Brian Malone

April 29, 2020


Brian Malone was a graduate student at UCSC who was elected into the UCSC UAW unit chair position in 2008/2009 and one of the five UAW bargaining members who organized the Vote No campaign on the 2010 contract.  In this interview, he provides critiques of the UAW, details on the structural takeover of internal party AWDU (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union), and his perspective as a bargaining member of the UAW.  Brian Malone was interviewed by Frances Woo via Zoom.

Transcript

Perfect.

So just to kind of explain a little bit about what I’m researching. So in light of the recent color movement, we’re kind of looking into the history of grad’s in organizing, and that’s in relation to UCSB and also just U.S. wide because it is covered UC-wide due to the UAW involvement. So to start off, I just want to kind of get a feel for what your involvement was in grad student organizing.

Yeah, so. This is all so long ago. So I have tried to bring some of this back in my memory, but yeah, it is. 2008 or 2009 was sort of the beginning of the budget cuts movement. So the first sort of big cuts from the state of California to the U.S. and and that, um, and there were a number of grad-there was a grad student organizing committee at UC Santa Cruz, UCSC, where I was as a grad student, that, um, got involved with that. And there was a big sort of March 4th was the big sort of day throughout the UC March 4th, 2009. I think it was. And, you know, we shut down the UCSC campus. And and and that was similar. So I was sort of I was involved with that as a as a grad student, a member of the sort of ad hoc we called the G SOC graduate student organizing committee. But also at that point, I had. I was also the unit chair for the UC Santa Cruz UAW unit. So I think I think I was elected that in 2008 or 2009. And so that was sort of concurrent. And. Yeah.

Ok, perfect.  So I just want to know a little bit more about what made you want to get involved, like in terms of GSOC and being the chair.

It was, um, I think a couple I mean, I wasn’t I wasn’t when I came to graduate school, I wasn’t particularly politically active. I wasn’t. I didn’t have a history of activism or organizing at all. And my sort of sense was, you know, I’m just here to keep my head down. And do you know my graduate work. Right. Like, get my degree and get out. But I think a couple of things changed. And one was, I think. The with the cuts and the way those. The way things were in my department and on campus, it was just so clearly unfair that I just sort of couldn’t ignore it like this was really this…It was a crisis in a sense. And so I sort of felt like, well, I can’t you know, I’d rath- maybe I would have rather not been involved. But but but this is happening. And if I can do anything to to to to push back against this, I think then I’m going to have to try. And I think part of that came also from a really remarkable organizer who was a few years ahead of me in the history department here, Sarah Smith. And she had been unit chair before me at UAW. And she’s just I mean, she’s always just been a really good organizer and she’s very good at bringing people in. And so she’s sort of you know, she would call me as the UAW unit chair and say, hey, this thing is happening. Will you come to a meeting? Hey, will you come to a phone bank? You know? And she’s just really, she was so good at bringing people in and recruiting people. And so, you know, I went to a few GSOC meetings. I did some stuff. I realized, oh, you know, I have time. I have some energy. I can put some some effort into this. And then after a while, Sarah was like, well, you know, my term as a unit chair is coming to an end. How…why don’t you run to do that? And so I think a lot of it really was, being invited in and recruited by really good, smart, strong organizers and activists who are already here and there was already a structure in place.

Did you feel like a sense of community within like the people that you were organizing with?

Yeah, I did. I think it was a really good group. And I still remember some of those first meetings and I didn’t really know most of those people, but I didn’t feel like I was sort of on the same, like, these, I mean, these were really politically active organizers, um, I was sort of like, I’ve never done anything like this. Why, you know, why am I here? But they were just so you know, I think there was a really good energy at that point on campus, like people were excited. People were, I mean, they were upset. They were angry, but they were excited about sort of getting together and doing stuff. There were sort of you know, we came up with a sort of a good plan of how we wanted to do things and yeah, it really felt, I mean, and then later in my UAW years. Yeah, I got closer to some of those people. And I mean, I’m still you know, these are some of these people are still my friends. Like, I still, you know. Yeah. There really was a community there.

Yeah, definitely.  And so based on just some of the research that I’ve done. Yeah. I read that during, like the 2009 to 2010 contract negotiations. You were one of the bargaining members of the UAW. So I just remember that you vocalized some concerns regarding the contract. So I was kind of wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about that.

Yeah. So. There’s there was partly a history there, which was the UAW at that point.  We had really significant critiques of the UAW at that point, the sort of statewide UAW. And, and I mean, I think the critiques we had is that it was a very demobilized hierarchical union, like the sort of statewide executive board, they called the shots and they weren’t particularly activists; they weren’t particularly interested in member organizing like. It was very Top-Down. It was very top down. It was very it was more business unionism type style than we would have liked. You know, it was really, and I mean, they tended to really want to focus on pay, primarily, but they weren’t even very good at that in a sense. And the interesting thing is that it really was centralized at Santa Barbara. Like, that’s where the leadership really sort of had its iron grip. Meant a lot of them came from set. And I my understanding is Santa Barbara has really changed politically since. Which is amazing. But at that time, like there was this sort of cabal or clique of Santa Barbara, UCSB powerbrokers who were running the union and, and there was a lot of friction or tension between them and the Santa Cruz people. So my predecessor, Sarah Smith, felt like her hands were totally tied in trying to organize. The grad students at Santa Cruz. So she wasn’t allowed to actually even have email list of the members. Like all emails had to come from the president of the union. And, you know, and there is a story that Sara tells that, you know, she asked she request she had no power over her own budget. And so once she requested colored paper because she wanted to make posters for an event and the president denied her request because the president was afraid that she would use the colored paper to make unapproved. Posters unapproved. I’d like it really. It was really like this top down. The president of the union controls all the messaging or the president of the statewide controls all the messaging and, and so we found that very difficult to to mobilize and organize membership. And part of the problem with that is that, you know, the statewide leadership, the executive board and I was on the executive board for a while, they really they really didn’t want to pursue the kind of contract campaign that seemed like we needed to do it, and so I think one of the big issues with that contract campaign was that. It kicked off like a contract campaign, kicked off in like mid April or something. When Berkeley was already getting out for the summer and then the primary organizing for that contract campaign happened over the summer. While all of the students were gone and off campus. And the primary pressure that we intend that the statewide bargaining team intended was to put a bunch of names on, I think they called it a report card where it sort of hear our criticisms of the U.S.. Here are the things we want. Sign this. And so I spent hours that summer calling graduate students in my unit and saying, hey, would you sign your name to this report card, you know, and find they did. And then in like July or something like I they sent me a big printed copy of this report card and I had to go to the admin building and hand it over to whoever would come out the door. And there was a photo of it. And this was what we this union thought was pressure like this is what they thought was our lever of power, and it was. Wrong. Like, I mean, it was so not helpful. You know, and so and at the table, the U.S. was saying, we don’t have any money and we’re not giving you anything. You know, we’re not, you know. Well, we’ll offer you a point. Five percent raise it or whatever. I don’t know. You know, and and there were members of the bargaining team from Berkeley and Davis and Santa Cruz who were sort of like, you know, they’re not offering us what we need. Like the salary they’re offering us doesn’t even keep up with inflation. They’re not really giving us the other things we want. And we’re not putting pressure on them like this report card thing this summer. It’s stupid. Like we’re putting no pressure here. Like, the thing we need to do is we need to start organizing strike pledges like we need to. And. And, you know, and eventually it is. It’s really important, was really important for the UAW at that point to settle the new contract before the expiration of the old one. Like, they didn’t want to ever go off contract, but in order to strike, you have to go off contract. Among other things have to happen. So but they really wanted that contract to get settled by the end of September when the contract expired. Luckily, the U.S.’s offers were so bad that we didn’t manage to settle it then. But there was still a lot of pressure, like, no, we’re not going to do much more organizing. Come on, let’s get this contract settled. You know, and I think it ended up two percent raise or something, which wasn’t. I mean, essentially with cost of living, I think it was a pay cut and and the bargaining team pushed that through and outvoted those five of us who who didn’t like that. And in the last few weeks of the campaign, when it was clear that the UAW statewide wanted to settle this contract, no matter what, we get some of the bargaining team and particularly the members from Berkeley, we’re sort of like, well, we if this happens, we have to put together a vote no campaign and we have to try and get our members to vote down this inadequate contract. And so that’s yeah, that’s how that came about. 

Did was the UAW ever conspire with why they wanted to. Why they didn’t want to go off contract?

They had this you know, they had this. They have this cliche, this thing that they would say over and over again. Now that I think about it in it, it was just this phrase that they would say that it was almost like an article of faith, like it was a dogma. And they would say over and over again, our power is at its greatest the day before the contract expires and, and no one ever actually explained why they thought that was the case, because that also seems wrong like that. I don’t see any leverage there or not the kind of leverage that you can have when you’re out of contract and can start considering work actions. Yeah, it’s it was this point of pride with them that they always settled the contract before the expiration of the previous one. And I’m not. I don’t think anyone ever adequately explained to me why they thought that is the way they had to go. I mean, my speculation, like we would speculate that they didn’t actually want to like, it’s a lot easier to do it that way. Right. Like it it’s a lot simpler. It’s more sort of structured. You know, it and it and it causes a lot less trouble. You don’t ever actually then have to be, you know, I mean, there there are some boxes that open if you go off contract, but, you know, potential problems. But you know those you can negotiate around some of those. But, yeah, I think they just I don’t think they wanted the chaos. I don’t think they want to be uncertainty. And I think I mean, I also think they really weren’t that interested in any kind of work action. Potentially.

And when you reference them as they are you kind of referencing the executive board or.

