside

I am a second year graduate student in Public History and Latin American Studies at UC Riverside. I was raised in an activist-academic household and have been actively involved in various forms of community and labor organizing for most of my life but more so in the past ten plus years. In addition to participating in academic and organizing work, I currently serve as a public affairs programming director at KUCR, the university and community radio station at UCR.

Since the most recent election I’ve been working as a steward in my department to help with coalition building between graduate and other students, staff and faculty at UCR, and I see this as a necessary step in fostering statewide, national as well as global solidarity between unions, social justice movements and the communities they serve in the UC system and beyond.

I’ve also been involved in organizing with Social Justice Alliance-UCR for different days of action, forums, teach-ins, and other organizing work particularly around the budget cuts over the past two years.

I welcome the opportunity to continue to work with other members of UAW, members of the Executive Board, Joint Council and others in the critical efforts to nurture and enact participatory democracy, strong collective bargaining principles and cross-campus and community solidarity building in UAW Local 2865 and beyond.

To echo others points, we are at a critical juncture and have a worthwhile opportunity to contribute to the creation of a more equitable and just future for those who inhabit the UC public school system and by several degrees of extension this planet. In this context, I feel privileged to be working with groups such as Academic Workers for a Democratic Union and running for the Eboard position of Southern Vice President or Campus Unit Chair at UC Riverside with the AWDU slate. I look forward to continuing to help organize for quality and accessible public education in any capacity. In peace and solidarity, Elliott Kim.

Recording Secretary – Mandy Cohen, UC Berkeley

I am running for the position of local Recording Secretary as part of the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) slate. I am a third year doctoral student in Comparative Literature at UC Berkeley, where I’ve been a member since 2009 and a head steward since 2010. For the past two years I’ve been actively organizing against the budget cuts and to defend the rights of academic student employees through our union and in coalition with student and faculty groups and other employee unions.

AWDU exists because our union has failed to take leadership in this fight, has failed to engage and educate our members in the issues, and in fact has demobilized regular members when we have tried to organize through the union. This was demonstrated to us last fall during the contract negotiations when hundreds of members at my campus were ready to fight for a stronger contract, only to watch the union leadership settle for a weak contract. I was part of the “Vote NO” campaign that built upon the departmental organizing we had been engaged in for over a year and succeeded in turning out almost a thousand members on our campus alone to participate in that vote. Before AWDU began organizing at Berkeley we had never seen that level of participation.

At Berkeley I have helped to organize departmental meetings to discuss and involve our members in the budget cuts fight and our contract negotiations, I have helped to organize the days of action in defense of public education, educational events for our undergraduate students, public forums with administration to debate the cuts, as well as creative protest measures like “The UC Movement for Efficient Privatization (UCMeP).” I believe that education and direct, collective action are our best tools to defend and expand our rights.

As part of the AWDU slate, I would work to return control of our local to our members, because an active and democratically run union is the best means to fight for our rights as workers and students. We believe the members must come together and decide the union’s role, because the union is only as strong as our involvement. This is the kind of union I’ve helped to build here at Berkeley, and which I want to support on all campuses. To find out more about AWDU’s positions on reforming the union and our commitment to fighting for an equitable university, check out awdu.org.

Financial Secretary – Charlie Eaton, UC Berkeley

All of us will have to do more to stop devastating cuts and fee hikes at UC.  Deeper cuts will leave graduate and undergraduate education at UC nearly unattainable except for the privileged.  UAW 2865 could be a major force to reverse the cuts and empower students and workers at UC — but only if we make major positive changes to our union.  That is why I am running for Financial Secretary with Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU).  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.

I have worked in the labor movement for 10 years – experience that has helped prepare me for the role of Financial Secretary can play in changing our union.  With SEIU – United Healthcare Workers, I helped develop a grassroots committee of homecare workers and hospital employees to decide on how to spend hundreds of thousands of their dues dollars and donations to mobilize for better wages and benefits. The campaign won a union contract in 2006 with a 20% wage increase over two years, helping lift 10,000 homecare workers out of poverty.

As a Sociology graduate student at UC Berkeley, I have adapted some of my experiences for our fight against fee hikes and budget cuts.  In February, I was elected as a reform candidate to oversee the union’s finances as a Trustee.  Since then, I have helped connect graduate students across campuses in a new campaign to preserve funding guarantees for GSI, TA, Reader, and GSR fee remissions at UC Berkeley UC Davis, UC Riverside, and UCLA.  Already, we successfully forced a delay and concessions on the policy at UC Berkeley, but we need to reverse such policies statewide.  To do so, we must put our union’s resources back in the hands of members.  That’s why I also helped develop a process adopted by the union this Spring for membership meetings to review and reprioritize our union’s budget.

Thousands of us will have to step up to accomplish much bigger changes.  Hundreds of volunteers and over 60 candidates for Executive Board and Head Steward positions have joined AWDU’s movement to change our union.  If you believe that we need a stronger, bottom-up union to reverse the cuts and empower students and workers, please stand with AWDU by voting for our entire reform slate.

Trustee – Brenda Medina-Hernandez, UC Davis

I am a second year graduate student in the History Department at UC-Davis. I am running for Trustee as part of a collective reform group with Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU)—a union activist caucus that has fostered an increased participation of rank-and-file members since January 2010.

I became an active union participant as a rank-and-file member in the fall of 2010 during our last round of contract negotiations with the UC administration. As a union member, I helped organize informational sessions for Academic Student Workers to educate members about the contract and push for increased transparency at the bargaining table. Since then I have continued my work with union mobilization by increasing the presence of AWDU at UC Davis and increasing participation in our monthly unit membership meetings.

