Mobilize against the impending demise of fee remissions!

If you haven’t yet heard, graduate student fee remissions are currently at risk. That’s right.  These fools are asking us to pay them in order to teach.

At Tuesday’s bargaining session between UAW 2865 (representing 12,000 teaching assistants, readers, and tutors on all UC campuses) and UC Office of the President (UCOP), UCOP held their line that graduate student instructors (GSIs) deserve a pay cut in real terms.  They offered us a few extra hundred in child care subsidies per semester — still a laughably insufficient sum — but refused to budge on wages.

And then we found out what they really had in store for us.

Next Tuesday the UC Regents will be voting to change “educational fees” to “tuition.”  (It goes without saying that we’ll be shutting that shit down.)  Our bargaining team, conscious of these impending changes, told UCOP’s team that they wanted fee remissions for working GSIs, readers, and tutors regardless of what they decide to rename “fees.” UCOP refused to guarantee fee remissions following the Regents’ vote. In fact, they made their intentions explicit to the UAW bargaining team when they indicated that this may in fact be a conscious decision on the part of the administration (and of UCOP in particular).

While we are of course averse to conspiracy theories, this shit is all too real.  In fact, this is precisely what happened last fall to our counterparts at the University of Illinois.  Or at least what the UI administration tried to force through.  What happened?

Graduate students went on strike until this extortionary plan was reversed once and for all. Members of the Graduate Employees’ Organization (GEO = AFT/IFT Local 6300) refused to teach or grade until this ridiculous proposal was tossed into the dustbin where it belongs.  These administrative scumbags have since tried to revive the proposal, but GEO remains mobilized.

The question then is why the hell our own union on arguably the most mobilized campus in the country — with an active rank-and-file caucus and a vibrant student-worker movement — refuses to declare a strike. We’ve had enough.  How many ad hoc bargaining sessions and contract extensions can we really have with these people?  Haven’t they shown their true colors yet?  Why the hell is our bargaining team — ostensibly our allies — even considering accepting a token increase in child care subsidies while wage cuts and this end of fee remissions is on the table?

Enough is enough!

We don’t need these bureaucrats — ours or theirs — to tell us when we can and can’t go on strike.  In fact we already know when our bargaining team thinks we should go on strike: never.  That’s why it’s been over a dozen years since our last strike.  Are we going to sit around and wait for these clowns to prattle on with our enemies?  Or are we going to take action and force these bureaucrats to declare a strike immediately?

But how, you ask?

That’s precisely what we’ll be discussing tomorrow at 4 pm in Dwinelle 88 at UC Berkeley.  The elimination of fee remissions is not a game.  We’re talking an extra $9000 in fees for GSIs, readers, and tutors.  We make fucking $16K/year and they want to take close to 60 % of our earnings?  Worse yet, our bargaining team won’t declare a strike over the issue?

Come to the meeting on Friday so we can figure out how we’re going to respond to this nonsense, both from UCOP and from the bureaucrats who claim to represent us on the UAW bargaining team.  We have a proposal: Why not occupy our own union office until these idiots declare a strike?  Why not get our counterparts on other campuses to do the same?

Stop stalling, call for a strike without delay!

Refusal to call for a strike amounts to collaboration with management!

No contract, no grades!

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7 responses to “Mobilize against the impending demise of fee remissions!

  1. Calling a strike in this situation is a NO BRAINER.

  2. Exactly, Michelle. That’s why most of us involved in the opposition caucus within UAW 2865 are completely perplexed…and yet we aren’t surprised. Some of the same scumbag bureaucrats from the UAW International — Mike Miller in particular — who fucked over our rank-and-file comrades in the UAW at UW when they tried to strike last May are involved in the bargaining process and are averse to strikes in all situations and unconditionally. That’s why we need to shift focus from the administration/UCOP alone to a simultaneous campaign against the collaborators on our own bargaining team.

  3. Solidarity!

    What is happening to the GSIs is happening to the entire working class. We can’t let the professional aspirations of career bureaucrats stop us from fighting.

    You all are in a perfect position to strike. I look forward to supporting you in your fight!

  4. As a graduate student at Berkeley, I do not agree with your conclusions. I do not think you represent “those who use it”. Referring to the administration as “the enemy” is ridiculous. If you haven’t noticed, the UC has been forced to make cuts all over the place, and massively increase tuition for undergrads, all as a result, in large part, to decreased funding from the public (aka. State of California). Anyway, the administration, which has been furloughed and is actually trying to make ends meet should not be considered the enemy. The student body SHOULD negotiate with them and work together to bring down costs where possible. All things considered, given the current economic climate and the cuts all other UC employees have received, I think a contract with a ~2% wage increase is fair enough. Don’t you see how inappropriate it sounds to ask for more when everyone else is having to make do with less?

    Regarding the change of terms from Fees to Tuition. I’m sure that if they make this change, they will stand by Tuition remission…but if they don’t, and WHEN they don’t, then I, like thousands more, will stand by and support a strike. But doing it now, before the Regents have even voted on a name change (which would take some time to take effect), is a little premature.

    So before you go ridiculing most of “those who use it” who you seem to think you represent, just consider WHY most grad students DON’T support striking over this right now, and then maybe you will see that the UAW leaders aren’t ALSO your enemies.

    • While your argument seems well considered, I might ask you a simple question: why identify with the administration? Why do you want to sympathize with them? Their job is hard? So is ours. We already “do more with less”.
      You write that “the UC has been forced to make cuts all over the place, and massively increase tuition for undergrads”. Have they been ‘forced’? How can this be the case if the UC actually turned a profit last year? Why did the administration give itself 11.5 million dollars in bonuses then? Why are they building campuses in other countries when they can’t even support their flagship institution?
      UC Berkeley just sold a graduate student laboratory and its research to a drug company. The graduate students working in this lab have had to abandon their research in order to basically be cheap labor for the drug company. Is this the administration that you want to have sympathy for?
      The entire reason that they are the enemy is that won’t even go on record as recognizing or supporting student concerns about skyrocketing tuition and worker conditions on campus. They won’t even say that it’s a real bummer.
      No one is asking for our to be the singular increase. The idea behind this website is that we all have something in common: workers, students, student-workers—we should all receive a fair contract. The UC is using the budget crisis as a pretext to push measures for unprecedented privatization.
      You don’t think that they’ll make grad students pay? You don’t think that the name change from fees to tuition signals that? The UC’s bargaining team stated that this was exactly the reason for the name change. When pressed by the union to agree to keep the remissions in place, the UC refused and said that they didn’t have the power to do so. If you don’t believe me and you are a grad student at Berkeley, then reread the letter from the bargaining team. You’ll find exactly this language.
      The time for waiting for the UC to screw us over and then react has passed. They are already screwing us over. What you should consider is that we can and should act in advance to show the regents and the administration that we are unwilling to stand for proposals that they’ve already publicly approved. They may not have voted yet and you are correct that these things may not happen, but this is precisely the reason why we should act now. We can and we should stand in opposition to this policy before it goes into action.

  5. Kevin, your position is incredibly naive to think that the administration is not attempting to squeeze more from its lowest paid workers or its failure to honestly negotiate is somehow misunderstood (i.e., they are not the enemies) by graduate students. And your defense that “everyone else is having to make do with less” is also uninformed in the context of the UC administration’s past history of voting itself raises and bonuses to keep pace with the private sector.

  6. Pingback: What’s the next step for getting this strike off the ground? | THOSE WHO USE IT

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