Yeah, it would be the. So the. Yeah, it’d be the executive board. It would have been the international representatives. So that paid representatives from the UAW International who to serve are tasked with keeping the our statewide local on track. And then also the bargaining team, who, again, for the most part I mean, does are the campus leadership positions on each campus, the two. And so and for the most part, the executive board and the international reps kind of decided policy. The bargaining team sort of took their, took their, took the cue from them. So, yeah, yeah, that’s the they here.

Ok, cool. And then so when whenever the contract was, like ratified between the UAW and the UC, did all the members of the UAW have to vote to approve it? What was that process?

Yeah, they did. So they had to vote. Those votes are usually pretty. Pro forma, they’re used, but they just, you know, they usually don’t even bother to put much energy into turnout because I mean by the time the bargaining team big time. By the time a tentative agreement is reached, like everyone just wants to get it approved and done with. But then in that case, in that situation, we decided that our best option, that the two Berkeley reps and the two Santa Cruz reps and the Davis rep. We decided that our best option was to try and convince them, reship to vote it down. And so we actually did run a pretty, a pretty decent Vote No campaign. And actually the majority of Santa Cruz, the vast majority, voted it down, voted against it. I even think, although I don’t remember this for sure. I think Berkeley may have voted it down majority wise. And so statewide it passed because they ran up big totals down at UCLA and the southern campuses. But it really only passed right, as I recall, like 60 percent, which is pretty remarkably low, like most of the time, contract ratification votes like 97 percent. And so, you know, we didn’t win like the no vote. No campaign didn’t win. But I think it really did show that we had some organizing power, especially at the northern campuses. I think. And I think it made a lot of people mad, like the Santa Cruz. Again, the Santa Cruz members voted overwhelmingly against that contract and then they got stuck with that contract. And I think that really made them angry. And I think similar a lot of people at Berkeley were upset. Like, wait. This is a terrible contract. We voted against it, but we got stuck with it anyway. And so I think that was. Yeah, yeah, I think that was agitational in some ways.

Was there did the UAW ever address the fact that, like, the majority is in person? Berkeley voted no.

No. No. No, I’m not positive. Berkeley had a majority, but it was close. And those numbers must be somewhere. But I know Santa Cruz was. No, I mean, they they you know, they had a press release where they trumpeted, you know, contract passes by by 20 percent, you know, because it was 60 to 40. Right. And so it was, you know, 20. You know, they had a big trumpeting press release. And they and then we all sort of ignored each other for a few months. Yeah, I mean, then we all sort of never talk to each other again. Well, because that was sort of it turned out that was the first first sort of skirmish then, because then the following year in 2011 was the UAW elections. And so all the positions, the leadership on the campus and the executive board were all up. And so the vote now was actually sort of the catalyst for a lot of us, especially in the North, to say we have to take over the union, like we have to win those seats, like we have to have a campaign. Like the next step now that we’re stuck with this contract is to change the leadership so that the next time contract comes up. We do this right.

So do you think the change in leadership kind of helped push the UAW into more progressive direction?

Yeah, I mean, I think when I mean. I think when, when, AWDU academic workers for Democratic Union. When that organization when we won the UAW elections and took over the statewide, you know, I think one thing that happened is and part of the platform was to give campus autonomy. So like campus leaders got access to their e-mail lists, like they could email their members, like they could organize their members and however they saw fit and. You know, there wasn’t as much top down messaging like, OK. This is, you know, it was so much more collaborative. Bottom up. But then, I mean, I think really clearly going into the next contract campaign, which was, I guess three years after that, four years after 2014? Yeah, I think it was. It was run totally differently. So, you know, the statewide. For one thing, bargaining was run differently. Like when I sat through bargaining in two thousand nine and 10, like the bargaining team, we would sit in a room. We would never actually go see any of the U.S. negotiators. Like like the international rep would, like come into the room and say, this is what the U.S. saying. I think we should say this. And then we will be like, yes, OK. And then he’d go back and negotiate behind the scenes, you know? It was all behind closed doors. We never actually really had any participation in it. And by the next contract, that was totally different. Bargaining was open. So opening bargaining. And it wasn’t just all the bargaining team members were there. It was any number who wanted to come could come. And I you know, I was by then, I wasn’t unit chair anymore. But they actually did hire me to organize for a couple of those quarters, and part of my organization would be organizing people to come to these opening bargaining and have the members show up and tell you see what they wanted and see the horrible things the U.S. was saying, you know? And then I think we also really organized actions on the ground. So when bargaining came to the various camp, you know, that was another thing. Bargaining used to would often take place off campus, but when audiogram bargaining, they had to come onto campus and then we would have our members show up and, you know, demonstrate outside or march, you know, and show power in numbers and show mobilization. And also, as I recall, we left that contract expire. And we I think we we had an we had several strikes. We had a U all peace strike, you know, and a part of my organizing. Then when I was on the payroll to organize, then, you know, was organizing for that strike and getting students to turn out for that strike and and not cross the picket line. And so I think we did a lot. We mobilized and organized the members. We went past contract expiration. We really made it very unpleasant for the U.S., like very unpleasant for them. And I think in the end, we got a better contract then than we would have gotten like actually, I think a really good contract, as I recall. I don’t remember the numbers, but the raises were better than than had previously happened then. My understanding then is this last contract, things kind of went bad. But I was already gone from the U.S. at that point. So, yeah, I don’t know what happened there.

Yeah. Yeah. And that’s like another thing that I’m curious about. So like, I’m going to be interviewing more like UAW members regarding that. But so I think those are the majority of the questions that I’ve had. I think one for one those. What is your opinion on the current COLA movement? And kind of like why do you think it emerged even with, like, all of our negotiations with the UAW or.

So this is from this is from a bit of a distance because, I mean, I still live in Santa Cruz, but I don’t teach it at UCSC anymore. Most of my friends and connections there have moved on. And so, you know, I’ve gotten some updates. I run into people around town sometimes. And, you know, I see stuff on Instagram. I mean, I’m all for the COLA movement. I’m excited about it. I think it’s really exciting. I think. I mean, I think. I think part of. My understanding, and again, this may be imperfect, is that the most recent UAW leadership has been a bit more cautious and maybe agreed to a contract that not everyone was very happy about. And I think one of the things that may have activated again was this sort of Santa Cruz resentment because we are such a small union or a small unit within the broader UAW. And we don’t I mean, you know, 10 years ago, we didn’t feel like our concerns were being taken seriously, like we were being paid attention to by the bigger unions. Like we just sort of got dragged along. And I think there’s there are things. I think it’s really hard to be a grad student in Santa Cruz and I imagine in Santa Barbara as well. Right. Like cost of living is terrible. It’s not, you know, even though it’s a small town. We don’t maybe sort of feel like we get the respect and prestige that, you know, the Berkeley and UCLAs do. And I think. And so I do think that. It sounds to me like dissatisfa- I mean, I think just general grad student dissatisfaction has been building at Santa Cruz is the place gets more expensive and and all of that. But I think it seems that that they felt like the UAW leadership wasn’t taking them seriously, wasn’t giving them what they needed, wasn’t bargaining the kinds of contracts they needed. And so they sort of felt like, you know, this is we’re gonna take this into our own hands, like we have to like our union isn’t going to do this for us. And so we we have to do this without the union. Yeah. But again, my sort of outside understanding.

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I’m going to of jump back just a little bit. But so during your time organizing, I was just curious like because I know you mentioned like their representatives on different campuses, but in your opinion, like how involved do you think, like grad students in general were with like the direct actions of the UAW? And by that I mean, kind of like in terms of contract negotiations, like how many do you think were like invested with and like aware of what exactly was happening?

I mean, that’s a good question. That’s a hard question. I think. I think before I think in the 2009 2010 campaign, not a lot, because essentially I think, the, the sense of the the idea from the statewide was, you know, let’s ask our members to do as little as possible, essentially, like let’s let’s call them and ask them to sign a report card. And that’s really all we’re comfortable asking them to do. So I think there was a lot of deep mobilized members then. You know, it’s harder to say in the next campaign under AWDU like what that looked like, especially on other campuses, because I was mostly just focused here, you know, but but, you know, we were turning out several hundred people at Santa Cruz for various things. You know, that was about, you know, when we struck, I think half to two thirds of our unit of our unit, actually. And I’m sure it was much lower at other campuses, which are much larger. But I think the mobilization was. Higher. I mean, again, I still don’t know. You know, I think there’s still lots of graduate students who don’t know what’s going on and don’t pay attention and do sort of keep their heads down and just sort of. You know, they’re there for them, for their degree. And so they aren’t. But yeah. So I think it’s hard for me to estimate.

Ok, perfect. So I think those are all my questions. Do you have anything you’d like to add regarding anything that you talked about?

No, I think I mean, that sounds about right to me. Yeah. Are you talking to other people from that from that old time era? Who are you talking to? Or can you tell me?

Yeah. So I’ve actually, cause most of my research has been going through, like old student journals and reports and stuff. So I’ve been like kind of trying to like track down people. And there was a grad school organizer. I think he went to UCSB, but he was also talking about like concerns regarding with the UAW, my contract negotiations in 2007, I think? And that was like one of the earlier contracts. So I reached out to him and we’re going to set up an interview to discuss what happened back then, too. And then I also have a couple of interviews with, like UAW leadership lined up just to kind of see what happened on their end. Yeah. Because there’s definitely like two sides to like what every like what happened during the time. I think the main thing that, like, I want to talk was not really about like the divide, but more so how, like, both groups are kind of fighting towards the same goal, but in like different methods.

Yeah.

Ok, cool. Thank you so much for being with me.

You’re welcome. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. It’s a fun project. Yeah. So I wish you luck on it.

Thank you. And also, I was just wondering if you perchance have any access to, like, pictures of any the organizing that you did during that time, if not a while ago?

Oh, I’m sure I do know somewhere on my hard drive that I do. I could glance through some of that.

Yeah. If you have the time and you can just send some over there, be great. But if not, that’s okay too.

