For the first time in UAW Local 2865’s history, quorum was achieved at a statewide membership meeting. This is a big deal. Membership meetings are the highest body in the local, overriding both the joint council and the executive board if quorum is reached, viz. over 100 members from 5 of the 9 member campuses in the UC system. This time 144 members were in attendance from every campus but Merced. Never before has this happened; in the past membership meetings were held once annually in accordance with the local’s bylaws, but the leadership ensured that rank-and-filers remained docile. No longer.
The UCLA unit leadership affiliated with USEJ (née Administration Caucus) refused to endorse the meeting, enumerating the following three reasons in an email sent to all members on that campus:
1. This meeting was hastily arranged while the election was still going on. It also takes place at a time when some schools and programs are no longer in session. We feel many members will not be able to attend as a result, especially when it’s as far away as Berkeley.
2. We are worried that due to point #1, any lasting decisions made at this meeting will happen without fair representation from southern campuses like UCSB, UCLA, UCSD and Riverside.
3. Many UCLA leaders have serious doubts about the integrity and ethics of this most recent election, and until these issues are resolved we are reluctant to sign on to any document which endorses the winners.
Leaving the third point to the side (for we’ve already addressed it to death), this rationale is absolutely laughable. The local’s bylaws require that the location of membership meetings alternates between a northern and southern location. The previous membership meeting (which failed to achieve quorum) was called by AC/USEJers earlier this semester and was held on a southern campus. Nor was this particularly hastily arranged, as it was called for weeks in advance, with more than three times as much prior notice provided than the last AC/USEJ-initiated meeting. Finally, more than a fifth of those who attended made the journey from southern campuses, despite the AC/USEJ email instructing UCLA members — the second largest unit — not to attend.
In attendance were only nine AC/USEJers, two of whom opened the meeting by claiming it was “stacked.” With whom, we might reply, the membership? After realizing that they weren’t going to get the meeting disbanded on grounds of some purported violation of the bylaws, two of them presented a protest in which they argued that the election was not carried out properly and the results must therefore be discarded. (A great rebuttal is available here.) Not a shred of empirical evidence was presented. After those in attendance overwhelmingly — all but the AC/USEJers by our count — rejected the legitimacy of this protest, members of UCLA AWDU moved to annul the election of Sayil Camacho to a head steward position on their campus. If you recall, Camacho was a former AFSCME 3299 staffer on that campus who was hired by the local in violation of the bylaws. She is not currently a student, but ran on false pretenses, claiming that she had been a member in good standing for 90 days prior to the election. It would seem so obviously false that no discussion would be necessary. If only. To paraphrase on UCLA AWDU member who spoke in the meeting, USEJers had no intention of providing any reference to the bylaws or any evidence that Camacho was in fact eligible; instead, they used the rhetoric of “personal attack,” repeatedly referring to the attempt to oust Camacho — who again, both ran on false pretenses and used union resources to campaign for USEJ — as a “witch hunt.” What a farce. Camacho was overwhelmingly voted out, at which point USEJers screamed “Bullshit!” and “This is what hypocrisy looks like!” How it is hypocritical to uphold the bylaws and oppose non-members holding leadership positions is beyond us.
After the drama (which dragged on for hours), members from all over the state worked in breakout groups, organizing against the budget cuts, toward expanding membership, and focusing on the needs of students of color and women, among many other areas. All in all the meeting was a coruscating success, despite the nausea-inducing proceduralism of Robert’s Rules and the AC/USEJ attempt to stall the agenda. We look forward to seeing how AWDU will work not as an opposition caucus, but as the leadership of our local. Will they avoid the iron law of oligarchy, or will the International snatch up a few of their “leaders” and turn them into good bureaucrats as we saw with a recent president of the local? Only time will tell, but we remain confident that if anybody can revitalize their local, it’s AWDU. Congrats to all on a great membership meeting; now onward to the fight against austerity!
For an impartial summary of the proceedings, check out the official meeting report here. For a more entertaining and substantive overview, check out notes from a comrade in UCLA’s AWDU chapter. From the latter, here’s some juice:
In my eighteen years of activism inside and outside of the formal workers’ movement, I have never come across a set of such mean-spirited, petty, and small minded individuals involved in a social movement. They have created an environment of systemic demobilization within the local through this behavior, and my many experiences of perfidy and venality within activism are fairly mild compared to the actions of this coterie.
We urge you to read it in full here.