This Letter is a Repost from THOSE WHO USE IT
Dear colleagues, comrades, and members of the UAW 2865,
My name is Matthew Luckett, and I am the recording secretary-elect for UCLA and a candidate for sergeant at arms in the recent UAW 2865 union election. As a member of the United for Economic and Social Justice caucus, I supported the outgoing administration’s strategic approach to bargaining, as well as the contract we’ve recently ratified. I am also proud of my slate and the campaign we ran, which I believe was mostly fair, honest, and positive, in spite of the election’s heated and divisive tone. However, I am stunned by my caucus’s decision this past weekend to reject the results of the Executive Board and Joint Council election, which we lost by several hundred votes, and to call for a new election.
Although some members of the USEJ slate have valid concerns, there is not enough evidence to justify the disenfranchisement of the thousands who voted several weeks ago and reject wholesale the results of the election. As the UCLA Graduate Students Association has pointed out, both sides are guilty of tit for tat challenges and breeches of protocol (which are inevitable, since we only run these elections once every three years, and few of us have much experience with the process). However, when all of the challenges are counted up, any suspicions of malfeasance will rightly or wrongly fall on the administration caucus, whose candidates are believed to have the most to lose. In other words, if anyone is believed to be guilty of fixing the election, it is us. Therefore, any accusations of illegality against AWDU need to meet an extremely, perhaps impossibly, heavy burden of proof in order for us to avoid being seen as sore losers. Our case needs to be airtight and above reproach, and even the GSA and the Huffington Post must be forced to admit the veracity of our claims. This particular case, however, is not convincing to me. And if I (as someone who has a lot to gain from a new election) am not convinced, then I cannot believe that public opinion will rule in its favor. If anything, I fear that public opinion will come crashing down against it.
Barring the discovery of a smoking gun that proves electoral misconduct, any effort to invalidate the election is sure to backfire. Even if the challenge is won and another election takes place, I will have serious doubts about our union’s ability to win the voters’ trust and confidence that their votes will mean something. Moreover, I will doubt our union’s ability to marshal a united front against the UC during the next round of contract negotiations. As leaders of the union, we must always put the students we serve and their interests above our own, and I am not convinced that this decision was made with those students’ interests at heart.
The first election was a positive event in the long term, even if the results weren’t what we hoped for. Over three thousand students decided to spend anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks of their time participating in a high-stakes, exciting election for the heart and soul of our union. However, the divisions between USEJ and AWDU also generated a lot of hostility and resentment, and these wounds will take time to heal. Thus, given the bad blood and conspiratorial paranoia that has existed among members of both caucuses since the election, I am afraid that a second election will destroy this union.
If our local is important enough to USEJ that they are willing to run once again through the political gauntlet, then its efforts should be devoted towards bringing our union back together. As the fight against the Board of Regent’s proposed 40% tuition hike intensifies, we must not think of ourselves as members of a particular caucus, but as workers united against budget cuts in Sacramento and TA cuts in our home departments.
Finally, on a personal note, I am tired of this election. Many of the other candidates are tired of this election. In fact, I believe that most of the candidates and the vast majority of the voters are ready to move on with their lives and begin the business of rebuilding solidarity within this union. I lost my race for sergeant at arms; it is over. I conceded defeat three weeks ago. I will not wage another campaign for a race that I feel I lost fair and square, and I am having a difficult time empathizing with anyone who is ready to kick off another round.
Thus, in light of all that we’ve been through during the last few weeks, I call on the USEJ to drop its demand for a new election and to pass the torch to AWDU. Likewise, I call on AWDU to refrain from responding to this call with any retaliatory efforts to disenfranchise any of our own voters, so that we may begin to put this election behind us once and for all. Together, we must start fighting on behalf of the rank and file members with a common purpose and a shared resolve.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” In this growing hurricane of budget cuts, ballooning deficits, and corporate schemes to privatize our public universities, the union is the only shelter we have against the storm. So, rather than taking a sledgehammer to the roof, let’s all try to weather it together.