Ok. Yeah. Yeah.

 Ok. Well thank you for meeting with me. I have. I hope you have a good rest of your day. Thank you.

Daraka Larimore-Hall

May 7th, 2020


Daraka Larimore-Hall was active in the UAW Local 2865 for over 10 years.  He first got involved through the sociology department and became the head steward for the Santa Barbara campus, then the campus unit chair.  He was then elected to the executive board of the UAW and briefly served as the UAW president before being voted out in an internal election.  Though he continued his membership with the UAW, his leadership role within the organization ended in 2011 following the overwhelming election of AWDU members into power.  In this interview, he sheds light on his interest in the UAW, his perspective of the organization, and his experience during the internal election process.  Larimore-Hall was interviewed by Frances Woo via Zoom.

Transcript

Ok. And then so to start off, I was just curious what initially drew you to the grad student movement.

Well, I’m very pro union in terms of my politics. And so as soon as I became a grad student, it’s clear soon as I was on campus site and sought the union out and joined and wanted to know how I can get involved, ’cause I think it’s politically and practically a really important thing to join and get involved with your union, whatever the workplace is.

Were you aware of them as an undergraduate student?

Yeah. I mean, I didn’t do my undergrad at UCSB.  I did it in Chicago, but, you know, the. But I was around in. So I grew up in Santa Barbara. I used to work for DSA along many, many years ago for the Democratic Socialist Movement. And so back in the late 90s, early 2000s, when the strikes and fights for recognition for the union’s recognition were happening, I happened to be back in the Santa Barbara and talked with some of the media. So I’d been aware of the struggle. It certainly was like a thing that was written about in progressive magazines and newspapers and so forth. So it’s something I’d been following and supportive of. And so I was excited to be able to be involved with it after it was established when I actually got to grad school.

Ok. What kind of progressive magazines and newspapers was it like, campus specifically? Or just like Santa Barbara in general?

No, neither. I mean, because it was a nationwide phenomenon, right, of this category of workers starting to organize again, I should say, in the 90s, because I don’t know how much of this you’ve been uncovered in your research, but, you know, there was there’ve been different waves of graduate student organizing going back to the, to the 30s at Berkeley.

Mm hmm.

So back then, the CIO days. And then another wave, like in the 60s, and at one point, there was a local union representing graduate employees. But just at Berkeley. So it was a long, it was a long struggle that a bunch of different steps to it and the kind of, like, big event, at least for the UC, right, was that recognition in 2000, or around 2000. And that’s where the union they, this was the largest group of academic student employees now represented by a union. It was you know, it’s the UC, the flagship public university system in the country, so it’s a really big deal. But it had been a long time coming, and so generations of graduate student employees had, and I still see this come up in left circles where people are like, oh, yeah, I was fighting that back when I was in graduate school in the 70s, but yeah, so. So I was aware of it. And so, you know, you could read about it in the Nation and in These Times. So certainly if you did like, less Lexis Nexis search that you can get a lot of stuff. And then there’s one of the organizers, UAW organizers when I was there, Ricardo Ochoa, who’s now a labor attorney. He, he wrote a piece for like the Public Employee, Public Employment Law Journal for California. And a very like a very academic law journal, I think it was. But he wrote a piece that’s like a whole chronological history of organizing at the UC that will give you a timeframe of like when the first locals were organized, when, when the affiliate-, exactly when the affiliation with the UAW happened, because I’m a little shaky on the dates. But all of that is obviously very accessible. And that’ll give a little bit of a counterbalance to like the academic articles that the dissident groups in the union have published over the years. Sullivan published in Santa Barbara. There was a people at Santa Cruz. And so forth.

And are those publications…So how exactly do those publications differ from Ricardo’s?

Oh, no, it’s just, it’s more so, like mand-, as you were alert-, alluding to, right, there’s always been like different philosophical strains in union, and like, one of the things that’s been a hallmark of the, like, self, self-proclaimed leftist radicals in the union is that, you know, they like to write academic theoretical articles about the union. So there’s like a paper trail of like that kind of thinking in the union, critical of the UAW, critical of collective bargaining, critical of, you know, mainstream political work, all of that. So, so there’s just been a bunch of those articles written in academic journals or left publications like, political publications; far fewer things published from the more, you say, institutional factions in the union. Because personally, I was, when I was a union leader, I was always very careful with what I would say about the union or write about the union. And I certainly wouldn’t didn’t even though I had my own critiques and my own thoughts, like my instinct or my my feeling was that that was best. Like talked about within the union. Let’s talk about it, work it out, you know, deal with it. Not like I’m gonna write an academic article and seem really smart about sh**ting on my own union. So that was always like a cultural difference between the two tendencies.

Yeah. Yeah. I’ll definitely look into that paper trail, because that’d be really a great resource to have.

Yeah, it’ll be good for underpinning if you do other interviews and stuff like underpinning things with the facts. Yeah. And let me know you can keep me up on Facebook Messenger. Whatever. Let me know if you’re having trouble finding them. I’ll help you find them. They’re all, they’re all going to be easy for you to track down with with your library access.

Okay. Yeah. Perfect. Thank you. And so can you just tell me a little bit more about, like, what your role was within the UAW, and like how long you served?

Sure. So I was active for over 10 years. So it was like, pretty much my entire grad school time, which was, you know, little on the long side, not unrelated to me spending a lot of time on the union and other and other political things. But yeah. So I got involved my first year in the sociology department and became a head steward for the campus. And then I was the campus unit chair, so like the lead steward on the campus, then was elected, some to the, to the like, the state board, executive board, and eventually was vice president, and then very briefly served as president before, like we were all wiped out in an election, like all of my generation of leaders in a really gross, like contentious election that taught me a lot about like some of the bad tendencies on the political left.

Yeah. Yeah. So that was another thing I was going to ask about, like the rift between like and I think it was USEG and AWDU, are there political caucuses that I can across. Yeah. So what was that kind of like, election process for you from your side of things?

Yeah. Well, I mean, so there had been pretty much the whole time that I was involved, there had been a kind of, like I said, a kind of informal political division that people, it wasn’t like hard factions, but at certain times it would kind of solidify into factions over particular issues, but it would flare up over a lot of symbolic stuff as well as programmatic things. But I’d say that the core difference was the, the institutional side or my faction or what we eventually called ourselves, USEG, though that was just really for that election. You know, we were very focused on the nuts and bolts of power in regards to the university. So very focused on staying at majority membership, which, for this bargaining unit, right, which has tremendous turnover just by nature of the work, was constant work. I mean, it was like as an officer, I was expected as a statewide officer, I was expected to spend over 20 hours a week on the ground signing up new members. And so when we would recruit new vol-, like new activists, we’d be like, OK, yeah, you want to talk politics and talk about the labor movement and how it’s going to change society. That’s awesome. But we also have to go and go to the chemistry department and physics department and earth sciences and chemistry and talk to people who are not radical about why they should join the union.  And that was hard, exhausting work. And on the other hand, you had people who were like, I want to be in the union movement because I’m a socialist and I’m a radical and f*** capitalism and I get to be in the trade union, which is awe-, great, like that’s fantastic. That’s why a graduate student from sociology or English or something might – and not to stereotype there were radicals in sciences, too, but fewer of them – but anyway, that’s a motivation they had for coming into the movement. But like there was, there was, there were real bureaucratic realities about how power relation works between teaching assistants and the university. And we just really emphasized that. So there would be flare ups about contract negotiations where, for example, they would always want to just like, come up with the perfect contract. Hold out for the most perfect language in the contract, and our thing would be more…let’s, let’s really concentrate on the things that are about union security and dispute mechanisms and grievance handling procedures, stuff that seems boring and bureaucratic. Because if you’re actively out in the departments, talking to the workers and filing those grievances, that’s how you build up a case in the next round of negotiations to like win more rights, or win more benefits, right, you can come in and say, now, we want really strict regulations on workload because, look, for the last two years of our contract, we filed 400 workload violation grievances, right. So it was like, always like our way of going about things was like building systematically and very much about “stay at majority”, and so forth. The other thing that we concentrated a lot on, my, my generation in the union, was always looking for new groups of workers to organize, so never being satisfied with like “OK, we’ve got the grad students”. We were always out looking to expand. So I was an active, like an organizer’s, temporary organizer on the campaign to organize the postdocs at the UC, which was successful. So we, we, and then like people that were a little bit before my time in the union, had done all the heavy lifting for organizing the union for, for teaching assistants at the CSUs, which was huge. So here we were like doubling and tripling the number of academic student workers organized. So we weren’t, it wasn’t our biggest priority to like have the kinds of like meetings and program that a radical sociologists would be the most interested in week to week. And like, if I had it to do over and looking back, we should have just should have been more flexible about this, given people. Let people start their committee on radical transformation of consciousness. Fine. You know, like one big fight we had internally was, I was, the you know, the left always really wanted a newsletter.  They wanted to write articles and it’s the left, they liked to think and blah, blah, blah.  So and like our reps are organizing reps from UAW were like very against that. They’re like “it’s a giant time sink; it’s not organizing anybody new; it’s not realigning power with university. It’s just like people spouting off”. But I saw that it was just like a really important thing to certain kinds of activists and they really wanted like a newsletter for people to read in their department. I mean, there were reasons for it. They wanted it. And it just seemed to me like an easy compromise to make, but we didn’t, and that became another like line in the sand that was like, “they won’t even let us have a newsletter”, and so forth. So this, it kind of came to a head in the contract negotiations. It was like the last set of contract negotiations in my tenure. We, and that was like we really definitely had like two blocks on the bargaining team and we –

What do you mean by blocks? Sorry.

