Despite its claims to the contrary, the tentative contract that the UAW bargaining team signed with the UC administration is bullshit -- it would lock academic student employees (GSIs, readers, and tutors) into a salary cut in real terms for the next three years. But there's one good thing about the contract: it reveals clear lines of solidarity, dividing friends and allies from enemies. We see these lines in not only the concessions made to the university and the union's striking lack of transparency, but also in the bargaining team's adoption of the UC administration's own rhetoric of crisis:
While there is some difference of opinion about whether or not to agree to this contract, or to hold out and keep building for a strike in hopes of winning up to another 2% each year on wages, the majority of us believe that this a great contract. Especially in context of the economic devastation occurring in California and across the country (i.e., double-digit official unemployment, including huge numbers of public employee layoffs; skyrocketing healthcare costs; cuts to education and other public goods and social services), it would be unwise and ineffective to prolong the contract campaign. While we respect the rights of individuals to advocate that we hold out for more, we believe that protracted escalation and a possible strike could undermine the gains we’ve already reached agreement on with UC and weaken public support for our contract.California's economic devastation has little to do with the UC administration's decision to impose austerity on the university. One of the most important goals of the protests on UC campuses last year was precisely to combat this rhetorical maneuver, to focus attention back on the administration. It's hard work -- politics is synonymous with government, and so it seems that the natural outlet for political protest is Sacramento. But Sacramento is everywhere. The regents, the administration, the built environment of the university itself. Not that it was necessarily our goal, but the protests last year caught Sacramento's attention -- they were the "tipping point" in the state government's decision to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars more to the UC in this year's budget. But as we've been saying all along, more money from the state is irrelevant without regime change in the administration. And, effectively, we've been proven right: this year the regents came together to raise our tuition once again.
The union leadership has taken sides: they have opted to be behind the barricades, behind the lines of gun-wielding riot cops, to stand with the administration. We know where they stand. They stand for business as usual, they stand against strikes and work stoppages. They stand against us.
To build for a strike, the next step is voting down this bullshit contract. Voting starts Monday and goes til Thursday. At Berkeley, here's where:
- Monday-Thursday 8am-4pm: North Gate and Sather GateNow, voting NO on the contract doesn't mean that we're going on strike. All it does is send the bargaining team back to the table to start negotiating again. But this time they'll know we're mobilized and we won't put up with any shit. And if all goes well, maybe we can get some sort of strike off the ground. After all, a strike seems like the best way to connect the GSI struggle with the broader struggle against privatization in the university at large.
- Mon 10am-2pm: Barrows Hall
- Tues 10am-2pm: Evans Hall
- Wed 10am-2pm: Moffitt Library
- Thurs 10am-2pm: Kroeber Hall
For more info, check out Those Who Use It, which has been covering this issue well. Some more links are here.