Janus, budget projections, and what they don’t mean

I’ve been hearing some interesting arguments about how Janus affects our decision of whether to move toward a strike. Let’s be clear: Labor didn’t have fair share fees until we won them by fighting. Losing fair share fees makes things harder, but it does not pose an existential threat to the labor movement writ large, because our power has always been and will always be in our ability to shut things down. We don’t win by asking nicely, and when SCOTUS or UCOP tells us “no” when we do ask nicely, that does not mean we’ve lost.

Janus just means public sector unions once again need to demonstrate to workers that we are worth joining and paying dues to, because we are fighting for our collective interests. People who don’t join unions, don’t join because they think the union is a third party that has its own interests and can’t be trusted to fight for/with/as them. The only unions Janus threatens existentially, are those opaque, bureaucratic, Reutherist unions that are not aligned with labor writ large.

Settling for a lousy contract in summer because we’re afraid to lose dues-payers, tells workers that we are exactly that kind of union. Strikes are inspiring and galvanizing. Why would a strike would cause membership to decline rather than increase? A Union that sees striking for a better contract as at odds with its survival as an organization, is a Union that has third-partied itself.

We’ve heard a lot about how we only have ~10 months of being able to maintain staff and office space at current membership rates. What we haven’t heard about, is where exactly our dues are going. Here’s the answer: 60%+ of our dues goes to the International. More than half of what’s left, is being used to fund non-member staff organizer positions we did not have before this year.

The rationale for the $500k investment last July in full-time professional organizing staff was that they would pay for themselves with higher membership and therefore a strong contract. Did it work? Let’s take a look at the real wage offer on the table, compared with what UCOP has offered vs. what we have won in other years:

We’re now being told that we cannot afford to maintain these staff at current membership rates. If we simply hired fewer $70k-a-year professional organizers, we would be solvent. If this offer – which looks the same as what the admin caucus-led bargaining teams of old used to settle for – is the best we can do after the efforts of the past year, then that investment has not paid off and we need to cut our losses. Professional, non-member staff organizing positions are what face an existential threat – not our UC Student-Worker Union.

The specter of bankruptcy is that the UAW International would put us in trusteeship and we would run like we did before AWDU. That is what they mean when they say we could “lose our union”. If UAW 2865 takes this deal instead of fighting, because we’re putting long term job-security of non-member career organizers above the interests of our own membership, then the UC Student-Workers have already lost our union.

More on the history of the relationship between UAW and grad student workers:

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2016/06/uaw-academic-workers-colleges-union-walter-reuther-treaty-detroit/
https://jacobinmag.com/2016/12/uaw-awdu-graduate-students-workers-nyu-gsoc

Which side are we on?

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