Two factions, two groups, like these debates and these arguments that had been more informal and like I said, people kind of moving back and forth. As we started the bargaining process, they, people kind of chose sides. And, and so basically, we we we we came up with a contract or like we agreed to a draft contract to the university.  It was, in our mind, a very good contract, especially for, it was in the middle of the recession. Every other union in every other union in the UC system had given concessions of some kind. We had no concessions. We had wage increases. We had increases in rights. We had a family benefit, like a paid family leave and paid child care benefits for the first time ever in anybody’s contract like this. So we were really excited about it. But the radical side was like, we should have stayed out, gone on strike, gotten more, gotten an even more perfect contract. And we were like, this is a great contract for us to build on. It’s only two years. Let’s like file a ton of grievances, get to 70 percent membership, scare the f*** out of the university, and then we can, like, go at it again. But so they they actually started, this is was the birth of AWDU as a statewide thing, was to start a campaign to vote down the proposed contract. And so we really, so it was like the two factions went head to head in the election of whether to ratify this draft contract. And we won; the, the contract was ratified. But that, like, solidified AWDU as a group. So they started more and more campaigning. Then, the next year, Occupy happens, the Occupy Wall Street, Occupy L.A., Occupy campuses, occupy everything. And there was this huge, sort of swelling on campus of activism aimed at, you know, the budget cuts and fee increases and was very radical and, and then Occupy was happening and people were like coming up with these theories that if we Sit-In in this park for years, we’ll win, we’ll beat capitalism or something. And there was also this real ethos in Occupy that it was like, and this is like typical of what happens in the second term of a moderate Democrat president, right, is that the left is like, f***, we put up with all these compromises and sh** like f*** this, you know, f*** the Democrats. So so the AWDU campaigned on like, they get, like we could get better contracts by, like, being more militant and going on strike. This leadership works with the Democratic Party. And look, the President Daraka, he’s even an officer in the Democratic Party. That’s horrible. Like the Democratic Party hates workers, Occupy, militancy, blah, blah. And they just like went around, told everybody this. We were just so unprepared for, like, their use of social media, their, and really unprepared for, like, their dirtbag tactics. Like we didn’t expect them to do certain things that they did, like follow us around, our people around holding signs with completely made up salaries on them, saying that we made a hundred thousand dollars a year, ninety thousand dollars a year working for the union, and we were bureaucrats and all the sh**. I mean, like following us around with us, we were like, we are your fellow f***ing grad student – like why are you doing this? This is gr-, so and part of it was that a bunch of, not a bunch, but a few of the leaders of AWDU had gone into graduate school from the labor movement where they had been involved in some of the most vicious internal union versus union battles in the health care sector. So NUHW versus UHW. And that those battles were like, just vicious. I mean, they, doxing, name calling, calling management on each other, like just every dirty, dirty business fighting over who was going to control these contracts in the health care sector. So so, you know, these people had, like, learned how to do intra, like, intra-union battles that way. So they started Web sites where they were like photo shopping, our faces onto like Ho Chi Minh and Stalin and sh** and just gross, very personal attacks. And it won, and I learned, you know, like going up to UC Davis, where I’d spent a lot of time as a vice president of the union, going up there, filing lots of grievances, worked really hard on this grievance in the Spanish department where we won like every T.A. in the Spanish department thousands of dollars because there had been a systematic like breaking of the rules, and we went all the way to arbitration and it was like, I was a graduate student flying up to Davis, going through arbitration to win my fellow workers this money and all this stuff. And then I was going up there during the campaign and the and it was just like, the Spanish department all voted against us because they had a leader in, there was like a AWDU person there who went around with just the easiest narrative to say – “You know, how unions are corrupt and they always just support the Democrats. Well, we want a different kind of union. We want to be militant and radical and be like occupy and get rid of those bureaucrats.” People will like sure. Bam. It was like playing into all the anti-union stereotypes that there are out there in the general public and everything. It was really soul crushing. And it took me quite a while to recover from it, like sort of emotionally and psychologically. I mean, the upside personally was like, then I was out of the union and so I just went, concentrated on my my dissertation and actually finished it and graduated. So that was good, but it really sucked. I mean, it really was like, man, we are on the same side. We might have some differences in strategy and so forth that you just you took it to eleven, for no reason.

Yeah. Yeah, wow, I didn’t, yeah, I didn’t know how deep seated like the rift really was. But yeah, it must have been like a lot to go through.

It was among the elites, among us, the, among the leadership. It was really, really deep seeded, I think, among the membership. It wasn’t so much lamented. The membership was like… You know, I mean, one thing I learned in organizing in academia, right, is like the sociology of the department is so important. And there are certain people, graduate students in any department who are seen as leaders and other people who are not seen as leaders and kind of not respected, and so if one of the respected graduate students is like the union is good, it’s very helpful. Lots of people sign up. They’ll be like, this is a normal thing. This is what you do. If that person is like we do things differently in our department and we don’t need the union or the union’s not radical enough or whatever, that just like that becomes the conventional wisdom.

So would you say that like because there are so many different directions within the elites, it kind of like, pulled a lot of grad students in different directions?

Well, for sure. I mean, I think what happens afterwards and you can talk to people get their side of it, but from some sort of outside and talking to people who are still on staff, like what happened was the union became a radical activist left organization very quickly. So like right away, they started this thing of becoming pro BDS…right, and so and they took that vote to the membership. So the membership voted on whether to endorse BDS And you had all of these Jewish graduate students or other graduate students who were, you know, with particular ties to or sentiments about Israel being like, why is my union taking up this issue, like I’m for my union, I want better wages and working conditions in my, but like, why are we talking about Israel Palestine? So a bunch of people left the union because it won, of course, because the turnout was highest in the radical departments. And so, you know, the union became, so the union for teaching assistants and readers and tutors at UC, you know, gave its thumbs up to BDS, lost a bunch of members; Palestine didn’t get free. I mean, it was just, so so there was, things like that. And then it was just was like, “we’re radical; we’re left; we’re” so forth. So membership just went down. They stopped, the, like treadmill, tough program of organizing that we had just. That was brutal. I, and we probably could have done a better job of kind of working with, like working people into it, but like, but membership went into the toilet. And so then they had that like a long contract fight, like went to impasse, stayed out, went on strike, got a good a good contract as far as the contract itself. But they’ve gone so long without a contract that the wage increases that they got for the contract actually were less than what they lost by working with without the contract. So. But you really got the point that it wasn’t about that. It was about, we want to be in a union that’s on strike and that is militant. It’s like, for some people that’s awesome, and that’s what they want out of their union. But for most of the membership, you have to convince them to join the union because they’ve grown up in a viciously anti-union culture in the United States. And so getting that pr-, I would rather have 80 percent of the graduate students or teaching assistants, I should say, because it’s also undergraduates, readers, tutors…I’d rather have 80 percent membership of the people that the union represents than have 30 percent membership of the most militant, coolest, most down Marxists, bad asses. And that was to me what the, the split came down to. And so, so membership has been in the, in the f***ing garbage can for years now. And I think that my sense is that the newest group of statewide leaders have recognized that, or are trying to turn it around. I’ve had a couple of conversations with a couple of them. They seem like they’re trying to get things going. But there’s there’s like this, by the way, to sound like old guy talking to a young activist. This is like an iron law on the left, I think right, is like splits. So AWDU split, right? And there was like people that… So right away after they took power, they purged some people. And then there were splits. And so there’s like no AWDU any more, I don’t think there’s a new thing. But anyway, it’s like inevitable, of course, because once you, once you when your politics become how, how do we be the most radical and most left, like that is a unwinnable game. Someone can always be more radical. So the, yeah, it was, my understanding is that in terms of power, visa v. the university, the union went downhill and that was, that was our number one priority.

When things started kind of, like breaking up and like splitting up within the party, was there, because I know that a lot of their tactics were like spreading all these rumors and like information about members like elite members in the UAW. So was there ever like an effort on that side of things to try to explain kind of the process, or like the reasoning behind everything? Or like transparency?

Yeah, we, we f***ed up on that. I mean, that was like, we learned  too late the power of the email and social media, not that we didn’t know those things, but in terms of this election. We really thought that our very old fashioned, which I think in general is the best way to build that union, of going face to face, talking to people, was the most important-, was like the thing. So we just did a program of just having people out talking to people while they were just spamming and putting up, and like doing these blogs, like sh**ty attacking us blogs and so forth. And you just and we were like, that’s all lies. We don’t even, we’re not going to respond; we’re certainly not going to hit back. The other thing was that this was like a political question about constituencies. Their base constituencies were the social sciences and humanities in Northern California and the Northern California campuses and a little bit in some of the Southern California campuses. So at our bases of support, we’re like more in Southern California and like the not social science departments. But those members were not, they didn’t give a f*** about this internal thing, right, I mean, like, that was the thing was our base was not engaged and we didn’t do a good job of like we should have just gotten dirty and scared them. We should have played the other side honestly, gone to the, gone to the, to our base of members have been like these people, you will be asked to vote on BDS, if they win. They will turn the union into an activist, a small elite activist group, not a trade union. We should just f***ing hit them hard on that. We were way too like we’re just going to run on our record. You know, really trying to cover our left flank by talking about our our progressive politics, our radical politics. It didn’t work at all like, it was, maybe it was unwinnable because of the whole Occupy feeling. But we definitely did not run the campaign that we needed too. Looking back.

Yeah, I mean, it’s understandable too, considering how unprecedented it was.

Exactly. I mean, it was kind of like dealing with Trump. But, you know, we didn’t I mean, Hillary Clinton campaign was garbage. And I think she should, you know, like, hold her head in shame for the rest of your life because of that, but at the same time, nobody had a playbook for how to beat a Donald Trump. How do you, when somebody is just like, I’m just going to double down on being a dirtbag?

Yeah. Yeah.  And also, I just want to go back a little bit, too, in terms of my contract negotiations. So from like another interviewee’s perspective, they said that the UAW had like this saying that “Our power is at its greatest the day before the contract expires”. Can you explain a little bit more about what exactly that statement means?

