University of California workers and Unions

This was written as a response to the  developments at the UC system in 2010 regarding the attempts by different Unions to win the 14,000 members of CUE.  The end result was the Teamsters won the vote. The views below express how those of us who founded this blog believed activists and the left should have responded to the situation as an alternative to that of the bureaucracy of the Unions involved. 5-6-12

Oppose the Union Leaders' Raids at UC

University of California workers and Unions In Unity There is Strength

Everybody knows that the UC employers are coming after us with everything they have. And just at this time the leadership of various unions are attempting to take each other’s members (namely CUE’s). Brothers and sisters, this is a scandal. It has to stop. It divides the work force, It weakens us all and adds further confusion to the situation.

The UC system has 100,000 employees. Rather than compete for these members the task is to unite this potentially powerful force in action. In this way we can defend what we have as well as improve our wages, benefits and conditions.

Union members will have seen the recent e mail from statewide CUE that calls for a vote for the Teamsters saying that members will: “Have more power at the bargaining table, in Sacramento and in Washington, DC.” And that, “a vote for the Teamsters will “stop the threats to your future”. The leadership of all Unions promise this. The problem is it is not true. All unions have lost ground in part because their leaders compete for the member’s dues money. As we see at CAL, they sense CUE is available and like businesses on the stock exchange savage each other for the increased revenue that it’s 14,000 members will bring. Our strength lies in unity, not just in words, but in action. The Obama administration just supported the firing of the entire teaching staff in Central Falls RI. We cannot rely on lobbying Sacramento or Washington to defend us. The union leaders are entirely wrong on this.

The Obama administration and the authorities are talking about firing 300,000 teachers and staff in the coming months and years. This is all out war against education workers and students. This can be defeated, but not by business as usual methods such as lobbying in Sacramento and Washington. The 100,000 employees of the UC system along with the students who have shown heroic resistance to the attacks on education in the past period can win. We can drive back the attacks on education and those of us that work or study in it.

Working people and students in education have much more in common than we have that separates us. The average worker knows this. But union leaders try to steal each other’s members and undermine worker’s ability to unite and fight for these common interests. These policies weaken unity and must be opposed.

But it is not only these policies that make it impossible for union members and students to defend themselves against the assault on education. Workers and students cannot win at UC as long as the clauses in the contracts that forbid solidarity action, or sympathy action (stab other workers in the back clauses) are honored.

We cannot fight effectively when one union crosses another union’s picket lines no matter how much we talk about solidarity. These clauses must be violated, but in a mass way and throughout California, no individual union can do this successfully. There should be an all-union conference immediately to discuss this issue and commit the unions to no longer keep the no strike clauses and fight to have the same contract expiration dates for all unions. Students should be invited to send representatives and asked for support.


# All unions call off their efforts to take the CUE membership.

# Set up democratically elected workplace committees of representatives from all unions that can unite and give leadership to all workers in the workplace

# Link these committees statewide to form a democratically elected statewide structure bringing together representatives from all unions.

Having as many as 6 unions throughout the UC system is an obstacle to unity. All UC unions should jointly call workplace meetings throughout the state for all union and non union employees in order to discuss issues like these and draw up a statewide plan aimed at building solidarity and unity among all UC workers. These steps towards unity will hopefully lead to all UC workers being in the one union in the future if they choose. To make gains we have to unite.

Only through united action will we be able to drive back UC’s war on our living standards, overcome anti-union laws and eliminate contract clauses that are an obstacle to unity. A united UC workforce could win:

# Wage increases above the rate of inflation

# No layoffs, rehire all laid off workers, increase hiring through a shorter workweek

#No contracting out of public services

#strengthening of seniority rights

A victory for UC workers would inspire workers throughout the state and the nation.

If you are interested in discussing these ideas further contact Richard Mellor at I am a retired public sector worker a member of the East Bay M4 Strike Committee (speaking here as an individual) and former officer and member of AFSCME Local 444 in Oakland. 5-8-10