UCLA Recording Secretary-elect, USEJ
It seems like our Cinco de Mayo challenge was answered, although not very clearly. As you probably already know, all challenges brought up during the final vote count were declared “unsolvable” by the UAW Local 2865 Elections Committee, which certified the election after having counted all the votes. Now the USEJ caucus, which chaired most of the seats in the Executive Board before loosing them all to AWDU during the latest election, has presented a challenge seeking to declare null and void the election results after their attempts to stall and later halt the vote count failed (Read Here). Amongst the charges against AWDU candidates are “acts of intimidation” and “inviting other union representatives” to campaign meetings. However, after carefully reading and re-reading the accusations and the bylaws we have come to the conclusion that most of these itemized lists are still fairly ambiguous since they merely present accusations, most without evidence, some backed by anonymous entities or “testimony” or parties otherwise benefited in the election themselves (USEJ candidates).
Also, everything in the accusation is badly written and/or explained with non-sequitur information. (Perhaps the most telling indication that these people are not in school).
Pero, honestamente, ¡¿qué?!
Seriously, USEJ-ers and their supporters should reflect on their actions when legitimate questions regarding fraud in a previous election were brought up to them. But, alas, this is not about getting even or pointing out bad grammar, it is about getting democracy, about being transparent and allowing for the union to represent the membership as the membership wants to be represented. We anticipate that AWDU will take the accusations seriously and submit them to process even though they will serve to prove nothing.
Lies cannot bring about the disenfranchisement of one of the biggest voter turnouts in the history of the UAW Local 2865.
The people have spoken.
There is a brief history/review of the relation between the NO-VOTE campaign of the new UAW Local 2865’s contract and current struggles to democratize our union at the following link:
Hi all, just some small stuff that I wrote. I am going to try to get
some sleep now.
We are very tired.
We are tired from sleeping on the office floor for the fifth night,
only to make sure of the integrity of the ballots. When no attempts
whatsoever had been made from either the current administrations of
UAW 2865 or the candidates from USEJ (many of whom serve as current
staff and leaders) to attend to the boxes, we took it upon ourselves
to guard the two locked doors 24/7 because we respect the members who
voted and we want their ballots to be counted.
We do not know whether counting the ballots will win us the election.
Given how heavily outnumbered I was when campaigning at certain
polling locations at UCLA, I personally do not think I will win a
position. But this is an election, and counting the votes is what we
should do. To do that, we must secure the integrity of the ballots.
That is why we are doing what we are doing. We do not understand why
the current leadership never made any attempt to secure the ballots. I
believe they owe the voters the responsibility to secure the fairness
of the ballots.
But while we struggle to do the job of the election committee
neglected to do, everyday we wake up to yet another public slander on
our friends from the current president of UAW 2865. They are slanders
that use shiny keywords with immediate effect and little content, but
they hurt, deeply.
I started the campaign talking to members on campus what we envision
to be a better union. I was ecstatic to hold long conversations with
students across the campus who share my concern for the budget cuts
and the same devotion to our students. But four o’clock in the morning
last Wednesday, the night after the first election day, I found myself
writing a response to accusations of racism targeted at my slate. At
noon on the same day, I found myself outside math science building,
bewildered, trying to tell voters that we do not hate scientists, if
ever the four canvassers from USEJ were not physically blocking me
from getting near the voters. Today, I found myself reading another
email from the UAW president telling me I am probably an intimidating,
harrasing thug since I am an AWDU candidate.
I am five feet five, Asian, an international student, and a woman. I
am indeed a humanities student, but I teach at least 10 science
students every quarter in the past 6 quarters. I never thought of
emphasizing any of these things because I am not running for identity,
I am running for a vision of a democratic union.
I care to win only because I think the campus deserves a more involved
union. But if the strategy to win requires public slanders and
personal attacks, I do not care to win enough. I refuse to dance
around their accusation and provocation any longer. I have never
called anybody names, and I am not about to start. I will not stop
fighting for public education, and it will just be a pity if I am not
able to be involved in the union.