That’s definitely a, was a tactical difference, and like a legitimate tactical difference of opinion, but yes. So the people who trained us, who had come out of the original fight, the original recognition fight, so, so this was another thing that was really annoying is that we’d actually built a culture in the academic student employees on the West Coast of taking people that came up in the rank and file and, and hire, and getting them hired as UAW international staff. So we were like running, so we all knew each other; we, we’d come out of the same kind of work. We had a similar kind of perspective, and so that’s why when, you know, when they were organizing in Washington, at University of Washington, we sent people up there to help them organize. They sent people down to help us organize CSU. We all worked together to organize the postdocs. We started to organize postdocs up in Washington, too. It was like, and it was very much like a program, a project of being like, if we build enough of these kinds of locals, we could take over the UAW region for the actual, for the whole UAW. And like build, and then even not be just organizing academic student employees. Let’s get in there and start organizing in aerospace and manufacturing and all the areas that the UAW like naturally represents but haven’t been organized. So but like, we weren’t gonna self marginalize within the UAW. And this is union politics 101. If you’ve got a plan in the union, you don’t go to the leaders and say, our plan is to keep building power and get rid of you and change the union. That’s stupid. You put a target on your back, they take you out or marginalize you. So we weren’t like publicizing on our website, “join us. We’re going to change the UAW; we’re, we’re like in conflict with the bad forces in the UAW”. That, that would’ve been stupid. So but like the our, the dissidents, the AWDU types, you know, they were like reading labor notes and all these books critical of the UAW leadership and thought the UAW leadership were all garbage. So they’re like, we should say that as a local. And so because we wouldn’t say that then they were just like, you’re just like them, we’re like this, that’s that’s little kid politics to be like, just say your piece. Like, look, strategic politics is, you know, build, build your, build your, your, your forces till you can win. Anyway, but that comes down, that, that plays down to how the international union was portrayed in our faction fight. So, yes, our international reps are the people who worked for the International Union, for UAW, but who worked to service our local had come out of this, they were former graduate students who’d come out of this struggle, who were big in the, the recognition fight, the original strikes, all of that, so, and what they had learned from being trained as a UAW organizer and negotiator is the UAW’s a playbook for negotiation, and it very much is, is on, is two things. One is, you know, really use the contract expiration date as, for leverage. And be like, and like build, build up so that you have a really credible strike threat, and the university knows you could do a really big strike and really hurt them, all the way up to that point, and then get the best deal you can at that point. And part of that is like building up, so second big thing, and this is a very public sector thing. This wouldn’t have, this wouldn’t work for GM, but for the public sector in California, it works that, that we were filing grievances, un-, unfair labor practice grievances all during the negotiating period to, because that’s the only legal way that you can go on strike while the contract is still in effect. So we, it’s like, you played soccer? 

Mm hm.

So, you know, how, like in good, aggressive, fast paced soccer offense, right? You, you want to, you just like really keeping the ball on the other side, on your opponent’s side as much as possible. And you move your halfbacks up and you move your fullbacks up, right, to keep it on the other side. And part of that is like, so you have scoring opportunities, but part of it is, what happens when the other team makes a fast break. They’re very likely to get offsides and then stop the game, right. So it’s a, it’s a catching them off offsides strategy. So we would do all these things to catch the university in breaking bargaining laws so we could file unfair labor practice grievances and then we could strike legally. And that was like, again, to show the force. So, yes, it was all like, build up the strike threat. Get the best deal that they can. And their argument, their philosophy was let the contract expire. Take a really long time. Build up a strike. Go on strike for a really long time. Get a bigger, get better contract and, and I just don’t think that’s true. I think it’s, that, that there’s a lot of wisdom in the idea that, like, the thing about a strike is its threat and that once you actually do it, you’ve sort of played those cards. The university knows how much real support the strike has, and then you’re in an attrition game. And, you know, like, it’s not that hard to break a strike by people who make very little money, whose supervisors decide over their entire academic future, who, you know, all those reasons, it’s, it’s pretty easy to get people to cross the picket line, unfortunately. So, so that was, yeah, that’s a tactical difference, but they made it sound as if there’s like a call from Detroit, from the head office to our bargaining leaders being like, you have to bargain this way, you know? And that wasn’t the case. Then the other like, hundred pound gorilla in the room right now, you know, from where we sit today is that the leaders of the UAW for our region, like so the people that I had to deal with in the International, like literally those people are going to jail right now.

Oh, for what?

Like, like f***ing the most egregious, like just corruption, greed, stealing from the union, like, the guy who was the deputy regional director. So, you know, UAW has these regions that are very powerful in the union, like in terms of the structure. So like the guy who was the number two guy in that region when I was active eventually became president of the UAW, which when I saw that happen, I was like, that’s not good, because it’s like the you know, it’s like the D-team, you know like, it wasn’t the B-team or the C-team of the leadership. It was like, oh, my God. So, yeah, Gary Jones. So he’s going to jail, and the thing was like, we knew they were terrible. We knew they were awful, and we never, but we also knew that the way the labor movement worked was you, if you have a fight, you have to g-, you have to win, or you die. It’s Game of Thrones, basically. So, so we just sort of like, you know, go along to get along, didn’t do them any favors or anything, but like, didn’t challenge them. So, but like, it wasn’t that hard if you were an AWDU activist to, like, see who these people were, see that we weren’t fighting them. Find pictures of us together at conferences and be like, look, they’re all the same. So they were able to paint us as, like an, like an example of bad, corrupt union leadership when it, when the fact was, like we were very aware of what was going on and how terrible they were and wanted to get rid of them, but we knew that to, you don’t get rid of them with a blog post. So that was the difference.

And also, I know you touched on this a little bit earlier, so when you were coming up in the organization, you kind of mentioned how there were like trainings with the people involved? So can you explain a little bit more about that process, and like the overall culture of people, like before AWDU and all that?

Right. So our culture was that we, if you were an officer of any kind, so a steward, the head steward, campus unit chair or secretary or whatever, or on the executive board, so a statewide officer that you were expected to go out and sign up members for hours a week. And it was like, you had, if you were paid, if you were in one of the paid positions, then it was like 60 percent of your time. If you were unpaid, it was still like our, our kind of like goal was like if you were a steward, you do six hours a week. If you were head steward you’d do ten hours, maybe a little off on those numbers, but there was, you know, that was the goal and the expectation. And that’s a lot. And it’s totally hard work. It’s not fun. It’s not like sitting in a meeting of people who all already agree. It’s having to have frustrating conversations with people making dumb reasons for not joining the union and, and having to like, play along, not just beat them in the argument because if you don’t get their card, you don’t get them to join if you just beat them in the argument. That’s, you know, it’s just like electoral organizing, lots of different kinds of organizing where, like you can, you can prove that the other person is wrong, but you didn’t get them to come over and vote for your guy, so it didn’t, it’s just waste time. So, anyway, so the culture was like, in that sense, kind of militaristic with a very clear hierarchy and a very clear set of responsibilities, and I think that was, it was the problem. I think the culture was too militaristic, but it came out of, it was developed by people who had come out of this existential fight for recognition. They knew what the university was capable of. They knew that the university was capable of, like manipulating GSA, or grad, or like dissident groups in the union and so forth to destroy our bargaining power. So it was a kind of tough, very tough minded approach, but anyway, but the culture was like, if you just, if you wanted to be a, get involved in the union, like, then, a more experienced organizer would meet up with you and go around with you in your department or somewhere and sign up members, and that was your first introduction. It was not a meeting. It was not like a PowerPoint about the labor movement. It was like, let’s go sign up people for the union. So, and then it was like, the trainings that we would have would be about how to better sign people up or how to do this, how to, and then, of course, like all the, and then grievance handling was a really big deal. So, you know, it’s, the union is responsible for representing anyone in the bargaining unit, so even nonmembers. You don’t have to be a member representing them in any kind of dispute with their supervisors. So that was a big part of who was handling grievances. And then we saw grievances, as, you know, not like a bureaucratic silly thing, but it’s like a, like a place where militancy and organizing could happen, because ult-, so here is another division that I found really interesting that would come up all the time, was like, and when it came to grievances, in a, in any grievance procedure, the grievance, the person making filing a grievance has to put their name on it, has to file it, has to be there. The union is just a platform, like it provides somebody there with you to give you advice, to speak on your behalf. It helps you fill out the paperwork, all of that. But like the worker has to stand up for themselves. And they always, the other AWDU always wanted to put things in the contract that would like not require a grievant to do that. So they’d be fixed, sort of magically and bureaucratically, that someone could go and say, “I have a workload problem”, and not have to confront their f****ing professor or supervisor. And it would just be fixed by the union behind the scenes, and that’s, what? You’re the militant radicals, but you want to protect people from having to, like, look their boss in the eye and saying there’s problem? Like, what is this? And it was really clear to us that it was like, these are all people who are best friends with their Marxist scholar advisors, and like, they don’t want to have to have those uncomfortable conversations, you know, and like whereas, like our rank and file, our, like the bulk of our members, were like, not the academic rock stars that were like kissing everybody’s ass. So our view was much more that they were workers. And in this scenario, they’re workers talking to their boss as equals. It’s not personal. It’s not because they hate their boss. It’s not an emotional thing. It’s just, there’s a violation of the contract and we’re going to fix it. So, so gri-, so training people to go out and aggressively find grievances, talk to people, ask people the right kinds of questions to find out if there is a grievance, and also convince people to take the action and file the grievance. That was a big part of the skill set that we tried to get our leaders.

Mm hmm. Would you say there was a lot of, like, mentorship, like when you would have, like an experienced person going around with an inexperienced person?

