AWDU is thrilled to have elected a slate of amazing organizers to our campus positions, and one Berkeley member to the Executive Board as Trustee. Here are some of their candidate statements:
Unit Chair: Jen Tucker, City and Regional Planning
My name is Jen Tucker and I’m running for unit chair because I know our Union can do more to advocate for student-workers and fight to protect our university.
I’ve been a member of Local 2865 since 2007 and have worked as a GSI for seven semesters in four different departments. I bring five years of work as an organizer and a strong commitment to revitalize our union. I have masters degrees in Public Policy and International & Area Studies from Berkeley and now am a PhD student in the Department of City and Regional Planning. 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 procedures.
Our union can be a 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. I will work closely with membership to rebuild the Berkeley unit’s representation and mobilization capacities though the creation of an active network of Stewards. I will also support the work of Head Stewards to undertake proactive contract enforcement campaigns which will protect our rights are improve our working conditions.
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. Fighting for public education in the era of budget cuts will require large-scale organizing to engage thousands of students and student-workers across departments, creative efforts to work with undergraduates and faculty, and coalition-building with other unions, student groups and education organizations. I bring the organizing and coalition-building experience needed to bring together diverse groups so that together we can build a movement capable of reclaiming the university and re-instituting a commitment the public university as the site of critical scholarship, teaching and learning.
I am committed to actively supporting the state-wide network of reform activists, the Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU), now present on all UC campuses.
We believe that our Union will be stronger when it is more transparent, more accountable to the membership, and more supportive of local organizing efforts. As part of AWDU’s state-wide outreach committee, I have been working with members at Davis to revitalize their unit.
I have worked actively to democratize and strengthen our union through my work with AWDU.
The Berkeley campus had unprecedented turnout and signups of union members in last December’s election, 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. Through the efforts of AWDU, information about campus turnout during the contract ratification vote results was made public and received press attention on campuses and in the wider media.
Pablo Gaston, Sociology
I’m Pablo Gaston, and I’m asking for your vote for one of the Head Steward positions on the Berkeley campus. I have been a member of Local 2865 since 2008. I would bring a wealth of experience to the position, both as an active member of this local, and as a former organizer and strategic researcher in other union locals.
As a Head Steward, I will work to rebuild the Berkeley unit’s representation and mobilization capacities. This effort will begin with the recruitment of more stewards throughout the campus, and the creation of an active stewards network. Stewards constitute a key cornerstone for any union, but the vast majority of Steward positions in Berkeley remain unfilled. I believe there should be at least one steward in as many academic departments as possible, and will help with an effort to recruit them.
I will work with other Stewards and Head Stewards to undertake proactive contract enforcement campaigns, to make sure our rights are protected and our working conditions improved. While the grievance procedure in our contract is an important safeguard, we can only improve our working conditions by working together. For instance, I have heard from many members with 25% GSI appointments that they routinely work more than an average of ten hours per week, a clear violation of our contract. But many of us don’t want to confront our instructors alone. We should undertake a proactive campaign to make sure workload rights are enforced for all GSIs, not just pursue workload grievances as individuals.
The position of Head Steward brings with it a seat on the local’s Joint Council, an important statewide decision-making body. There, I will work to push the local to pursue greater participation by and accessibility for members, including through steward recruitment and campaign initiatives.
We also need to build the capacity of the local. Our power doesn’t come from bargaining strategies—the power we have at the table is determined by the leverage we build on campuses. I believe the controversy over the ratification of our contract last fall emerged from a lack of resources dedicated to building that leverage. Building a strong steward network is a key first step in changing this state of affairs; we also need to build up our local’s organizing and research capacity.
I also believe Local 2865 should take a more active role in the fight to protect public education and against cuts to the UC’s operating budget. Our working conditions are greatly affected by this crisis, and we have seen many of our colleagues in sister unions laid off. Our union has a responsibility to be an active participant in this fight; the moment is too critical, and we cannot afford to stay on the sidelines.
Micki McCoy, History of Art
I am committed to active support of the statewide network of reform activists now present on all UC campuses. Like them, I believe that our Union will be stronger when the membership is better equipped to participate actively in union decision-making and organizing, and when it is more supportive of local organizing efforts. I will use my seat on the local’s Joint Council, an important statewide decision-making body, to push the reform needed to strengthen our Union.
