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UC on strike! Here's why, and how you can help

Student workers at three UC campuses are striking today, and six more will strike on Thursday. 

UC grad student union strikeThis strike is the culmination of almost a year of inconclusive bargaining between the UC administration and the roughly 12,000 grad student workers in UAW Local 2865, and six months without a contract. The grievances that have spurred the strike are specific to higher ed, but the general line of attack from UC is one that workers experience everywhere: unreasonable increases in workload, intimidation of employees who exercise their rights, and foot-dragging on contract negotiations.

The grad student union's press release lays out several of the myriad unfair labor practices they've been subjected to: "From threats to international student’s visa status who participate in union activity, to unlawful videoing, and calling legal strikes illegal, the UCs are taking every opportunitiy to try and intimidate its members."

Back in November, when UC student workers went on a one-day sympathy strike with service and health care workers, management did their best in the days prior to intimidate them against joining the strike, sending threatening emails (which often included outright lies, like claiming foreign students' work visas were at risk or that the strike itself was unlawful).

The class size TAs have had to manage has also exploded. Grad student worker Josh Brahinsky told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Over 100 person per TA (teaching assistant) just didn't exist a decade ago." Ever-increasing class size, itself another facet of the UC's slow self-immolation at the hands of its leaders, means that many TAs simply don't have the time to properly grade exams, review papers, teach, and advise students. Even though labor law clearly places class size in the realm of negotiability, UC representatives have repeatedly refused to put it on the bargaining table.

As a communiqué from a group of student strikers put it,

To exist, universities depend on the extraction of un- and underpaid labor from students and faculty, exploiting a population convinced of its special intelligence and competitive edge. Fear of imposture, of mere adequacy, is the coin of the academic realm. As minter of this coin, the university holds its subjects in a state of blind dependency: students compete for the attention of a shrinking pool of professionals (part-time instructors currently outnumber tenure-track faculty by a ration of four to one), while the latter scurry to commodify the drippings of a hive-mind on the brink of colony collapse. 

The strike itself should be impressive — 96% of members voted in favor. But just as important is the solidarity shown by other segments of the UC population and the larger community around them. On the union's strike FAQ, they listed out things we all can do to support the strike:

There are many ways to support the strike. You can:

A. Join the picket lines on Thursday. We will keep our facebook page updated with the location of pickets – https://www.facebook.com/UCLAStudentUnion

B. Send out the link to this blog and forward other strike-related emails from the union and fellow members to everybody you think should be participating

C. Sign our strike pledge and encourage others to do so – http://uawstrikeucla.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/pledge-to-support-the-strike/

D. Attend whatever meetings are scheduled in the lead-up to the strike, again by staying appraised at our facebook page.

UPDATE 12:50PM EDT: At least 20 people have been arrested at UC Santa Cruz, mostly undergraduate students. Students were picketing the campus' west entrance, when cops in riot gear (seriously?) arrived and arrested them when they refused to stop picketing.

UC Santa Cruz strike arrests

July 5: an Important Anniversary for Youth and Student Organizing

Today, July 5, contains two auspicious anniversaries that speak to the power of people, especially youth, to effect change.

Voting in the Ballot Box - 40 Years Ago Today

18-year-old voting rightsThe second key anniversary today is President Nixon's 1971 signing of the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees voting rights to all citizens over the age of 18. Previously, for federal elections the age had been set at 21, with several states setting 18 as the cut-off age for state and local elections.

The ugly hypocrisy of sending 18-year-olds off to die in foreign lands but not allowing them to vote at home -- and the effective organizing and campaigning around it -- was a key factor in getting the Constitutional amendment passed. Electoral rights are not the pinnacle of political power for individuals and groups, but only the baseline. And today, even this bare minimum is under attackCampus Progress reminds us:

Tufts University Union-Busts, is then Labeled a "Charismatic Organization"


The scene is Tufts University, 2002. Graduate employees have been working tirelessly to unionize in the face of a hostile administration. Tufts Daily reports in February:

ASET UAW Tufts unionASET sought collective bargaining rights through the United Automobile Workers (UAW), and filed a petition with the Boston office of the NLRB on Dec. 7. The group also created a website to argue their case.

In the Feinleib Lecture Hall yesterday, [University President Larry] Bacow led Tufts' faculty in a discussion about the unionization process. Saying that he was "not anti-union," Bacow insisted that this is not an issue of ideology but rather a question of "whether or not the UAW representing our graduate students here at Tufts will strengthen the graduate program."