Yeah, it was pretty, it was programs. I mean, it was like, an intentional thing. People would be assigned to work with new people.

Did you see, like, a breakdown in this, like, sort of community structure once like people started, like, getting solidified in their own factions?

Well, yeah. I mean, basically from the contract, you know, the big fight that we had over ratifying the contract, to the leadership elections where we got smoked, like that period of time, we didn’t, the program was done because everything was factional. So everything we did, they were counter organizing. Everything was like, you know, it was all through that prism. It sucked. So from, basically our, that old really like organizing focused, professionalized, militarized kind of, discipline was already breaking down and it was just becoming a big, just the internal fight. And then by the time, like I remember talking to people like a year or two after, and it was like, even some ba-, like, people hadn’t heard of our database. And I was like, well, it’s in the database, right? And they’re like database, what? And I’m like, don’t you have it on your walk sheets? And they’re like, what are walk sheets? So, we spent a bunch of resources creating this database and of course, fighting with the university to get the membership, you know, correctly and in the right format, get the list of workers, but basically, we have this database so that, you know, every quarter, the list of workers pops into our database, it matches up the people that are already members, highlights the people that are not, and then, there’s a, you know, all these interfaces for organizers to go and find information about where those workers are, where their offices, or their office hours, if they have them, when their section times are, put it in there, and then you could print out a list for your day. And it was like, you know, Frances Woo is holding office hours at, you know, in the grad tower at 10:00 a.m., and then Daraka gets, finishes his section, his discussion section in music at blah, blah. And so you’re, you just go down and have those conversations and talk to those people, right, so it was like, and then put in what the response was and everything so that your supervisor in the union, like your head, your lead, could look at that and see how you do, but that, so it was disciplined. There was accountability. You could be fired if you weren’t doing it right. All of those things. AWDU people wanted none of that kind of sh**, like any kind of like oversight and discipline was, you know, bureaucratic and reactionary and authoritarian. And I don’t think they used that database ever. They really went to a model of, it was like, have department meetings, get meetings together, meetings, meetings, meetings in departments, have people sit and talk. And it was like, yeah. One of the things I’ve learned in the left is there’s too many f****ing meetings and we fetishize them.

And so after the AWDU elections happened, how long do you stay on with the UAW? Were you still a part of-

Oh, no. I was out. I mean, my, I was, yeah. I mean, I, I paid my dues. I was a member, but until I finished, until I graduated, but the, but in terms of leadership, I didn’t have any position.

Did you see any. I mean, besides them, like not using the database and like not having the same sort of like organized, like going out and talking to the people and things like that, did you see them implement any new kind of like guidelines for members or like what was, what did they do sort of as they took over, aside from just like-

What I saw, yeah, the things I saw were, so there was the BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sactions) thing. There was the creation of a bunch of committees like the Social Justice Committee or like anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-oppression, that’s what they called, anti-oppression committee, yeah, a lot of committees, which is fine. And again, I, I’m self-critical looking back that we didn’t provide nearly enough space for people to do just kind of creative political things, and we made that too much of a zero sum with the organization. We should have said, yes, go do those things, but you have to work. So that was a mistake. And then, but, but it seemed like it just was all that, was just all meetings, issues not related to bargaining. And then the other thing that they did right was, which was good, like in the next bargaining camp-, campaign with the next contract negotiations, right, they really emphasized like trans rights and bathroom access, justice and things like that. And that is, the way that they emphasized it in the bargaining campaign was different than we would have for sure because we wouldn’t have, yeah, it was weird how they kind of signaled to the university that that was the number one priority when the university wasn’t really that opposed to it. So it was, I, the way they leveraged it seemed, seemed like it was very much about the internal politics of wanting to signal that certain issues were important to the union, but that was more about their own internal audience.

Interesting. OK. So I think those are a majority of my questions. What, in your opinion, was the strongest action taken by the UAW in the fight for grad students’ rights overall?

Well, I mean, I really feel like the most fundamental victory is just the existence of the union itself, and the fact that there’s some, something intervened to, to make rational and legal and, and visible, like, this power relationship between academic student employees and the university. And if you, I mean I think the, just you just talk to anybody who was in graduate school before unionization and, or talk to people that are in graduate school in unio-, in places without a union, you just, you know, the, the, the abuse is incredible. And the, you know, go get my dry cleaning, you know, go-, they become like little peons and serfs for their, their professor masters, and that’s like not right. So just being able to bargain over working conditions, being able to talk about working conditions as working conditions and not just the lumps you take to become an academic and the dues you take to be a good scholar, but you’d say, like no, this is exploitation. You’re exploiting my labor and treating it terribly. So just that fundamental change in the relationship, I think is the most important thing.

Yeah, changing the narrative, yeah.

Yeah.

And also, what is your opinion on the current COLA movements that are happening right now?

You know, I don’t have a strong opinion about it. It’s it’s confusing and concerning to me in that, like, it seems like another wave, like the current leadership is being flanked by the left and attacked. And so, you know, my immediate-, having my trauma and my experience, my immediate sympathy is with the leadership of the union. Like, I don’t, I just don’t understand. I’ve been meaning to, like, talk to people that are closer to it and get a…but here’s what I think is weird. I think that it’s weird that the smallest campus took unilateral action and was like negotiating on its own, which like totally undermines all the other campuses. I think that doing it outside of the union process instead of, hey, let’s build for a COLA for everyone in the next round of negotiations is pretty telling, and a problem. Also, I don’t think those people should be fired, obviously, and also I think that people should get raises. I mean, it’s like absurd. I know full, you know, very well how low the wages are. But, like, I-, why not go, like, build the union and do it through the union? This, like the, the instinct, and the fact that it came from Santa Cruz, which has always had this toxic leftish, leftier than thou culture, like, made me skeptical. But again, I’m, I haven’t drilled down. I could be totally off base.

Yeah. And I was also wondering if you had any access to the previous UAW contracts, like the-

Well, that’s a good question. I mean, there do you, are they not on the web? Well, I guess they wouldn’t put the old ones on the website.

Yeah. It’s only the twenty eighteen to twenty twenty two up there right now.

Have you asked the union?

Yeah, and, well one of them-, they put me in contact with you, and then several other people- 

Who at the union put you put you in contact with me?

I think it was ** Yeah. He just let me know that you would have a lot more information like-

I don’t think I know that person. But anyway.

But the other people that I’ve contacted, only a couple of gotten back to me and they said that they don’t have access, or like they can’t locate all the old ones.

So the people that you should talk to to try to locate them, I mean, they’re definitely at the, the statewide office, like, for sure. So you could be a little more aggressive with them and just be like, hey, I’m just looking for old copies. I’ll reimburse you for, for postage or whatever. I just want old copies of the contract. They have them. They’re in a drawer there, a hundred percent. So, and then, why don’t you call…He will be very careful with what he says to you because he’s international staff. I’ll give you his email address so. So I think it’s ** He’s an international rep. And he knows where everything’s buried. Mm hmm. But like I said, you probably won’t want to talk on the record about his thoughts about these things. But if you have factual things, I’d like the contract. When was the first contract ratified? When did the U. All of those things we’ll be happy to answer and and point you in the right direction so you can tell him that I recommended him.

OK.

But all those things are public. So the contract is a public document because we’re public employees. You know, as part of the bargaining process, in fact, like there’s this thing you have to go through. It’s like a ceremony of sunshining, where like both sides have to come with their their proposals to a public place and sit there. So any member of the public can come and look at them because it’s tax dollars. It’s a public agency. So like they have the right to know. It’s weird, but you have, they, they shouldn’t be able to block you from it.

Ok. Perfect. So those were all of my questions. Was there anything else you’d like to add to the interview?

No. They were really good questions and sounds like you’re off to a good start in terms of piecing together the timeline. I’ll talk to a couple other people. I mean, I don’t know what your methodology is for finding interviews. If you’re using, like a snowball method and you want recommendations for me. I’m happy to talk to people and find out if it’s OK to share their contact with you and share it if you want.

Yeah, definitely. That be great.

OK, yeah. Because I’m still friends with a whole bunch of my cohort, of people, both from Santa Barbara and statewide.

Mm hmm. Yeah, that’d be great. Thank you so much.

OK. No problem.

And also, are you OK with going on record with things that were said during the interview?

Everything I said is on the record.

OK. OK. Perfect. All right. Well, have a great rest of your week, and thank you for meeting with me!

My pleasure. Stay safe.

You too.

**Name has been edited out for anonymity

TA Unionization

1990s


Achieving Unionization 

On June ninth of 1998, UCSB faculty received an email that their TAs, readers, and tutors would take part in a University of California system wide strike the following quarter. The UCSB Association of Student Employees, a graduate student union, had sent the email; while members had formed a state recognized union and had affiliated with the United Auto Workers (UAW), UC Regents still refused to recognize the collective bargaining rights of its members. But graduate students could no longer tolerate their working conditions; they were undervalued, underpaid, and overworked. So, graduate students across the UC system withdrew what power they had, their labor, in order to force recognition of their union. 

Teaching assistants’ efforts before the 90s to negotiate with the UC were largely unsuccessful because TAs were considered apprentices, not employees. Apprentices, under the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act (HEERA) of 1979 are students whose employment is related to their educational goals. This is significant because only employees were permitted to have collective bargaining rights. While graduate students challenged this legislation, the UC system spent millions of dollars in order to have the California Court of Appeals uphold the law. Even without the support of the UC, graduate students at UC Berkeley formed the Association of Graduate Student Employees (AGSE) in 1983. The AGSE later affiliated with the UAW in 1987 in order to expand its economic and organizational resources, and became the AGSE-UAW (the UAW at that point had expanded into nearly every sector of labor). However, it took UCSB until 1994 for graduate students to achieve the necessary 50% AGSE membership to be verified by California’s Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), a government agency that protects government workers’ rights. They quickly followed in UC Berkeley’s footsteps and created their own local chapter of the UAW for financial support and advising. Even with UAW affiliation and recognition by PERB, the UC Regents still refused to recognize the union. Finally, TAs across the UC system went on strike several times during the 1990s to demand that the UC regents recognize their union and give them a contract.