All my friends in AWDU share the same sentiment, and I am deeply sorry
for my friends whose name have been thrown about in careless
According to UAW Local 2865 Presidential candidate Daraka Larimore-Hall’s latest post/rant, the “shut[ing] down or cancel[lation]” of “balloting locations” “without notice” is sufficient grounds to invalidate the entire vote cast by the workers of an institution represented by the UAW. In other words, it is not the voter’s fault, but who cares?
The rumor is USEJ is challenging every UC Berkeley box again.
UCGRADSTRIKE hereby challenges both sides (USEJ and AWDU) to make public their challenges and reasons for challenge so that the public may understand just what kind of nonsense is really taking place inside that little room to which only a few are allowed entrance.
And, by “challenge” we do not mean to negotiate for a general statement, we want itemized lists, challenge by challenge.
This is a repost from an article that came to our attention via UC Rebel Radio:
The Chican@/Latin@ Graduate Student Collective has recently made the Graduate Division aware of concerns that we have regarding the recruitment and retention of Chican@/Latin@ graduate students and other graduate students of color as well as the recruitment of Faculty of color and we would now like to make these concerns public. The following are only a few of our concerns. The full letter is accessible below.
- Recruitment and Retention of Chican@ Latin@ grad students at UCI is problematic.
- There is a general lack of mentoring and advising from our home departments (with the exception of a few committed and overworked faculty)
- Lack of support for our research interests which coincide with our intellectual and community commitments.
- Recruitment of Faculty of color is also dismally low. When they qualified candidates of color are recruited and considered, they are held to extraordinarily high standards that other candidates who are not of color are not held to.
The Chican@/Latin@ Graduate Student Collective asks that you please read and widely distribute this letter.
Alfredo Carlos M.A. Adriana Sanchez Alexander
Department of Political Science Department of English
March 7, 2011
Dr. Frances. M. Leslie
Dean of Graduate Division
University of California, Irvine
155 C Aldrich Hall
Irvine CA, 92697
Dear Dr. Frances Leslie,
On behalf of the Chican@/Latin@ Graduate Student Collective, we are writing to bring to your attention some pressing issues and concerns regarding graduate students of color experiences in the Schools of Social Sciences, Social Ecology, Humanities, and Education. This letter outlines several aspects of problems experienced by fellow Chicano/Latino Graduate students, and while we can only speak with confidence to our particular experiences, we acknowledge that other students of color may share similar experiences. We therefore hope that the issues raised and suggestions offered here can be a step along the path to creating a stronger and more supportive culture of diversity within the graduate programs at UCI.
In the last three academic years, four Chicano/Latino Ph.D. students have left the School of Education, one has left the School of Social Ecology, and two the School of Social Sciences. Also in the past two years, there have not been any new Chicano/Latino students enrolled into the Department of Political Science. There have also only been two Chicano/Latino students in the Visual Studies program in the past five years. While these numbers may seem small, they represent only what we are personally aware of, as we do not have access to the actual institutional data. More to the point, however, the situation is alarming since it represents a major setback to the already underrepresented Chicano/Latino graduate student enrollment at UC Irvine and within the UC system as a whole – estimated at just 8%. While you are certainly familiar with the statistics, we believe they bear repeating in this context. Clearly, whether in Education, the Social Sciences, or Humanities, there is a problem with the recruitment and the retention of students of color (an issue returned to later), as well as an academic climate that is hostile to Chicano/Latino scholars, both graduate students and faculty.
The issue has become one of deep concern for our group and, as we have come together to discuss and reflect on the situation, we have identified certain commonalities in our own experiences – certain themes that we found have negatively affected our own integration into our respective doctoral programs – which perhaps point to some of the larger issues.