Now is the moment to reinvigorate our union. As graduate students across the UC system, budget cuts pose a direct threat to our livelihood: TA’ships and readerships. I will work to increase our power as students and as workers. We are 12,000 strong and a force to be reckoned with. If elected along other AWDU candidates, we will continue to transform our union and fight for higher wages, for better working conditions, and to protect higher education. Join us by voting for a new leadership.

You can learn more about our movement to reform our union and empower academic student employees by visiting the website of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) at awdu.org. And to help support our movement, please consider endorsing our slate at awdu.org/endorse.

Trustee – Nick Kardahji, UC Berkeley

I’m a graduate student in the History Dept. at UC Berkeley, and I have been an active member of UAW Local 2865 since I came to study in California four years ago. For the past twelve months I have been Recording Secretary for the Berkeley campus, and I was on the bargaining team during the contract negotiations that took place last year. I believe passionately in a member-run union and in rank-and-file democracy, and I believe that the only way our union can be the fighting force that it has the potential to be, is by transforming it into a grassroots organization governed by participatory democracy. I have also been active in the public education struggle for the last few years and I am committed to the fight for free, genuinely public education for all, and I believe our union can play a much stronger and more effective role in helping to make that happen. As my experience during the bargaining process underscored for me, our rights at work remain fragile and far too limited, and our compensation is far from commensurate with the time and energy Academic Student Employees invest in their teaching. Our union must take a more assertive attitude to defending members’ rights, and must begin preparing for a far more effective contract campaign in two years time. I am also an international student, of mixed Arab-British ethnicity, and I’m committed to helping to ensure that the issues affecting the many international students and ASEs at the UC, both documented and undocumented, are given a high priority in our local. It is for all these reasons that I am a member of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union, a caucus committed to the practice of real democracy in our local and the labor movement more broadly. Check out our ideas for transforming UAW 2865 into a real 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.

Trustee – Kyle Arnone, UCLA

I’m a fourth year graduate student in the Sociology Department at UCLA. Like most graduate students, I struggle with working with my current funding and worry about my prospects for future funding.  And as efforts to dismantle public education in CA multiply, these worries become more real. To date, our union has not been very active in protecting and advancing the interests of academic student employees. This is why I am running for Trustee on the Executive Board and Head Steward at UCLA with the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) (for more about AWDU, visit http://www.awdu.org), a reform-minded caucus of graduate students interested in transforming our union into a movement to preserve the integrity of public education, which fundamentally includes protecting the rights, wages, and benefits of student-workers.

I bring three years of experience in the labor movement with me to my candidacy. I have worked as a consultant-researcher on a campaign to organize port truck drivers in CA over the last three years, where job insecurity is a persistent reality for workers, not unlike graduate students.  As part of my academic research, I also study the historical development of strategy and tactics in labor organizations. I have well-developed sense of how important it is for our union to carefully devise strategy to put us in the best possible position to protect and advance our interests—as workers, as students, and as student-workers.

Since being elected to Head Steward in February, I have helped develop a workload survey, fight against UC efforts to eliminate funding guarantees for graduate student instructors, and make our local unit more democratic. I encountered entrenched resistance within our union, and I now recognize the need for a change in leadership and practice. In order to expand the scope of our influence and to make these campaigns more effective, we need to revitalize local units—to make them more democratic, more inclusive, and, in doing so, more effective forums for creative and critical decision-making.

I ask that you support me and the entire AWDU slate of candidates as an essential first step toward involving our union in becoming an effective force in preserving the integrity of public education.

Guide – Blanca Missé, UC Berkeley

I am GSI and a fourth year graduate student in the French Department at UC Berkeley and I have been an active member of our union since 2007. I am currently serving as a Head Steward in our local.

For the past 2 years I have been working within our union to defend our rights and also to seek rank-and-file input to win a better contract for our local.

But I have also been organizing against the budget cuts to public education and for budget transparency in our University, and around other social and economic justice issues, always representing the needs of academic student employees as members of our union.

I am running for the position of Guide on the Executive Board because I believe we need a union that is more open to the members, transparent and democratic and that can win a better contract and more rights and protections for its members. My experience is that the more we implement participatory democracy in which members are provided with accurate information and have a say in which decisions are made and how they are made, the better rights and benefits we manage to win with their participation. Participatory democracy is the best way to insure accountability of the union leadership and we want to establish that in our local.

Many of us, as graduate students, TAs, readers and tutors, also feel our union should not only represent us as academic workers during the months we work, but also should have a long-term vision and plan to protect and improve the future of our profession.

In this situation of crisis, I believe we should start building stronger alliances with other social forces to put forward concrete solutions to improve our universities and education system.

For all these reasons I am running with the reform slate Academic Workers for a Democratic Union which I helped create at UC Berkeley. Check out our ideas for transforming UAW 2865 into a real 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 http://www.awdu.org/endorse.

Sergeant-at-Arms – Jordan Brocious, UC Irvine

My name is Jordan Brocious; I’m a second year physics student working in the chemistry department at UC Irvine. I have been organizing against the budget cuts and for social justice issues in the UC system since my first day of class with the Fall 2009 Walk Out. Much of the fight against austerity was done as students, and not explicitly as workers, which is why I am running on the UAW reform caucus slate, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU). Our union has relied on a top-down, bureaucratic structure, but there is more strength in active and democratic member participation. As the Irvine Recording Secretary I helped promote direct member involvement in solidarity actions with other campus and community student groups and unions, where previously our leadership had interest in absently collecting dues.

I affirm that the AWDU slate would work to return control of the local to where it should be: the members and the stewards. From there we can all fight more effectively for better workloads, affordable housing, and public education!

You can learn more about our movement to reform our union and empower student-workers by visiting the website of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) at awdu.org.



One Response to “Executive Board Slate”


  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 […]

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