[Graduate Student Bill of Rights 1993, GSA, Box 2] University of California, Santa Barbara, Graduate Student Records. UArch 13. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Achieving Recognition 

1998 – Prepare to Launch

During spring quarter of 1998, graduate students authorized a strike for early December of the following school year. In order to demonstrate strong support, members of the AGSE-UAW campaigned to achieve high member turnout on the strike authorization vote. The union set a quorum to ensure that half of all members must be present for the vote to prove to the UC that it had a wide base of support. Leading members held meetings and conducted phone campaigns in order to encourage fellow graduate students to vote for the strike. In the end, 87% of union members (about 500 out of the 600 members who voted) decided to go on strike in order to force the UC system to recognize their union. Ricardo Ochoa, the President of the AGSE, declared in an email to UC faculty that the union had shown “great restraint” in their previous communications with the UC. The union met with chancellors, launched letter writing campaigns, and instigated two day “rolling strikes” in the 1996-1997 school year instead of a system wide shutdown like the one proposed for 1998. However, the UC refused to take action. 

The Big One

In fall quarter of 1998, graduate students on all eight campuses went on a “walkout” strike during finals week in order to force UC recognition of their union. Undergraduate support for the strike was surprising. In late November, the Daily Nexus issued a staff editorial in support of the strike, deeming it “justifiable” and calling on other undergrads to support the strike. The editorial stated that unionized graduate students would improve undergraduate students’ education by relieving stress for graduates and providing more enthusiastic TAs for sections. 

The following day, the Nexus published two letters calling on students to support the strike. One letter, written by the AGSE-UAW, powerfully stated that when TAs are “overworked,” undergrads are “undertaught,” and touted the strike’s endorsement by Associated Students. The letter concluded by encouraging readers to contact Chancellor Yang and tell him to avoid the strike by immediately recognizing the union. The other letter, written by sociology TA Glyn Hughes reiterated that the strike was for the betterment of both graduate and undergraduates, and encouraged students to contact the UC President, Richard Atkinson. 

Show Time

Beginning December 1, TAs at all UCs went on strike. The strike meant that participating union members would not grade papers or exams, or hold office hours or sections until the strike ended. Grad students picketed peacefully outside Davidson Library in order to draw undergraduate attention who they hoped would support their cause as an appreciation of the work TAs do for undergrads. However, administrators such as Vice Chancellor David Sheldon and many TAs believed the strike was disruptive and damaging to both graduate and undergraduate academics.

An “FAQ” sponsored by the UC in the December 3rd edition of the Daily Nexus offered the UC’s perspective on the issue. The Office of the Dean of the Graduate Division detailed the recently created Task Force on Graduate Student Support and the compensation packages of teaching assistants. The Dean maintained the position that TAs did not qualify as employees and that many of their complaints, such as compensation and workload, were either unjustified or able to be addressed through existing channels such as Graduate Advisors. Graduate student Mary Raven also said she did not support the strike in a letter to the Nexus editor because she also believed that issues could be handled through the chancellor and the Graduate Division.

(Webb, Dec. 1998, Daily Nexus)

After a week of gridlock, State Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa and Senate President Pro Tem John Burton directed the UC and the UAW into a 45 day “cooling off period,” which began December 7. However, the UAW had not informed strikers that it had met with state legislators or UC representatives, and grad students were surprised to hear that the strike was off. As a result, factions formed within the AGSE-UAW union itself as many grads tried to break from the UAW. Fault lines deepened after members learned they did not have the democratic rights outlined in the UAW constitution until they were recognized by the UC. Therefore, the UAW could control meetings with the UC to negotiate a contract. 

1999

Then, in March, the UC was forced to recognize the collective bargaining rights of graduate students. The need came after the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) reexamined the responsibilities of TAs in the perennial court case Regents of the University of California v. Association of Graduate Student Employees. PERB ruled that graduate students should be considered employees, not apprentices. Because not every graduate student became an educator, their work as TAs was often not related to their educational goals. Therefore, as employees, they were entitled to collective bargaining rights. 

However, the union still had to elect representation. PERB necessitated that each union needed leadership in order to negotiate a contract, but up to that point, leaders had been hand-picked by the UAW. Many TAs felt concerned about the influence of the UAW since the ASGE had affiliated with it and the lack of democracy that had been crucial to the grassroots efforts of the original ASGE. Nevertheless, in June, graduate students elected 184-134 (a low voter turnout), the UAW as their exclusive bargaining agent. The UAW soon held elections for the contract bargaining team: eight graduate students whose most electable qualities were that they were still willing to work with the UAW. However, these members resigned when the UAW moved to represent the whole UC system in contract negotiation and forced UCSB graduates into a “one size fits all” contract for all eight UCs; this included giving up the right to strike. There was no one left to work with the UAW at UCSB, but negotiations still continued without UCSB graduate representation. 

2000

That summer, the UAW combined all UC graduate student unions into Local 2865, which bargained on behalf of all the campuses. The union negotiated the historic first contract for graduate students, although to many it seemed a hollow victory. The contract had failed to secure increased health care benefits and only achieved a nominal pay raise, however, it had managed to secure a victory in binding arbitration and grievance. Additionally, graduate students who were not part of the union still had to pay about $13 per month in dues in order to negotiate and enforce contracts. However, this easy revenue stream also discouraged the UAW from responding to member grievances or from organizing workers. While the union was historic, UCSB graduate students became disillusioned with the UAW, and membership dropped to just 53 card carrying members by the following year. 

Graduate students still feel the effects of the historic contract, especially the clause that forbade strikes. In 2019, graduate students at UC Santa Cruz began a strike which cannot be authorized by the UAW because it breaches the contract. Because of this, UCSC cannot receive legal or financial support from the UAW International, even though the strike has led to the arrest of over a dozen graduate students. However, union membership to the UAW Local 2865 has increased significantly since 2000; today, roughly 60% of TAs at UCSB are members. The local UAW has been critical in networking and rallying support for graduate student issues such as the UC- wide movement for a Cost of Living Adjustment. 


By: Jillian Wertzberger

Works Cited 

[ASE/UAW Authorization Vote, Correspondence 1998-2001, Box 2] University of California, Santa Barbara, Graduate Student Records. UArch 13. Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Update on Graduate Strike at UC Berkeley. (1996, November 21). Retrieved February 18, 2020, from https://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/96legacy/agse.htmlold

Our History. (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2020, from https://uaw2865.org/about-our-union/our-history/

The Call for Unionization. (1998, November 24). Daily Nexus, p. 6. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/hq37vp893   

TA Strike Helps Undergrads. (1998, November 25). Daily Nexus, p. 4. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/9593tw35m

Hughes, G. (1998, November 25). Help with the Strike. Daily Nexus, p. 4. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/9593tw35m

Webb, K. (1998, December 3). TA Strike to Proceed Until Demands Are Met. Daily Nexus, pp. 1,9.  https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/z029p595f

Fletcher, R. (1998, December 3). TAing is Not a Required Position for Grads. Daily Nexus, p. 6. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/z029p595f

Raven, M. (1998, December 3). TA Strike Doesn’t Have Full Support. Daily Nexus, p. 7. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/z029p595f

Office of the Dean of the Graduate Division. (1998, December 3). Questions and Answers. Daily Nexus, p. 8. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/z029p595f

Shah, A. (1999, January 11). Ruling recognizes collective bargaining rights. Daily Bruin. https://dailybruin.com/1999/01/10/ruling-recognizes-collective-b/

Boyd, K. (1999, March 26). Grad Student Union Finally Busts UC. Science Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.sciencemag.org/careers/1999/03/grad-student-union-finally-busts-uc

Childress, E. (1999, January 6). TAs Halt Strike Early; Students Given Break. Daily Nexus, pp. 1,8. https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/7d278v07q

Sullivan, R. (n.d.). Pyrrhic Victory at UC Santa Barbara: The Struggle for Labor’s New Identity. In Cogs in the Classroom Factory (pp. 91–116). Wesport, Connecticut: Praeger. http://richardsullivan.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Sullivan-2003-Pyrrhic-Victory.pdf

Saltzman, G. M. (2000). Union Organizing and the Law: Part Time Faculty and Graduate Teaching Assistants. In NEA 2000 Almanac of Higher Education (pp. 43–55). http://www.nea.org/assets/img/PubAlmanac/ALM_00_05.pdf

Public Employment Relations Board, (1995, July 17), UC Regents v. Association of Graduate Students, UAW. https://perb.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/decisionbank/A269H.pdf

Public Employment Relations Board, (1998, December 11), UC Regents v. Association of Graduate Students, UAW.   https://perb.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/decisionbank/1301H.pdf

Douglas-Gabriel, D. (2020, February 14). Graduate Strike at UC Santa Cruz Leads to Arrests. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/02/14/graduate-strike-uc-santa-cruz-leads-arrests/%3foutputType=amp

 

Cindy Lopez

cindyl@as.ucsb.edu


“I am Cindy Lopez and for the last…well since 2006, I’ve been the assistant director for Budget & Finance.”


When did you first come to UCSB?

Sure, I came here in the year 2000, started in Late January of 2000 and I came into the AS Administration office, the same office but I started as just an administrative assistant and I would cut checks and just learned a little about Associated Students because I haven’t been at UCSB before.  Then in 2002, I went downstairs to the AS Ticket Office and that year we changed a lot stuff down there. They used to have a lot of all the notes and all the readers, sold in publications and then the Ticket Office only sold tickets. So what they did was combine everything else into the Cashier’s Office so that there was no money over there in the publications office because they do not have a secure room, so its not locked in the back. They were not supposed to have cash there. They were just adhering to University standards so they changed a lot of stuff. So I went down there to start running the ticket office and I did that for a few years and in early 2006, I came up here in the current position that I have.

