Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Operation Elimination coming soon to you this fall

 by Juan, a rank-and-file member of CUE-Teamsters Local 2010 

OE is austerity, layoffs, and a mechanism for the privatization of public education

Workers and students at UC Berkeley will be facing the next phase in austerity and privatization this Fall semester – Operational Excellence’s (OE) “Shared Services”. The university’s administration is setting the groundwork for much of its plan this summer and students and workers are yet again not being asked for their input on Shared Services’ most glaring proposal - to move hundreds of UCB campus staff to one remotely located building in San Pablo (miles from campus), a one-stop building that would handle IT, Human Resources and other student and staff services. Though this is being done in the guise of efficiency and saving money, if OE - or as some of us call it, Operation Elimination - is anything to show, this latest phase may lead to layoffs, reduced resources, greater workloads, more mismanagement, and a general transformation of the vibe of the campus for the workers and students.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, OE, which has been the target of previous demonstration on campus (i.e. hunger strikes, budget cuts protests, etc.) is, as our friends in ReclaimUC point out:
 “basically an austerity program developed by the UC Berkeley administration in collaboration with an outside consulting firm called Bain & Company (which as of today is being paid more than $11 million for its efforts) to cut campus costs.” Even the the Daily Cal (the main UCB student newspaper) “has reported[1] that this model has been exported to other UC campuses, complete with their own ridiculously bureaucratic variations on the OE acronym like "Operational Effectiveness" (at UC Santa Barbara) and "Organizational Excellence" (at UC Davis). UCSF couldn't come up with another OE name, so they just adopted Berkeley's”[2].
OE is the program of privatization and austerity that the UC regents & administration have been implementing since the major budget “shortfall” of 2009 and it has deeply affected students and workers since its first stages. As has been pointed out by great reports by Bob Meister[3], other faculty[4], the unions and students, the UC has been in a mode of privatization and austerity since the budget shortfall of 2009 and this is an instance of the general offense against public education. I and others argue that this is happening in order to turn the UC school system into a private model that is friendly for the profit-making aspirations of the UC Regents & their allies in the 1% (i.e. corporations and the very rich).

These policies of privatization and austerity mean that students are affected by the raising of fees/tuition; their debts are increased, and services that make their student life easier are cut. Likewise, campus workers have been affected first through imposed layoffs, furloughs and pay cuts in 2009-2010, and now with Operational Excellence, which has resulted in at least 300 layoffs in Berkeley and attacks on workers’ pensions and healthcare benefits. In the meantime, we must point out the fact that the administration has been hiring more and more middle and senior management executives (since 2004, UC’s management has doubled?) and has been awarding generous bonuses to these layers ($1.6 billion in cash compensation in 2009 alone).

The effects of the last phase of OE

During its previous phase, in 2009-2010, OE cut a lot of essential personnel in key departments. For example, departments like ESPM were gutted of their student services people. For a long period of time after this, ESPM were having a hard time advising their people and instead students and ESPM department staff had to rely on other offices/staff due to real human limitations in handling the number of students, staff, and faculty.

Unfortunately, ESPM is not the only department being affected by OE and the austerity measures.  Most of the Humanities and Social Sciences departments are being disproportionately impacted by layoffs in staff and by staff and services restructuring.  This is especially hard for departments that are already under-funded like Ethnic Studies and Women and Gender studies. It is important to point out that the loss of staff in these programs has drastically affected their ability to advise and recruit students.

Shared services: the next phase of operation elimination

It is in this context that the UC administration is making its next move in OE, namely “Shared Services” (SS). Deans, managers and other top-level staff have been making presentations on SS and are selling it as the next phase in efficiency and cost-savings of the Bain group[5]. Staff members will transition into the building in phases — about 170 staff will begin working at the center in 2012, and 500 to 625 staff will eventually work there over the next 24 to 30 months[6].

