Wednesday, April 30, 2014

There's more to union power than membership numbers

This essay does argue:
- Membership numbers are only a single measurement of union power
- Solely focusing on membership numbers ignores the other ways of measuring union power
- Ignoring other measurements of union power traps unions into a 1-dimensional practice of union power that can be very misleading

This essay does NOT argue
- Membership numbers aren't important
- Let's not measure membership numbers
- Let's ignore membership numbers
- I don't want a powerful union

I wanted to write the above first in order to be upfront about the argument because I'm sure someone will troll/distort what I am going to say. That being said, let's get to the essay!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

UAW 2865 elections: AWDU and SWITCh

Once every three years the entire leadership of our union UAW 2865 is up for grabs, every single officer position is vacated. Three years ago a reform slate (AWDU) that was tired of top-down business unionism took power and promised to democratize the union and get involved in struggles for social justice and in defense of public education. Remnants of the old leadership has rebranded itself and is trying to make a come back.

The SWITCh slate is being run by the same group of top-down career-oriented  business unionists. Let's examine who the leadership is, what their ideas and strategy for the union are, and just how honest their campaigning is.

The SWITCh leadership

Three people are major players of the SWITCh leadership, Rob Ackermann (UCSB), John Gust (UCR), and Jason Struna (UCR). All three of them ran in 2011 as part of the USEJ caucus slate, but have since claimed that there is no USEJ. However, just like in the 2011 election they have rebranded themselves, this time they are going under the name SWITCh, Student Workers for Inclusive Transparent Change.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Interview by Daniel Gutierrez

I recently was interviewed by Daniel Gutierrez, who publishes at Conjuncture Magazine and San Diego Free Press, for an article about the UAW 2865 contract negotiations. It was by far the most fun interview/conversation I've ever had and since only a small portion of it will make it into the article I thought it would be fantastic to publish the full interview here.

(DG is Daniel, DW is me.)

DG: What I'd like to know from you is your thoughts on AWDU's [Academic Worker’s for a Democratic Union] strategy. That is, building grassroots support, including what is normally seen as social issues into the labor realm and how this changes the way unions are normally seen.

DW: Well I see my role as challenging that framework that unions have established for years. By focusing on bread and butter issues only and by saying other issues should be dealt with by other groups allows the union to default to fighting for and from a working class straight white cis-man position and ignores the fact that women, people of color, LGBTQIA folks and others are workers too.

It is a weak model of organizing because it hides the connections between class oppression and other oppressions and therefore doesn't put forth a critical enough or correct analysis of the system we live under and if you analysis isn't correct how can you have the right strategy to win?

That’s why the old slogan "An injury to one is an injury to all" to be has to be any union’s starting point.

DG: This seems like a pretty radical departure from what unionism has come to be known for in the United States. It definitely seems like a much more critical, more much adapted analysis of a neoliberal reality, critiquing assumptions of equality, Am I right?

DW: Definitely. As we have seen union membership and power decline its painfully obvious that that model doesn’t work, you can't start from a position of exclusion and expect others to just get on board with the struggle and patiently wait for their turn for their issues to come up.

And I say painfully obvious because of the state of working class people in this country. Inequality is ridiculously high, unemployment, homelessness, the number of people in prison, the number of people deported and the families and communities that are torn apart because of it, and more. That is some pain.

DG: I recently was looking at labor history figures in the United States and the amount of strikes in the United States have declined dramatically since the 1980s. In fact, someone told me yesterday that only three strikes were registered last year. Yet, in less than six months the UAW under the leadership of AWDU has called two strikes. How effective has the strike been in the union's struggle?