Two Statements in the Spirit of Moving Forward

20 May

Following are two open letters – the first from USEJ Campus Recording Secretary-elect at UCLA, Matt Luckett, and the second by UCLA AWDU supporters – calling for the USEJ leadership to drop its claim to invalidate the statewide election. Both statements argue that we must move beyond the election and instead seek out opportunities to work together, particularly at UCLA, where the election results were very close in terms of votes for the two slates. Those of us who have signed onto these letters hope that through democratic dialogue, we will be able to build a stronger union that can better fight for the rights of rank-and-file student workers amidst mounting UC budget cuts, tuition hikes, and privatization efforts.

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.

In solidarity,

Matt Luckett
UCLA Recording Secretary-elect, USEJ

As supporters of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union at UCLA, we agree with the spirit of Matt Luckett’s call for our union to move forward and leave the results of the election to rest. We also agree with Matt that many challenges filed in this election on both sides were supported by the thinnest of evidence, and that any outstanding protests must be “airtight.”

As a matter of full disclosure, we do support one outstanding protest that we believe is justified under strict standards of evidence. This letter of protest against the eligibility of Sayil Camacho as a head steward candidate and member of our Local can be viewed publicly in its entirety at http://www.uaw2865.org/?page_id=3315.

In brief, our grounds for protesting Ms. Camacho’s eligibility are based on three clear violations of the UAW Constitution and our Local’s Bylaws: (1) the fact that she was ineligible to become a member at the time that she filled out her membership card and the fact that she remains ineligible as she is not a current graduate student; (2) the fact that she was ineligible to run for elected office because she was granted membership less than ninety days before the election; and (3) the fact that she used union resources to gain a material advantage in the election for herself and the rest of the USEJ slate.

We will present evidence for these claims at the Statewide Membership Meeting on May 21st, leaving it up to the membership then to vote on Ms. Camacho’s case. We do not believe that Ms. Camacho’s actions invalidate the entire election. However, the UAW Constitution and Local Bylaws clearly indicate that they disqualify her as a member and candidate for elected office. While we acknowledge that UCLA voters chose Ms. Camacho as one of their head steward representatives, evidence points to the fact that Ms. Camacho misrepresented herself to voters, and that her campaign was not run in good faith to them. So we do not believe that the informed will of voters was accomplished in this case.

As this election campaign has seen an undue amount of personal slander and accusations of harassment and intimidation, in order to avoid any such claims being made against us in retaliation, we stress that we are in no way singling Ms. Camacho out personally by filing this protest. In fact, we sincerely hope that we can work together moving forward provided that she does in the future meet our Local’s eligibility criteria for membership.

Finally, we wish to note that we previously submitted a protest against the eligibility of Jacob Burstein-Stern, another candidate for head steward at UCLA. We undertook this protest for similar reasons as our protest against Ms. Camacho’s eligibility: because Mr. Burstein-Stern is not a current student, we had reason to think he was also not a member in good standing. After
notifying Mr. Burstein-Stern and Ms. Camacho of our intended protests, and inviting them both to respond to us about them, Mr. Burstein-Stern helped clarify that he was technically eligible to run. Nevertheless, we continue to question whether it is appropriate for members who are no longer students to hold elected office in our Local, since they do not represent current student workers. But our intention is to abide by the UAW Constitution and Bylaws of our Local, so we have chosen to respect Mr. Burstein-Stern’s technical right to hold office at this time.

We relinquish any claims to the remainder of UCLA election challenges precisely because we agree with Matt’s statement that further pursuit of them will strike of the kind of factionalization that will ultimately alienate members and slowly destroy our union. What is as stake is nothing less than the ability of voters to choose their own leadership in a free and fairly run election. They have done that. At UCLA, voters chose USEJ. In the spirit of Matt’s letter, we look forward to moving past the election and seeking opportunities for engaging in fair and democratic dialogue with all eligible candidates and members, together.

In solidarity,

Carolina Beltran, Spanish and Portuguese – UCLA
Ginevra Browne, Urban Planning – UCLA
Mindy Chen, Social Welfare – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward
Jacob Collins, History – UCLA
Erin Conley, English – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward
Holly Craig-Wehrle, History – UCLA
John-Edward Guevarra, Urban Planning – UCLA
Yuting Huang, Comparative Literature – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward
Renee Hudson, English – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward
Dustianne North, Social Welfare – UCLA
Alexei Nowak, Comparative Literature – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward
Jeremy Schmidt, English – UCLA – Candidate for Unit Chair
Althea Rani Sircar, Political Science – UCLA
Hadley Theadora Suter, French and Francophone Studies – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward
Julia Tomassetti, Sociology – UCLA – Candidate for Campus Recording Secretary
Zachary Williams, Political Science – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward
Gary Yeritsian, Sociology – UCLA
Elise Youn, Urban Planning – UCLA
Alexander Zevin, History – UCLA – Candidate for Head Steward

If you would like to discuss these letters or learn more about our union, we encourage you to attend the Statewide Meeting on May 21st in Berkeley, 2-5pm, in Boalt Hall, room 100 or the monthly unit meetings at UCLA, the date/time/location for which we will also post here.

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