Nevertheless, the building’s distance from the campus and the impact of reorganization have caused concern for staff members. This is because this next phase in OE could potentially impact the hundreds of staff besides the ones being moved to the campus SS center. Furthermore, even the centers’ savings expectations do not seem enough to justify the millions the administration is paying BAIN & the millions they’re spending to adapt the building and work-area to working conditions[7]. To add on to that, this new shared services building will hire a lot more people but it is projected that the staff will be reduced to 1/3 of its initial size due to attrition: in other words, retirement, and folks leaving due to overwork, unhappy work environment and so on.

In summary, SS will wreak havoc on the campus community. Faculty, students, and UC employees will all suffer.  Students will get less, pay more, and be told that in the name of "efficiency" this must happen.  In fact, while Bain Consultants will get their $11 million for proposing and implementing this corporate-style management, UC Berkeley will be left with poorly functioning administrative services in which turnover will be high, institutional memory at an all-time low, and communication extremely difficult.

(1608 4th Street, the location of the proposed shared services building)

Students and labor must fight back!

This shared services business has got a lot of campus staff, faculty and students talking. For example, a shared services plan in Sproul has caused some commotion. They’re having 10 people who work in student services offices (Financial Aid, Registrar, Residency, etc.) apply for 9 positions in this shared service plan all in the name of efficiency. They are having the workers re-apply for their jobs and opening up applications to the hundreds in the campus. This staff include members of the clerical and allied services union CUE-Teamsters 2010.

Unfortunately, our union has not been part of the decision making of SS and CUEsters and other staff are not receiving the proper and correct information on what’s going on with SS. Staff has had to rely on minimal information and rumors - this has created anxiety and fear. Nevertheless, workers and students should put together more information on the effects of SS on students and staff and call these shared services reorganizations what they are - austerity methods to squeeze out the lower-tiers of staff.

We must join with others who will fight back against this huge step in the privatization of UC and the dismantling of it as a public and affordable institution. Students and labor must educate and organize their members to stop these austerity measures. For labor, this means that we must build bodies and spaces for rank-and-file workers that will promote democratic self-organization within the unions. Rank-and-file unionists must also put pressure on their union leadership to not be silent on OE and SS and to enact a consistent and uncompromising plan to fight back against the layoffs, cuts, and plans of privatization.

In the meantime, there will be a UC Regents meeting July 17-19 and this would be a good opportunity for students and labor to demonstrate against OE, SS, and the 6% proposed fee hike.

Staff jobs and working conditions are students’ living and learning conditions!
No fee hikes, no increased workload, no layoffs! Free Public Education for all!

[1] ALISHA AZEVEDO, "Other UC campuses adopt OE model", 4/25/11, http://archive.dailycal.org/article/112946/other_uc_campuses_adopt_oe_model

[2] "Update from the Hunger Strike: Day 8", 4/27/11, http://reclaimuc.blogspot.com/2011/04/contextualizing-hunger-strike.html

[3] See: Bob Meister, "Debt, Democracy, and the Public University" 12/7/11, http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2011/12/debt-democracy-and-public-university.html

[4] Chris Newfield, "Bain's Blow to Berkeley",9/14/10 http://utotherescue.blogspot.com/2010/09/bains-blow-to-berkeley.html#more

[5] This new Campus Shared Services Center will house finance, human resources, information technology and research administration staff from different departments together. Furthermore, the shared services project effort to cut campus costs and save $75 million annually starting in fiscal year 2016. See for more info:http://www.dailycal.org/2012/05/21/uc-berkeley-staff-members-to-move-to-new-campus-shared-services-center/

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid


  1. Admin II, lowest-possible stepJune 12, 2012 at 5:42 PM

    As I am also a member of CUE-Teamsters, I will speak plainly here. While I absolutely agree that the administration acts abysmally in virtually every instance, our bargaining unit's inability to organize facilitated the university's destruction of our workplace. For years, our lead negotiator, Amatullah Alaji-Sabrie, has demonstrated a striking lack of competence and has refused to bargain with even a hint of aggressiveness.

    In fact, our union leadership, including the lead negotiator, was SO strikingly incompetent that the union is now in trusteeship. It has been taken over wholesale by the Teamsters. I hope, Juan, that you'll tell Amatullah that our recent negotiations were one of the reasons for this humiliation.