Advising and Mentoring
One prominent theme that has emerged is how faculty approach and interact with Chicano/Latino students. Across departments, members in our collective have encountered the assumption on the part of some faculty members that, as graduate students of color, we are academically deficient. As such, some members have been singled out from their peers to take remedial courses, and this after they had already been admitted and enrolled and in addition to their regular degree requirements. Although these kinds of blind assumptions about our qualifications are disappointing, this is not so much the principal concern – and to be clear we most certainly welcome constructive suggestions to improve our skills as researchers and scholars. We do find it problematic, however, that the process for referring students for remediation is not clearly outlined or transparent and it appears that these suggestions for improvement are not conducted systematically.
It may be partly on account of these perceived deficiencies that some faculty steer clear of advising Chicano/Latino graduate students, even when our research interests align. We find that in the best-case scenario, there are only one or two faculty members in a department that provide guidance to Chicano/Latino graduate students. In some cases, students have had to find outside, affiliated or part-time faculty for support. It is less than ideal to have advisors outside of, or on the margins of our respective departments when the goal is to contribute broadly within our fields. We also find it important to note that often times those faculty members advise students of color because they themselves are the only faculty of color in their department, and they advise us even when their research does not align with our own. That these particular scholars bear the burden of advising most of the Chicano/Latino graduate students, while also carrying the load of advising others within the general graduate student body of their respective departments, is simply not an equitable situation.
We have also found that many of us have encountered problems with our specific research interests. It is fair to say that outside of the S.T.E.M. schools many Chicano/Latino students have scholarly interests in the social, economic, and political problems that affect our communities. Often these interests originate from our lived experiences and are the motivation behind our initial choice to engage in research. Many of us feel that we were direct about our research interests and methodological approaches as early as our statement of purpose. However, once we were admitted and enrolled, our academic departments failed to provide us with the support to pursue our research and methodological interests. Often our departments expect us to change our research topics and/or methods. While this expectation is rarely stated explicitly, it is communicated quite clearly. Faculty show a lack of enthusiasm for our research interests, departments fail to require rigorous training in both quantitative and qualitative methods, and community-based research is vastly undervalued. We need our departments to be accountable for providing us with the training and support to develop as scholars, recognizing the importance of our research and its potential contribution to the academy and more importantly to creating equity amongst all ethnic groups in our society.
Classroom and Professional Experiences
As noted, many of us come also from first-generation college-going and working-class backgrounds, and, as such, have intellectual and community commitments to these experiences which drive our research. We take the motto of the School of Social Science – “Where I make a difference” – and its suggestion that our scholarship and research should have a public impact quite seriously. For instance, some of our students are committed to helping the on-campus maintenance workers become in-sourced. This issue itself exemplifies the hostile environment towards people of color in general within the institution as a whole. Within our respective departments, having a public impact is explicitly de-prioritized and often outright degraded and not treated as a scholarly pursuit.
At times we have been recruited by some faculty who wish for us to help them in their research rather than seeking to help us or guide us in ours. In these instances we have felt we have been recruited because of our ability to help faculty access information from Chicano/Latino communities rather than to help us build our skill sets. Also, there have been specific instances when we have been advised by faculty members to access these communities, use them for our research and leave without making any kind of impact, which most of us feel is contradictory to our personal and ethical standards. Moreover, working with some faculty members never moves beyond assisting with faculty research, and this is to the detriment of our own scholarly development. It impacts our ability to carve out our own unique voice and to begin to make a contribution in our fields.
These kinds of issues often force us to make the choice to separate our intellectual pursuits and our community commitments. We would like for this choice to not be necessary and for there to be some recognition of the academic value of research pursuits that do, in fact, “make a difference.”
Recruitment has become a difficult issue for many of us. We often encounter situations where our departments and faculty are more than happy to laud us as their token “diversity” students at awards ceremonies, special dinners, and during recruitment to show institutional proof that they are, in fact, a diverse department. As a matter of fact, our departments call on us to help them attract prospective students of color to the school during recruitment. However, this seems to be the only time our departments are actually concerned with diversity and the well being of these “diversity” graduate students. We would love nothing more than lend our help in increasing the numbers of graduate students of color in our departments and at UCI as a whole, but we feel we are asked to falsely portray the climate for graduate students of color at UCI.