Manuel Rosaldo, Sociology
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.
Megan Wachspress, Jurisprudence and Social Policy
Megan Wachspress is a fourth-year student in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program at UC Berkeley. Her involvement in the union began when she was first elected to represent her department – mostly by acting as a conduit of information – at UAW meetings. 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, she became involved with Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWADU) last June and has since been dedicated to expanding involvement in and democratizing the organizational model of UAW Local 2865.
Over the last semester as an active rank-and-file member Megan has attended bargaining sessions at our most recent contract negotiations, acted as a press liaison on behalf of AWADU, participated in the October 7th and Regents meeting protests, organized and attended departmental meetings to update members on both the progress of negotiations and to solicit ideas and involvement, and led ASE Orientations for new GSIs, Readers, and Tutors. Megan has GSIed three times within the Legal Studies department and will be serving as Acting Instructor for another course this summer. Her commitment to college-level education extends beyond the UC Berkeley campus; she worked as a TA for three of her four years of college and has been teaching math and philosophy classes at San Quentin State Prison since summer of 2008. Outside of her union work and teaching, Megan has 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 her college’s Feminist Majority group and organizing volunteers as part of the Kerry campaign of 2004.
As head steward, Megan would continue the work to work to transform the union that AWADU has been engaged in on the Berkeley campus for close to a year. She 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. Reforms that Megan would push for or enact directly would included regular outreach to campus members, an ongoing e-mail list about elections and upcoming meetings and by law changes, consistent and collective responses to grievances, and a more open forum whereby Berkeley student workers can pass their ideas and suggestions on to UC wide platforms. As head steward (and alongside other reform-minded head stewards) she would help to coordinate strategies with her fellow members about how to force UC administrators and state officials to make education a priority, as well as reach out to undergraduates both as tutors and fellow UAW members and as important allies in these efforts. In short, she would see her role as threefold: providing members with information; facilitating and coordinating the enormous creative and intellectual energy – and frustration – amongst her fellow ASEs in efforts to improve UC Berkeley; and challenging the current status quo amongst the statewide leadership to open up information and decision-making to rank-and-file members.
Trustee: Charlie Eaton, Sociology
I am running for Trustee because our university is in crisis, and we need major changes. I have worked for 10 years to help make this kind of change, first as a union organizer and now as a graduate student in Sociology at UC Berkeley.
I believe our union could be a force for livable wages, affordable housing, and childcare for student workers. I believe we could help stop the fee hikes, budget cuts, power grabs by UC executives, and growing class sizes. Public investment in UC could be part of a long-term solution to California’s budget crisis by creating new jobs and innovations that grow our economy.
But I think we can only make these changes with a movement that harnesses the broad public support for UC and stops business-as-usual at the university until state and UC officials agree to what we need. As a union, we could be a critical part of such a movement. To me, this would take welcoming more involvement from of our members and making our union stronger and more democratic.
I have worked actively to strengthen our union and make it more democratic. I joined Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU) in November and opposed our most recent proposed contract with UC. I thought we needed to give members a chance to fight for wages that keep up with the cost of living, guaranteed remission of all fees, and more adequate childcare subsidies. I have since then helped organize meetings with more than 100 members at UCLA, UCSD, UC Irvine, and UC Merced to invite them to get involved in our union. As Trustee, I will advocate on our union Executive Board to create the space for all members to participate in key decisions about how our union will build student and worker power to fight the cuts and protect our rights. This practice of democratic exchange can create better ideas and plans that more of our members will want to carry out.
In working to involve more members, I have tried to learn from other student activists and from my past organizing. As a student organizer with Jobs with Justice in 2002, I organized a successful campaign by students and workers at the City University of New York to win in-state tuition rates for undocumented students and protect financial aid. In organizing marches by thousands of students, hunger strikes, and civil disobedience, I learned to work with diverse student organizations on CUNY’s campuses. In 2005, I saw how powerful decisions made by members can be when I helped organize a successful strike by housekeeping and dietary workers in Chico California with SEIU – United Healthcare Workers. I saw this again in 2006 when I helped 10,000 homecare workers in Fresno bargain a contract that won dental benefits and a 20% wage increase over two years.
As Trustee, I hope I can work with you as well to build a more democratic, member-driven union.