Open Letter To UAW Local 2865 President Daraka Larimore Hall

(FROM UCGRADSTRIKE):

Dear President Larimore-Hall,

As enrolled and active graduate students in the UC system; as elected officers and members of our union, UAW Local 2865; and as candidates in our Local’s upcoming triennial elections; we are concerned about the persistently undemocratic role of paid staff in our Local and the possibility that their lack of accountability to the membership at large may jeopardize the freedom and fairness of the upcoming election. We are concerned that several recent actions taken by yourself and these staff may violate our Local’s bylaws.

As you know, many of us have been concerned for some time about the role of paid staff in our Local and their lack of accountability to (or even communication with) Campus Unit elected officers or members. Trustee Cheryl Deutsch expressed many of these concerns in a letter to the Joint Council in January (you can read that letter here: AWDU Irvine).

A review of UAW 2865 payroll records on April 15 shows twelve staff who have been employed in field organizing positions during FY 2011.

You hired at least three of these paid staff members without the knowledge or approval of our Local’s Executive Board. According to our Local’s bylaws, the responsibility for hiring Local Union employees falls to the Executive Board.[1] Of course, the Executive Board only regularly meets once a month, and our bylaws also give administrative authority to the President in between meetings and votes of the Executive Board,[2] but it clearly contravenes the democratic intent of our bylaws for you not to have even informed the Executive Board of these hires.

We have further grounds for concern that at least one of these staff members is not eligible for employment in our Local. Our bylaws are clear: hired staff must be members of the Local in continuous good standing for at least one year prior to their employment.[3] Especially at a time when the University of California is facing historically high budget cuts, and members are suffering from the elimination of TA/GSI positions, there is no excuse for hiring non-students to do organizing work in this union of student-workers. Sayil Camacho, who you hired in March, was neither an employee of the University of California, nor a graduate student in the UC at the time of her appointment. As such, she was not only not a union member in continuous good standing for at least one year; in fact, she was not even eligible for membership in our union. You hired Sayil Camacho in clear breach of our Local’s bylaws.

Of further concern is the fact that these paid staff continue to work without any coordination or, often, communication with elected Campus Unit officers. This practice is not only undemocratic and discourteous, but bad organizing as well. These organizing staff are unevenly distributed across the state. All twelve are assigned to southern campuses, which represent just 53% of the membership; therefore calling into question the distribution of the union’s resources. All current paid organizers should coordinate with Campus Unit officers to include our members in strengthening graduate student researchers’ and research assistants’ historic campaign to unionize.

Questions of staff accountability become more sensitive at election time, especially since nearly all of these paid staff members are running for elected office. In fact, six out of these twelve paid staff organizers are running for either Campus Unit Chair or Executive Board offices, while four more are running for Head Steward positions. All are running on a single partisan slate.

We are concerned that staff may be campaigning on paid union time, and that members will not know the difference. If members and Campus Unit officers don’t know what these organizers are doing on paid time to begin with, how will we know when these organizers are on the clock and when they’re off? Our Local’s bylaws,[4] as well as federal law,[5] prohibit the use of union resources (including paid staff time) for campaign purposes. In order to allay members’ concerns, we ask that all paid staff of our Local make public to the membership their Fair Share/“Beck” forms, tracking paid work hours, on a weekly basis and retroactive for three months. While these staff have no obligation to provide this kind of information, we trust that they have nothing to hide and would do anything to demonstrate their commitment to the freedom and fairness of our Local’s election.

We are also calling into question the eligibility of one of these paid staff-candidates. Sayil Camacho, again, is neither an employee of the University of California, nor a graduate student within the UC. We would like to remind you that individuals who are not graduate students with the UC system are not eligible for membership in our Local, let alone as candidates for elected office. Furthermore, less than 90 days elapsed between the time she signed a membership card and the deadline to submit acceptances for nomination in the election. We are, of course, thrilled that individuals such as Sayil are interested in participating in our Local. This is not a question of character but of structure: she does not meet eligibility requirements for candidacy.

We hope that you will take these concerns into consideration and make clear to the membership the role and work of paid staff members. We look forward to working together in building a stronger, more democratic union.

Sincerely,

Robert Wood

Anne Kelly

Jordan Brocious

Ben Cox

Véronique Fortin

Cheryl Deutsch

[1] Article 21 Section 1 reads: “The Executive Board may appoint and remove non-elected Local Union employees as necessary to carry on the business of the Local Union.”

[2] Article 5 Section 4 reads: “Between meetings and votes of the Executive Board the President, in consultation with the appropriate officers and staff, shall exercise general administrative authority and shall be empowered to act on behalf of the Executive Board. All decisions taken by the President shall be subject to subsequent approval of the Joint Council or the Executive Board.”

[3] Article 21 Section 1 reads: “all service and organizing staff must be members and have been in continuous good standing for a period of one (1) year.”

[4] Article 14 Section 5 reads: “Apart from the resources described in this Article that are to be provided equally to all candidates, no other Local Union resources may be used by any candidate to campaign for Local Union office.”

[5] Section 401(g) of LMRDA requires that: “No moneys received by any labor organization by way of dues, assessment, or similar levy, and no moneys of an employer shall be contributed or applied to promotethe candidacy of any person.”

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