UAW Spells the Death of Union Democracy

Over the past weekend, the entrenched leadership of UAW local 2865—representing some 12,000  graduate students across the UCs—moved to disenfranchise thousands of rank-and-file student-workers across three campuses.

Union bureaucrats have deemed the ballots cast in last week’s election at UC Berkeley, UCLA, and UC Merced invalid.  UC Berkeley is one of several strongholds of the union reform movement AWDU—Academic Workers for a Democratic Union.

The AWDU slate—both for the statewide executive board and local campus positions—had challenged the established leadership with calls for direct democracy, an intensification of the fight against Yudof and the Regents, and a strong stance against the privatization of California higher education.

UAW officials, not used to responding to the needs of the rank-and-file and completely unaccustomed to challenges from below, decided to suspend democracy rather than lose their much vaunted positions within the reified union hierarchy.

The UAW had spent the previous week promoting their slate of candidates—a number of whom are no longer graduate students but now serve as full-time union bureaucrats—with the help of paid staffers from the UAW international.  These staffers rake in nearly 100,000 dollars a year to “represent” underpaid and overworked graduate students.

All of this, of course, came as a major slap in the face to union membership as the grisly details unfolded this Sunday.  Most sadly, the full extent of the scandal emerged on May 1st, the International Workers’ Day.

The UAW—in the words of one disgruntled graduate student whose email circulated among the Davis AWDU ranks this weekend—has “managed to shit on the graves of all those men and women who gave their lives so that we might be able to organize in the workplace.”

In an age of increased attacks upon workers’ rights, the last thing we need is a union bureaucracy which plays directly into the twisted rhetoric of people like Scott Walker and his Republican cronies.

As of May 2nd, AWDU members and concerned allies have occupied the UAW offices in Berkeley, located at 2070 Allston way, suite 205 (near the Downtown Berkeley BART stop).  Join us!



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