Bacow was not weighing in on the debate for the first time. On the Tufts' website, he wrote that "I believe it would be a mistake for graduate students to unionize. The relationship between faculty member to graduate student is not one of employer to employee."

The NLRB's First Region office certifies on March 29th that an election can go ahead. Students finally get a chance to fill out their ballots and vote whether or not to form a union on April 24-25. Tufts immediately orders the ballots impounded while the administration files an appeal against the original NLRB ruling, contesting that the grad students are not protected by the National Labor Relations Act. Conveniently, by the time the case winds its way to the National Board (July 2004), it has swung far to the right thanks to Bush appointees, and it rules that graduate employees are primarily students and therefore ineligible to unionize. The ballots are destroyed. ASET, the Association of Student Employees at Tufts, releases a statement:

It’s deplorable that the Labor Board, after a more than 2-year delay in coming to a decision, should issue such a clearly political decision in the middle of summer, when most graduate employees affected are away from campus. Now, thanks to Tufts’ appeal—which impounded the ballots of our union election back in April, 2002—we join hundreds of thousands of other workers in this country whose rights are being whittled away and denied by the Bush appointed Labor Board.


The Charismatic Organization by Shirley Sagawa and Deborah JospinFast forward to 2008. Deborah Jospin, with co-author Shirley Sagawa, release a fluffy non-profit management book entitled "The Charismatic Organization: Eight Ways to Grow a Nonprofit that Builds Buzz, Delights Donors, and Energizes Employees." Jospin is intimately involved in the running of Tufts University, so naturally it was one of the "charismatic" non-profit organizations profiled. A 1980 Tufts grad, she has been a board member of its University College of Citizenship and Public Service since its founding in 1999 (and became chair of that board in 2007). She's also been a member of Tufts' board of trustees since 2002.

The center-left thinktank Center for American Progress held a talk and book signing for "The Charismatic Organization" this past April (Sagawa is a visiting Fellow there). I had a chance afterward to question Jospin about the union-busting that happened on her watch, and whether she took a public or private stand on the issue. Unbelievably, all she could do was plead ignorance of the entire affair, despite the massive publicity surrounding the debacle and prominent mention of the union fight in the Boston Globe.

In the book, she writes glowingly of President Bacow, who first took reins in 2001. The graduate student union issue was one of his first major tests in office, yet Jospin makes no mention of it. Jospin writes (p.51):

When Lawrence Bacow became the president of Tufts University in 2001, he inherited three campuses, seven schools, an affiliated teaching hospital, ten boards of overseers at various levels of sophistication, and a board of trustees bruised by numerous internal fights. He found a university in which "nothing was broken but nothing was optimized."


According to Bacow, "The only two things that really matter in a university are great students and great faculty." For this reason, he defined Tufts' main job as "attracting, retaining, nurturing and supporting great students and great faculty."


By "departing from the tradition of egalitarian salaries," taking investment risks, and raising the standards for tenure and promotion, Tufts successfully competed for leading scholars from around the world.

Well we can certainly see he's no fan of egalitarian salaries! Bacow's dogged pursuit of every possible way to foil his graduate employees from unionizing must be on the whole a positive mark in Jospin and Sagawa's eyes. They simply don't see any conflict between the second and third paragraphs I quoted above: that "departing from the tradition of egalitarian salaries" (which without exception means tons of money for hard science and business/econ and an ever-whittling away at humanities) might be in fact the opposite of "nurturing and supporting."

This "progressive" whitewashing of the horribly anti-worker, anti-democratic splotch on Tufts' reputation speaks volumes about Jospin and Sagawa, and by implication the Center for American Progress.



Surprise, surprise! Tufts is now mobilizing against the unionizing efforts of its 1,200-strong staff employees:

Tufts University president Lawrence Bacow has issued a preemptive strike against a growing movement to unionize the school's 1,200 administrative, technical, and clerical employees, calling the efforts unnecessary.

The Tufts Employee Association, modeled after Harvard University's two-decades-old union for 5,000 clerical and technical workers, has vigorously tried to recruit members in recent months. But Bacow says the union is not sanctioned by the university, which currently only recognizes unions for its police and facilities staff.

"To say that we could work with the union should not imply that I think unionization . . . is a good idea. Far from it," Bacow wrote in an e-mail Thursday to Tufts employees. "I don't believe the formal process mandated by collective bargaining would help us address together the very real challenges Tufts faces in this economy."


In his e-mail to employees, Bacow stressed that his stance did not reflect a personal bias against unions.

Mmm... smell that charisma.

