Letter from UAW Head Stewards to Berkeley Faculty

Dear Members of the UC Berkeley Faculty,

We are writing to request your support for our sympathy strike on November 20 in solidarity with AFSCME 3299, the union representing over 22,000 service and patient care workers. This is the first time the UC Student-Workers Union, UAW 2865, which represents 13,000 graduate student instructors, tutors and readers at the University of California, has gone on strike in sympathy with AFSCME since 2002. AFSCME 3299 will also be joined on the picket lines by members of the California Nurses Association and UC Santa Cruz’ Skilled Crafts Unit (K7—also represented by AFSCME 3299)—each of whom have authorized a sympathy strike and given notice to the UC. This will bring the total number of potential UC workers on strike on November 20th to 38,000.

Withholding our labor in solidarity with AFSCME 3299 means that tutors, readers, TA’s and GSI’s will not be teaching sections, responding to student emails, holding office hours, grading papers, and in general, doing work related to our duties as academic workers. Instead, UAW 2865 members will be joining AFSCME and CNA on the picket lines throughout the day.

In particular, we are writing to request that faculty:

  • Respect the strike on November 20 by  joining the picket lines and/or refusing to cross them;
  • Do not assign any work to student workers on November 20;
  • Clearly indicate to student workers that they will not face retaliation if they participate in the lawful sympathy strike;
  • Inform undergraduate students that they will not be penalized for supporting the strike (assuming the class is not cancelled);
  • Share the attached information contained in the AFSCME FAQ with undergraduate students and encourage them to support the strike.

This is AFSCME’s second strike this year.  AFSCME is striking to protest management’s unfair practices, including unlawful intimidation and bullying against workers that stemmed from AFSCME’s May strike.

Our sympathy strike with AFSCME is a legally protected workplace action. If faculty have received communications from campus administrators suggesting otherwise and/or asking them to discourage student-workers from participating in the sympathy strike, it is important to know that any form of discouragement from or disciplining of student workers for participating could be considered unlawful.  Peaceful concerted activities are legal and protected by labor laws. The Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) prohibits representatives of the UC (including faculty supervisors) from interfering with any right of its employees. The Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) has held that even if the intention of University representatives is not to discourage or impede the right of employees to take collective action, including striking, if a message is communicated that could have the effect of discouraging or impeding employees from striking, this message would be in violation of the statute.

In addition, over the past several years, AFSCME 3299 has partnered with students, and especially with UAW 2865, on important issues that have helped stem the tide of privatization at the UC. This has included supporting student calls for tuition freezes by lobbying in Sacramento, and partnering to organize students and workers. Like ourselves, AFSCME workers have experienced first-hand the ways in which budget cuts have negatively impacted our working conditions while top administrators have continued to receive pay raises and bonuses. AFSCME is currently fighting a 1.5% wage cut unilaterally implemented by UC management as well as threats to their pensions.

This time, UAW strikes in sympathy with our brothers and sisters and AFSCME.  Please support your graduate student workers and others next Wednesday as we stand with UC service workers. An injury to one is an injury to all!

Sincerely,

Munira Lokhandwala, Berkeley Unit Chair

Amanda Armstrong, Recording Secretary

Sarah Cowan, Head Steward

Robbie Nelson, Head Steward

Olivia Lichterman, Head Steward

Emma Silverman, Head Steward

Joanne Tien, Head Steward

Beezer de Martelly, Head Steward

Rachel Lesser, Head Steward

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