Thank You for Voting for a Fighting Union!

31 Oct

Thanks so much for everyone who took time out of their day to vote in the election.  Thank you also to my opponent, Brooks Ambrose.  Through our contested election, we were able to sign up over 20 new members on our campus.  I look forward to continuing to work with Brooks, and our new members, in our unit.

The most thanks of all goes to our unit’s election reps, Julia Tomassetti and Thea Sircar and the numerous volunteers they recruited to run the polls.  Thanks to their significant efforts, as well as the assistance of the present Elections Committee Chair, Adam Hefty from UCSC, the election went off without a hitch.

Looking forward, our local has a lot on its plate in the coming weeks.  Our vacancy election landed right in the middle of significant organizing across the state spearheaded by AWDU members.  Members of our local have already helped start the ReFund California campaign, a statewide movement of labor and community groups committed to increasing funding for social services in our state, including higher ed.  The slogan of this movement – Make Banks Pay – has resonated with and drawn support from the popular democratic uprisings seen in the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Now, connected to both this campaign and the drive for increased accountability and increased democratic participation present across the nation, our local is educating, organizing, and mobilizing students and workers on our campus about the budget issues facing the UC in preparation for UC and CSU regent meetings to be held in November.

The UC Board of Regents may still be considering an 81% tuition hike, scheduled in 18% increments over the next 4 academic years.  We also face the threat of emergency tuition hikes which could be brought on by expected ‘trigger cuts’ to the UC’s public funding due to expected shortfalls in the California budget.  All this after tuition has increased by a factor of over 2.5, in real dollars, since 2000.  It has increased by a factor of 6 since 1980.

All of this is accompanied by increased workload for academic workers. For example, in one department I examined section sizes have increased from an average of 13 students per section in Academic year 1998-1999 to an average of 18 students per section in academic year 2010-2011.  For this department, the increase in average section size has been accompanied by a drop in the total number of TA positions offered.  As the regents consider tying graduate tuition to undergraduate tuition at the upcoming meetings, our departments will become even more cash strapped when it comes to offering TAships.

While students and teachers suffer and our departments lose lines for ladder rank faculty, the size of the administrative class at the UC has nearly tripled, and at this point in time there are more administrators per student than there are ladder faculty.  The UC has compensated by hiring increasing amounts of contingent lecturers and, as noted, stepping up the teaching obligations of academic workers  This bodes ill not only for our present circumstances, but also for our future as teachers and researchers.

Whether or not any of these issues are decided upon at the forthcoming meetings of the UC regents, we need to make sure that both we and our students are aware of what is going on at the UC.  Long before we were in a fiscal crisis, the Board of Regents had its sights set on tuition rates of over $20k per year.  Disinvestment in California’s public education has deleterious effects on academic workers, and the UC has done little to actively fight it.  For the UC’s administration, increasing privatization is the intended solution, regardless of what the state does.

In the audit of the UC’s budget released over the summer, the regents made no comment about an arbitrary accounting trick which made it look like public funding of the UC had remained constant by treating student tuition dollars as ‘public funding,’ all while vociferously defending their own opaque practices of governance.  At a recent meeting of the Commonwealth Club, UC President Mark Yudof said he supported increased funding for the UC in the abstract, but was unwilling to support any specific legislative policy proposal to fund the university.  This sort of behavior hurts us as tutors, TAs, and researchers.  And, most importantly, it hurts our students and it hurts us as students.

Popular education, organization, and mobilization matter, and they matter more than ever now that the US and world economy continue to linger in recession, if not outright depression.  Our ability to improve our working conditions depends upon our ability to influence both the way in which the state relates to the UC, and the UC relates to itself.  Without popular, small ‘d’ democratic influence over both the UC and the California legislature, we have no reason to expect anything other than the same sub-inflation ‘raises,’ the same speed up of academic work, and the same increasing precarity of our labor situation.

If we want to fight for better terms of employment, that fight needs to start now, in our classrooms and on our campus.  Please check out the educational and organizing materials our local has prepared as part of AWDU’s push for real mobilization in support of public education, and help us all prepare for another round of popular protests across the state on November 9th and 16th.  We have the support of millions of other Californians, but their support is meaningless if we don’t stand up for ourselves.

http://teachthebudget.com/teach-in-kit/
http://www.makebankspaycalifornia.com/nov_9th_16th_refund_public_education_actions

In Solidarity,
Zach Williams, UCLA Unit Recording Secretary Elect

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One Response to “Thank You for Voting for a Fighting Union!”

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  1. AWDU – what a Fighting Union looks like | UCLA Fights Back - November 1, 2011

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