    These negotiations cemented the hated "no strikes" clause, which, Juan, prevents us from demonstrating en masse against things like the Shared Services Center. It is in fact illegal to organize and strike during work hours if they're members of CUE-Teamsters, isn't it, Juan?

    So while UC Berkeley acts with criminal intent, destroying union jobs and granting huge payouts to private companies, our bargaining unit fumbles along, unable to mount even a token resistance.

  2. I totally agree with your sentiment "Admin II"! Some of us who got so tired dealing with the CUE statewide leadership and this whole trusteeship mess, have organized ourselves in a reform caucus called New Direction- check out our website that has more info on our work: http://newdirectioncueibt.com/ We're small but we are fighting on and could use rank and file fighters like you! Please send me an email at jmg12211985@gmail.com if you would like to do something about this mess. And about the no-strike clause, though it exists (and was in our previous contacts,sadly) we can still organize and do demonstrations and if we have the numbers and the situation calls for it, we can always wildcat strike - many historically successful strikes have been "wildcat" ;0. Solidarity forever!

    - Juan

  3. "Though this is being done in the guise of efficiency and saving money, if OE - or as some of us call it, Operation Elimination - is anything to show, this latest phase may lead to layoffs, reduced resources, greater workloads, more mismanagement, and a general transformation of the vibe of the campus for the workers and students."

    But if UC has a budget shortfall, doesn't it have to find ways to cut costs? It sucks when 1 person has to do the job of 2 people (especially since they were probably already doing the job of 3 people in the first place), but if the money simply isn't there, what are they supposed to do?

  4. Hello Juan,

    I did not know what "wildcat strike action" meant. So, I looked it up. Thanks to Wikipedia, here it is below. Would this mean severing formal ties with the CUE-IBT 2010 and Teamsters Union allows legal strikes by the members of CUE-IBT 2010?

    Excerpts from Wikipedia on Wildcat Strike Action

    "workers can formally request that the National Labor Relations Board end their association with their labor union if they feel that the union is not sufficiently supportive of them. At this point, any strike action taken by the workers may be termed a wildcat strike, but there is no illegality involved as there is no longer a conflict between sections 7 and 9(a) of the NLRA.[3]"

    United States of America
    Since 1935, wildcat strike action has been considered illegal in the United States.[2]

    The U.S. 1932 Norris-La Guardia Act held that clauses in labor contracts barring employees from joining unions were not enforceable, thus granting employees the right to unionize regardless of their workplace situation. Unions have the power to bargain collectively on behalf of their members and to call for strikes demanding concessions from employers.

    Under the 1935 National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), federal courts have held that wildcat strikes are illegal and that employers may fire workers participating in them.[2]

    Nevertheless, workers can formally request that the National Labor Relations Board end their association with their labor union if they feel that the union is not sufficiently supportive of them. At this point, any strike action taken by the workers may be termed a wildcat strike, but there is no illegality involved as there is no longer a conflict between sections 7 and 9(a) of the NLRA.[3]

  5. How would missing $6,000,000,000 of the UC's State funding facilitate and justify bringing in Bain & Company and Huron Consulting Group for the implementation of "Operational Excellence" (i.e., formally and efficiently inventorying the public assets, services, products, intellectual property estates of UC and UC campuses, to be later sold on the auction blocs, be they private contractor bidding exchanges (e.g., billing, janitorial, IT services) or securitization and bundling of the intellectual property (IP) and trading on the World stock markets and exchanges.

    It would be nice if any of those revenues trickled down to UC employees and their families and California residents. I doubt it would. Logically, outsourcing of the service jobs and revenues beyond California's borders makes better economic sense; less or no taxes, regulations, oversight, etc. Not a moral or ethical sense, but an economic sense. Unfortunately, we have already trekked this path numerous times in our history to Dachau, Auschwitz-Birkenau, and other similarly unpleasant destinations at the expense of all of us, including the perpetrators.

    When we temporarily set aside or suspend our humanity and think with certain logic and reason (i.e., the logic and reason du jour, what "appears" fashionable and acceptable within the zeitgeist) without reference to our history and values, that is when horrible and often horrific decisions are made followed by equally destructive actions.