NYU Occupation - occupiers allowed to stay the night

Word from is that NYU Administration is "allowing" the occupiers to stay the night. I say "allowing" because at this point NYU isn't in a position to allow or disallow anything - hundreds of students both in and outside the building are the ones in control right now.

NYU - The LATEST - 1:31AM

The tension inside the occupied NYU building has spilled out onto the streets in the form of literal street combat - cops have rolled in en masse at around 1:15AM (the deadline NYU Admin set for everyone to leave was 1AM). It's now 1:30AM, so far there's only been one arrest (of a student trying to climb a streetsign) - but apparently there's been copious amounts of teargas used. The street and intersection are so full of people, the cop cars can't get anywhere close.

NYU Administration refuses to negotiate, threatens expulsion

This is Jasper Conner's first post on For Student Power - thanks for writing, Jasper! - Patrick 

NYU Refuses to Negotiate with Student Occupation!

NYU’s administration refuses any face-to-face contact with student occupation, drawing out Take Back NYU!’s occupation, currently making national news.


The occupation, which began at 10pm on Feb. 18th with the seizure of the 3rd floor of the Kimmel Center has made news across the country and received declarations of support from universities across the world.

NYU’s Administration refuses to allow the students of the occupation a place at negotiations, instead relying on threats and intransigence to try to end Take Back NYU!’s campaign.

The NYU administration has threatened students with arrest late tonight, they need your support NOW! Click the link below and after you call and e-mail the administration, send the link to your friends!

You can also sign the online petition!

 Below is a recent press release from Take Back NYU! detailing the administration’s refusal to negotiate and their intention to maintain the Occupation.

35 More Students Join NYU Occupation Despite Police Violence - Midnight RALLY planned!

The Occupation of NYU for a more affordable, democratic, and socially responsible university has been going on for nearly 24 hours.

The administration of NYU still refuses to negotiate with the students of Take Back NYU! and has made multiple threats to students, including calling parents to threaten expulsion and promising arrests at 1 am in the morning.

I just got word from Drew SDSer Christa H. that about 35 students just rushed inside to join the Occupation. According to Christa, the police assaulted students Occupying the Kimmel Center and those making their way inside. She said that they hit many students and ripped shirts off of others. She ended the conversation by saying she had to go help others block the doors. According to Alex Lotorto, a member of Muhlenberg SDS, there are nearly 75 students inside the occupation at the moment!

Students have been making their way to NYU from across the city and from as far away as DC to support the amazing work that Take Back NYU! has done in the two years of their campaign leading up to this occupation. Support is still needed, anyone who can make it to NYU should head their immediately as support from the street is greatly needed.

Take Back NYU! is planning to hold a midnight Rally, which will take place right before the administration promised to give the order to arrest.

If you’re not close enough to travel you can still support the cause by letting everyone know about this bold action that NYU students are taking and by calling the NYU administration to demand that they NEGOTIATE with students rather than THREATEN AND BEAT them.

Support Take Back NYU!

Sign the Petition

cross-posted at Building Our Power

"We're not giving them shit!" NYU Negotiations are STARTING

NYU Administration has agreed to begin negotiations with the occupying students. They originally wanted some kind of concession from the students in exchange for negotiations. In the words of Farah, who was at the megaphone, "We're not giving them shit! We are strong and we are united!"

If that's what negotiations have in store, then the students should be in for a productive night.

CLICK HERE for a live streaming video from the occupation.

NYU Occupation!




At approximately 10pm tonight (Feb. 18), students of Take Back NYU! took over the Kimmel Marketplace. They have blockaded the doors and declared an occupation! They presented their demands to the NYU administration. They read as follows:


Bill to Protect TA Unionization Introduced in Congress

TA Rights Now!Yesterday, Sen. Ted Kennedy and Rep. George Miller introduced the "Teaching and Research Assistants Collective Bargaining Rights Act." This bill would amend the National Labor Relations Act to explicitly include Teaching and Research Assistants at private universities and colleges. From the press release:

In fact, the classroom is a workplace for these scholars. It’s where they earn the money they need to pay to put food on their tables and a roof over their heads. They deserve the right to stand together and make their voice heard in their workplace. Like other employees, they should have the right to join a union and improve their working conditions. Obviously, better wages and working conditions for them also means better education for their students.

An NLRB That Needs Fixin'

The National Labor Relations Board was set up in 1935 to handle disputes between employees, unions, and management. After the 1947 passage of the Taft-Hartley Act (one of the most odious pieces of anti-labor legislation in this country's history) the NLRB has trended consistently more pro-management (to greater or lesser degrees) ever since.

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