We are eager to get to a point to where we can recruit more students of color with confidence to UCI knowing full well that they will have the institutional, departmental and faculty support they need to be successful here. We have some suggestions to further avoid any unnecessary attrition from the ranks of the Chicano/Latino graduate student population.
1. The Graduate Division should facilitate the creation of a network of graduate students of color. A positive first step in this direction would be to welcome students of color to the university at a formal event annually, which we would be more than happy to collaborate in.
2. The establishment of professional development and networking workshops tailored to non-S.T.E.M graduate students of color. While we are aware of D.E.C.A.D.E. we feel that not enough has been done to outreach or to cater these workshops to non-S.T.E.M. graduate students of color.
3. The Cota Robles Program lacks transparency in the way the program works and how funding is distributed. We have been led to question the actual purpose of the program, considering that it is awarded despite the absence of diversity candidates, as in the case of Political Science in the previous two years. Furthermore, those few of us who have been awarded the fellowship feel that it has not helped integrate us to the campus environment nor met our advising and mentoring needs. While those of us who are recipients are very appreciative of the funding, which without we would not be able to continue our studies, we feel this program has room for improvement.
4. It may be helpful to have a staff person coordinate program outreach to and networking of graduate students of color who are enrolled in our respective schools.
5. As future professors who understand the demands on current faculty, we call for a method to be found to compensate or give credit to faculty who are asked to and decide to mentor larger than normal amount of grad students, who tend to be students of color.
These suggestions are merely a starting point, a way to launch the discussion on how we can begin to remedy an institutional culture that can be hostile to Chicano/Latino and other graduate students of color. We want to be clear in that we do not seek to be coddled; what we seek is to address with clarity and purpose the current situation that undermines our scholarly pursuits and our academic integrity. We are hopeful that we can begin a dialogue in order for these things to change and are willing to work to make the suggested changes. It is disheartening to us that we have lost as many Chicano/Latino students as we have in the recent past, but we hope to change the climate to make UCI a more welcoming environment for graduate students of color. As such, we are requesting to meet and discuss these issues, as well as share with more detail our thoughts on how we can implement positive changes to achieve this shared goal. We look forward to meeting with you soon. Please email us at our addresses below to notify us when you would be amenable to meet. Thank you very much for your time.
On behalf of the members of the Chican@/Latin@ Graduate Student Collective
Alfredo Carlos, M.A. Adriana Sanchez Alexander
An accurate election update
Open letter to the UAW 2865 membership
I am a graduate student in Environmental Science, a current GSI in Physics and the Berkeley representative on the UAW 2865 Elections Committee. As a participant in last weekend’s vote counting in Los Angeles, I found the latest ‘Election Update’ sent to members to be inaccurate, or at least misleading. I hope to provide here some new information that you wouldn’t find in this election update or in the numerous partisan e-mails.
It is true that there were a “large number of challenges presented by candidates and their representatives on both sides of the election contest”. That was on Friday, the first day of the count. On Saturday morning, the Election Committee convened and decided that none of these challenges prevented the counting of ballots from proceeding.
The most misleading claim of Travis Knowles’ Election Update is the following: “The reason we took this action is that there was no way to properly assess the challenges being made by both sides because of the level of hostility in the crowded ballot count room on Saturday night.” There was definitely commotion and hostility in the room on Saturday night, but only after the decision to suspend the count.
On Saturday afternoon, we had the most productive phase of the whole counting process. Election Committee members, with the collaboration of challengers from both sides, counted the votes from four campuses in six hours. At that pace, Berkeley and UCLA’s ballots would have been counted in another six or seven hours. Chair Travis Knowles suggested that we take a break and reconvened at 7pm. Election Committee members and challengers waited for his return until 8pm. At his return, he made a snap motion to halt the count, and then adjourned the meeting.