    What prevents or minimizes the impacts of such undesirable decisions and actions are our quick, agile, and smart responses to mitigate them. The house is on fire:

    A) Activate and sound the alarms, all alarms;

    B) Get the neighbors with the guidance of the firefighters and other first responders to put out the fire;

    C) Take care of the wounded;

    D) And once the emergency has been addressed, begin assessing and repairing the damage.

    We should not be apathetic or hopeless. We should be inspired by examples such as an entertainer couple and their colleagues, musicians on a cruise ship. Moss & Taylor Hill, Julian Butler, and Robin Boltman led and took part in the rescue of hundreds of passengers on board of a sinking cruise ships, The Oceanos, when the crew, the captain, and/or the ship officers would not properly carry out their responsibilities. History repeats itself.

    Incidentally, the sinking happened on August 4, 1991, the same date this note is being written August 4, 2012.

    Exactly twenty-one (21) years has lapsed from August 4, 1991 to August 4, 2012 since the sinking of the Oceanos. At Vegas' blackjack tables, 21 is the ultimate winner. What this coincidence is trying to tell us?! Symbolism is an effective motivating device for both good and bad. But, I hope this symbolism doesn't motivate us to pack for a quick trip to Vegas or for a visit to our closest neighborhood or corner block casino!!!

    Wikipedia Excerpt:
    "All 571 people on board were saved. Moss Hills organized the orderly evacuation of passengers by the helicopters and is generally acknowledged as the leading hero of the event. Hills and fellow entertainer Julian Butler[5] directed the efforts of the entertainment staff, which included Tracy Hills and Robin Boltman,[6] to assist the passengers. Butler, Hills and Hills' wife Tracy were among the last five to be rescued from the ship.[7]"

    Excerpt from NOVA Program transcript "Why Ships Sink?"
    Aired April 18, 2012 on PBS
    "Even guitarist Moss Hills, despite his traumatic experience aboard the sinking ship Oceanos, retains his enthusiasm for life aboard ship. In fact, when the cruise ship Achille Lauro caught fire 125 miles off the coast of Somalia, in 1994, there was a familiar face among the entertainment staff.

    MOSS HILLS: It was incredible. I could hardly believe that I was on another ship that was sinking. It just didn't seem possible, but it was.

  6. Smart elete university does dumb things. The public’s UC Berkeley harvests family savings, Alumni donations, supporter’s money and taxes. Cal. ranked #1 public university total academic cost (resident) as a result of the Provost’s, Chancellor’s ‘charge residents higher tuition’. UCB tuition is rising faster than other universities.

    Cal ranked # 2 in faculty earning potential. Spending on salaries increased 29% in last six years. Believe it: Harvard College less costly.

    University of California negates the promise of equality of opportunity: access, affordability. Self-absorbed Provost Breslauer Chancellor Birgeneau are outspoken on ‘charging residents much higher’ tuition.

    Birgeneau ($450,000) Breslauer ($306,000) like to blame the politicians, since they stopped giving them their entitled funding. The ‘charge instate students higher tuition’ skyrocketed fees by an average 14% per year from 2006 to 2011 academic years. If they had allowed fees to rise at the same rate of inflation over past 10 years they would still be in reach of middle income students. Breslauer Birgeneau increase disparities in higher education, defeat the promise of equality of opportunity, and create a less-educated work force.

    Additional state tax funding must sunset. The sluggish economy, 10% unemployment devastates family savings. Simply asking for more taxes (Prop 30, 38) to spend on self-absorbed Cal. leadership, inefficient higher education practices, over-the-top salaries, bonuses, is not the answer.

    UCB is to maximize access to the widest number of residence at a reasonable cost. Birgeneau Breslauer’s ‘charge Californians higher tuition’ denies middle income families the transformative value of Cal.

    The California dream: keep it alive and well. Fire hapless Provost George W Breslauer. Clueless Chancellor Birgeneau resigned. Cal. leadership must accept responsibility for failing Californians.

    Opinions? UC Board of Regents marsha.kelman@ucop.edu Calif. State Senators, Assembly members.