As we fully enter the swing of the new school year, we wanted to reflect upon some of the big campaigns undertaken by our statewide graduate students’ union this past year. In addition to working together to defend our rights as workers providing excellent undergraduate education, we’ve also been fighting alongside other university communities for quality public higher education that is accessible, diverse, and reflects our values. Below are short reports from fellow student workers from around the state, who describe some of the social justice work we’ve done this past year. The blurbs include information about how you can get involved in this important, ongoing work:
Fighting for Public Higher Education
Last fall, the UAW 2865 joined undergraduates, faculty, and workers to oppose the Regents’ plan to increase tuition at the UC. While the Regents passed tuition hikes for international and out of state students, following statewide protests culminating in walkouts and building occupations, they eventually retracted their plan to increase tuition for California residents. In addition, UC President Napolitano and Governor Brown negotiated a two-year in-state tuition freeze, extending the 2011 tuition freeze. Our work is just getting started, however, and we aim to do much more than prevent the status quo from worsening. As a member of the Reclaim CA Higher Education coalition, UAW 2865 is working with labor unions and public education advocates across California to reinstate the Master Plan, re-establish long-term funding for the state’s three systems of higher education, and revise the state’s budgetary priorities. For example, we recently joined CURB, a coalition that works to redirect state spending from incarceration toward reinvestment in public goods. If you are interested in getting involved with the Reclaim California Coalition, please email Erin Greer (email@example.com).
Black Interests Coordinating Committee (BICC)
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the Black Interests Coordinating Committee (BICC) formed in late 2014 in response to the acquittals of two police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. This summer, members of BICC drafted a resolution calling on the AFL-CIO to end its affiliation with police unions, arguing that “their ‘unionization’ allows police to masquerade as members of the working-class and obfuscates their role in enforcing racism, capitalism, colonialism, and the oppression of the working-class.” According to BICC member and UC Davis Head Steward Brandon Buchanon, the intent of the resolution is to “start a really difficult conversation that the labor movement has had in the past and needs to continue to have around the intersections of race and labor, economic privation and racial disparity.” BICC’s resolution was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Joint Council at its July 25 meeting. To get in touch, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
Last fall, our union organized a historically significant vote asking members around the state to weigh in on whether we should join in the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). The union’s vote highlighted the UC’s and UAW’s roles in supporting Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians and called for divestment from corporations that profit from the illegal occupation and militarization of Palestine and dispossession of the Palestinian people. On December 4, UAW 2865 members voted overwhelmingly to support our union’s participation in this movement. In addition, the vote included a second component asking members to pledge their participation in an academic boycott of Israeli universities that are complicit in the occupation, which was supported by a majority of our members. To get in touch, contact David McCleary (email@example.com).
Stop Urban Shield
Building from the vote on BDS and from the union’s work through the Black Interests Coordinating Committee, union members are now working in coalition with other organizations and activists on a campaign to Stop Urban Shield. This campaign aims to highlight the intersections between U.S. domestic and international militarization and the policing of communities of color. Through our endorsement of the Stop Urban Shield campaign and a related mobilization earlier this month, we are putting into practice our commitments to working together to highlight intersections of oppression, foster stronger solidarities in the face of struggle, and build justice in our communities. To get in touch, contact Loubna Qutami (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Bathroom Brigade
In our newest contract, we became the first ever labor union to recognize access to all gender bathroom facilities as a basic workplace right. However, despite this historic win, UC administrators have been slow to recognize this right and upgrade campus facilities to accommodate trans and gender nonconforming students and workers. Working in partnership with the union, the Bathroom Brigade engaged in a series of direct actions last semester to enforce our contractual rights and create all gender bathroom spaces for the campus community. While we continue to face bureaucratic hurdles within the UC, the Bathroom Brigade was instrumental in helping push for an all gender bathroom ordinance in the city of Berkeley, which goes into effect this fall. To get in touch, contact email@example.com.
Anti-Oppression Committee (AOC)
This statewide committee provides a space where members can discuss new and ongoing issues regarding oppression and social justice and create collective resources to address these issues. From specific campus dynamics to the relationship between the UC and its workers, the AOC seeks to maintain an open forum to discuss, educate, train, and empower workers to battle oppression in their relationships and workplaces. Our focus for this year is to build a campaign to re-write the sexual harassment policy in the contract so that it is more enforceable, comprehensive, and survivor-centered. To get in touch, contact Nguyễn Thủy Linh (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Instructional Opportunities Committee (IOC)
Our last contract recognized the hurdles undocumented graduate students face in gaining valuable teaching experience and financial support while at the UC. In an effort to address these issues, we won recognition of a statewide Instructional Opportunities Committee (IOC) and are working with undocumented student leaders and allies to actualize the objectives of the committee. Specifically, we are creating pathways for equitable teaching experiences and are demanding scholarship funds to comprehensively support undocumented students. This fall we are working on two major projects: 1) a pilot pedagogical program being finalized this quarter, anticipated to start in UCI and extend to all UC campuses by next year 2) Approval of the UC Presidential Scholarship that is equal in monetary amount to what documented students receive while attaining teaching experience. The IOC will continue negotiating with UC administrators in the hopes of implementing these contract provisions next year as well as asking membership to support grassroots efforts for equity for all graduate students. We are an undocumented student led space and are committed to amplifying the undocumented student perspective, to get in touch please contact us via email at email@example.com.
Organizing for Student Dependent Healthcare
In the midst of these positive developments, last spring, two of our campuses (Santa Barbara and Berkeley) were shocked by administrators’ announcements that their schools would no longer be offering student dependent health insurance. Not only did this announcement violate our union’s contractual rights to meet and discuss potential changes to our health plans, but it will harm many UC communities, including international people, people with significant health needs, and undocumented people. This summer, members of our union have been organizing to restore dependent health insurance and fight for more transparent, student-led healthcare committees on all UC campuses. Healthcare organizers at Berkeley have also released a summary detailing the misleading financial information presented to students to compel this decision. Our union intends to prioritize healthcare organizing and help bring the currently less regulated student health insurance under the purview of the Affordable Care Act this year. To get in touch, contact Seth Leibson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
These summaries represent only a fraction of the community building and social justice work our union has prioritized over the past year. We hope you’ll get inspired and get involved. To learn more and help shape this year’s priorities, come to our next Monthly Membership Meeting!