Fighting UAW’s web of lies

By now, many of us are familiar with a particular blog, purportedly run by concerned rank and file members, but in reality the work of 3 Joint Council members, most likely with the input and direction of several members of the Executive Board.

It is hard to begin to attack any one of the many false and misleading statements on the website without getting tangled in the web of lies spun by our union’s statewide leadership and staff. But we wanted to address the issue which we feel is a personal attack on everyone involved in the NO VOTE campaign and even those of our friends, classmates, and coworkers who have joined us in voting no.

This issue primarily revolves around the motivations of the rank-and-file members and elected leaders spearheading this campaign.

Perhaps the most ridiculous argument made by this blog is the idea that we are disconnected from the membership. This could not be further from the truth, precisely because WE ARE THE MEMBERSHIP. We are the ones that make this union work. We are not pulling dirty tricks to reject the contract, nor are we even trying to pressure random passerby to vote no. Instead, we are doing real organizing, something unheard of–if not prohibited–by the union leadership, explaining the issues to our coworkers and classmates, and THEY’RE taking the initiative to vote. This cynicism of the union leadership–that members wouldn’t freely vote–is the reason why this bargaining team was completely toothless and spineless, more than in any other year. They take us for idiots, clods who don’t understand contracts or complicated language, workers too stupid to act. This philosophy screwed over autoworkers, and it will lead to the demise of UAW-managed grad unions across the country. And we mean no disrespect to our autoworker comrades in saying this, but we’re grad students, at the UC no less, and most of us understand both the contract and the strategy of organizing better than the union staff.

Additionally, further trying to deny us our membership in this union, we have been called “zealots” who have wanted to strike from the beginning. Maybe this first part is true, but so what? Rather than deepening our standing in the county Democratic Party, we’ve been out organizing with our students and professors for the past two years against the budget cuts. Many of us have been arrested, we’ve faced student conduct charges, and been beaten at the barricades… while our union leadership was nowhere to be seen. We’re radicals, that’s why we take an interest in our union and other social issues, and that’s why we won’t stop fighting to take cushy staff jobs.

To say that we’ve wanted to strike from day 1 is misleading. Many of the people active in the NO campaign have long and strong backgrounds in union organizing, and nearly all of us have varying degrees of experience working with United Students Against Sweatshops, salting, working as union organizers in other unions, and working with the lowest paid workers on our campuses. How many people on the E-Board or JC can say that?

Instead, we’ve wanted our union to be strong. We recognize fully the difficulty of organizing a strike, but also that the threat–and REAL ABILITY–of striking is our strongest bargaining chip at the table. It’s what would have forced the UC to concede better wages, rather than just giving up, which is exactly what our leaders did. Rather than mislead the membership about the progress of negotiations, we’ve been out collecting strike pledges and talking to coworkers. The best threat of striking is actually organizing a strike. Similarly, the best way to get what you want at the table is to appear to be able to strike on a moment’s notice. A publicly-visible unwillingness to prepare for strike takes away all credibility at the table, showing the UC that we won’t back up our demands; and every negotiation session at which this happens, permanently hampers our ability to organize for and secure better contracts in the future.

Finally, many of us attend local union meetings regularly: in fact, at some campuses, all of the people present at monthly meetings ARE no-voters. We’re the ones that phone bank, we’re the ones that write editorials, we’re the ones even now manning the polling tables. Our primary concern is not striking, stroking our egos, building a career, it’s creating the union we want to represent us. And as those most in contact with the union, we have seen all of the shortcomings and failures that have plagued the last few years. We’ve seen our pleas and initiatives squashed by senior leadership. And we’re tired of it.

For those reasons, we’re voting NO. No more disrespect, no more lies, no more deception, no more shitty contracts. And as the ones most active in the union, and the ones that suffer from relative pay cuts, we’re the ones that will have to fight.


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