Finally, I want to put on the record that the decision to suspend the count before UC Berkeley and UCLA ballots were counted was not approved by a majority of the Election Committee. (UC Merced ballots were also not counted, but only because they were never brought to the ballot count in LA.) The motion was made in haste by Chair Travis Knowles, was not discussed or debated, and was considered passed after being approved by only three out of six committee members present in the room. The member from UCLA was absent at the time of the vote. The members from Riverside, Santa Cruz and myself were blindsided and had no time to process what was happening, let alone participate in the vote. The three Election Committee members who approved this action promptly left the room, leaving the rest of us in the middle of the commotion their surprise motion had created.
As an Election Committee member who was literally left behind, I have yet to hear the real reason why the count was suspended that night, why half the committee was not consulted before taking this course of action, and why the plan set by the whole committee in the morning was not followed. If you also have questions about this, you can send them to email@example.com . I hope that no matter what is your campus or political affiliation, your voices will be heard and you will receive answers.
Berkeley representative to the UAW 2865 Election Committee
January 27, 2011
To members of the Joint Council of UAW Local 2865:
I recently learned that Coral Wheeler has been hired by our Local to work part time out of our office here in Irvine doing organizing work. UAW staffers from other locals are also working on UCI’s campus. The purpose of this email is to communicate my protest against the undemocratic way this work is being carried out and the way decisions are made in this union more generally. As an elected representative on this campus, I have repeatedly expressed to Jorge (our Southern VP) and to Christine (our President) my interest in organizing efforts on this campus, including the process by which a new staffer would be hired for our office.
Coral’s position has been vacant since Audrey was let go this fall, and since shortly thereafter I have expressed my interest in being involved in the decision-making and hiring process around this position. As recently as January 10th, I wrote to Jorge and explicitly stated my desire to be involved and informed about movement on this front. (That email is attached below. I never received a response.) I can only interpret the fact that my interest and requests have been ignored as an attempt to undermine our Campus Unit. Sending in paid staff to organize on our campus, without even contacting the Campus Unit representatives, flies in the face of any notion of democracy. It is not only undemocratic and discourteous, but bad organizing as well.
I am happy to work with paid staff on organizing… there is nothing personal about the concerns I am raising. Organizing has been my interest from the beginning, but I cannot work with paid staff if they refuse to share with me what work they are doing. I would prefer that we all sat down together to strategize about campus organizing.
I am also concerned about decision-making on union resources such as local offices. I recently learned that our Irvine office has been relocated. Why weren’t any of our Campus Unit officers included in this decision-making process, or, at the very least, informed about this?
Given these concerns, I demand clarification on several points:
- The relationship between paid staff and campus unit officers should be made explicit, either informally or through a change in our Local’s bylaws. Paid staff should be accountable to campus unit officers in the same way that statewide officers should be.
- Specifically, I demand clarification on Coral Wheeler’s job description: the purview of her work and responsibilities, as well as her day-to-day tasks.
- I also demand clarification on the work schedules and specific tasks of any other paid UAW staff doing any work on this campus.
- Finally, I demand clarification on the use of Local resources such as our Irvine office: Why wasn’t our membership informed about this change regarding a resource that is, ostensibly, for their benefit? How is this office being used for the benefit of Irvine members?
In addition to my concern about the undemocratic way in which decisions are being made that affect our Campus Unit, I am also concerned about the way paid staff are representing themselves on campus. If Coral or any other UAW staff continue to falsely represent themselves as students on this campus, I refuse to have anything to do with them. UAW staffers who are not students should identify themselves as union organizers and nothing more. I see no reason for them to be deceptive. Furthermore, such conduct might be considered “unbecoming a union member” under Article 4, Section 14 of our Local’s Bylaws.
This raises one final question, which is: as I interpret our Local’s bylaws, non-students should not be eligible for membership in this Local. This question should be taken up by our Bylaws Committee for review as soon as possible.
I wish to repeat once again that I want to be involved in Local decisions that are made about Local work to be done on this campus.
UAW Local 2865