Wonderful, that’s great! So you’ve been at UCSB for a while, what is your favorite aspect of UCSB?

I think being on a college campus because when I started here, my kids were in 9th and 10th grade, so I lived up in the Santa Ynez Valley, kind of in a small area not a lot of diversity or anything, so I came down here and I actually got an idea, first of all, of what college life is  because my kids were going to be going to college at some point and its been a long time since I’ve been in college. So, it’s kept me in touch with what college students are thinking because college students kind of get involved with everything that is going on in the world and its just a really great age because they leave home and then they come back and then they kind of devote their own ideas instead of growing up, or their parents ideas and its  an independent thing. I just being around college age students, I find. They keep me young, keep me interested…in world events, in national events, more so than if at home, taking kids to soccer practice or whatever you’re doing.

Same thing, I think that UCSB is a great campus for ideas and people just learning to be who they are.  I understand that you manage the finances and budgets for Associated Students, if you could maybe elaborate a little more about your job.

Alright, so basically, I do manage the budget, so that goes all the way from format. I help the students formulate the budget, Finance and Business committee in the Senate. They formulate the budget for the next Senate school year and to manage it, I have to make sure…we have so many different student fees and they all have to be kept separate. I have to make sure that they each have their own separate account and that they’re all the right charges go to the right account so keeping that sorted out making sure what’s allocated to each different area is put into the right accounts. Then the whole financial aspect of Ekta makes sure that everybody who’s spending money by using the requisitions for AS or following policy and making sure we have all the correct backup and we’re following AS policy and university policy. I also I have to bring the fees over from the university so when students pay they pay in the BARC office, so we have a university account all the money’s there so I’m in charge of keeping track of it bringing the money over into the our AS accounts because AS has our own bank accounts which is unusual on campus everyone else has to have all their money in the university accounts. so we manage our own which is very unusual for on campus, so I keep track of that.

Is there a reason why it’s a separate bank account rather than with the university?

We’re allowed to, so other departments would like to but they won’t let them because we’re student government in regental policy, we are  an exception, so we’re allowed to have some financial autonomy.


“Is there any message or anything that you would to send out to the students and UCSB?”


I understand that as students, we pay student fees and that it parts of it goes to different departments, but I know that you know a certain amount goes to AS, how do you think student fees have changed over the years: increase, decrease and just overall how they’ve changed over the years?

When I first started, I’m trying to think how much the student fees were they were $56 per student that was it, now they’re in the hundreds. I know we get 210 per student, but with the fact that return to aid and all the other fees on top I’m sure it’s 300 or 400 something per student, back then it was 56 so we got a lot less money, we had a lot fewer boards and committees we had a lot less going on, we had fewer staff, we were actually more in a financial bind where we had to be super careful about everything that was spent and students really didn’t get to do as much because we didn’t have the funds for it. Then it was still pretty tight and then in 2006, the students passed The Students Initiative in a special election that added a hundred dollars per student to the already $56, so it became one hundred and fifty six dollars that that came in, what that did is it increased our base fee so that’s the undesignated portion that comes in that amount has to pay for everything. In AS, that does not have a lock in. That initiative also increased a lot of the lock-ins. So they were getting more money to do more stuff and when we had a larger base fee we could pay for all of our budgets that didn’t have lock-ins much easier, we didn’t have to recharge the lock ins like we used to do just to have funds for our infrastructure, so that was a huge difference and all of a sudden we were flush with money, so when you have a lot of money you don’t quite know what to do with it right at first so it took a couple years to really grow into that and start using the money. That’s when the bottom line was formed that’s when SIRRC, Student Initiated Recruitment Retention Committee was formed and I’m probably leaving out a whole bunch more, but we started up the AS Media Center we took over those offices. When students had ideas and let’s do this, we had funds to develop new programs and then AS expanded, widely, quickly and then about 2008-2009 all of a sudden we started to feel a crunch because we started using all our funds and we felt  we didn’t have any money again because everybody got used to spending a lot of money on a lot of different things. We had students going to conferences which they hadn’t been able to do before, we had a newspaper, we had just so much more going on, so then little by little we’ve added a few more lock-ins, the Bottom Line, we added an AS Food Bank, that got a lock in, Worms got their own lock-in, the Compost area, Queer Commission got a lock-in. I know there’s more that I’m not thinking of but we added enough lock-in so that money was locked in, so now we are fairly flush with our budget now. I feel we have a lot of money but I know at some point we’ll expand our programs to where maybe we feel we won’t again.

So what types of organizations didn’t previously didn’t have a lock-in fee?

So Finance and Business Committee used to be called Finance Board, never had its own lock-in, so whatever was left over when we allocated all the money in the budget to everybody, whatever was left over, that was what they had to give out to student groups: all the OSL organizations. Some years, it was a lot. At some point, one year it was down to ten thousand dollars or something which isn’t very much money to give out for all the events that the students want to put on. So they got their own lock-in, so that they always had three to four hundred thousand dollars to give out to student groups. That was really big, it was really good for all of the OSL groups because they knew there would be money here if they came and asked for money for an event, that was really helpful. Again, Program Board has increased their lock-in so they can do more programming. They’ve started doing Halloween and Deltopia concerts during those times of the year to keep students out of IV, that was kind of requested by the Chancellor, so they started doing more. As I said, Worms, the Composting Program, USSA, so that’s a lobbying lock-in for students to lobby for what students all over the country need. Queer Commission, AS Food bank, CFF Community Financial Fund was a new lock in once we got the lock-in and then we had to create the program because it wasn’t really specified in the lock-in except that it was a community financial fund, so we created that program once the lock-in had passed and I know there’s some more, I think we did the bike circle over there by KCSB be that was a lock-in only for three years to fund that because it was a really dangerous area the way it was, there was a lot of bike accidents so AS funded the new circle that’s there, it’s much safer. A lot of groups have gotten increases, Legal Resource Center has gotten an increase, I can’t think of all the rest of them now I know there’s more, the Bottom Line they got their own lock-in after a while after they’ve been around for a while too.

I know you’ve been around UCSB for a while and you’ve seen a lot go on,  I’m wondering if you have any experience with student activism or what types of things have you seen in the past?

In fact, I remember Mahader, the very first year I was here, he was the AS President. So we knew who he was and he came back and as a Special Project Coordinator, that’s when they started doing Living History which was awesome. But I do remember one year for quite a few years in the early 2000s, our students were protesting the raising tuition every year it seemed, the tuition went up it went up astronomically at that time so our students of course we’re fighting against that and they had a couple huge protests, I remember one day they went out and actually closed the freeway, Highway 217 and they marched all the way down and just walked in middle of the freeway.

Oh, they did that?

Well not legally yeah, this is stuff that when they decide to do it work we try to advise him not to if it’s something that puts them in extreme danger. I think one year and I wasn’t here then, they wanted to shut down 101 as a protest. They advise, please don’t do that, the 217 was caught on a day where not a lot of people were coming to and from campus it might have been  one of those Monday holidays or something so there wasn’t a lot of traffic, so they got through and got it shutdown and then I think the police came and kind of helped them shut it down just to make things safer. I remember that, that was a big one. There’s been a lot of them throughout the years it’s hard to remember them all. A lot of stuff that’s been going on in the nation oftentimes the students here will also you know in solidarity have  some kind of a rally or something going on it’s been a lot of really great speakers here I haven’t heard too many of them, but I’ve heard a few, but yeah and then there’s some times there’s some really controversial speakers that will come in that the students protest against. In fact the interesting part is, I remember when David Horowitz came and spoke here and he had just taken out an ad in the Daily Nexus, a full-page ad basically saying that all Muslims were terrorists. So the students first were upset that the Daily Nexus even took the ad then when they were here and so then the College Republicans brought him here and they came to ask for funds from Finance and Business Committee, who didn’t want to give them funds, but there’s a regental policy on viewpoint neutrality that you can’t refuse to give someone funds just because you don’t agree with their speaker that’s if the free speech thing, so they ended up funding them partially. The Muslim Student Association was very upset they came to Senate and were very upset about that that was a huge thing that was one of my first years I worked with Finance and Business Committee and at that time I kind of agreed with the students who said you know we don’t fund hate speech and the Muslim students actually felt they weren’t safe with him on campus. But there’s that fine line about are you really safe are you not safe, did he say I’m gonna come shoot you or is he just talk about you in a way that you don’t feel safe so that was the first time? I remembered that I know that happened again last couple of years when they brought Milo I think came and spoke here and then there was oh who was the last I can’t remember his name, but he spoke against the Black Lives Matter movement so that and again, Finance and Business Committee can’t say we’re not going to fund you because we don’t agree with you, so they’d fund them and then the students would get upset at them because they funded it. That’s always very contentious and we’ve had quite a few years where our students want to divest from any companies that work with companies working in Israel so we have a big divestment meeting, usually it’s at the Senate meeting we often have over 200 students coming in to speak for and against and then they vote. At the end of the night we’ve never voted completely to divest, most of the campuses haven’t, but it’s a huge very controversial thing and usually the Senate meeting will go all night long.

Yeah, I’ve seen the articles and the photos of people just speaking to 2 a.m.

All night. I came back one time and I come in at 7:30 I came in and the meeting was still going. It is a fairly active campus. I went one time with a group of students up to UC Berkeley. We all took a bus all night long, got there at 6:00 in the morning to protest at a regents meeting and pretty sure it was because of tuition being raised. So our students went up there and there’s actually more UCSB students in the protest and than there were Berkeley students at the time, so UCSB at that point was very active in all of that. We had a couple students who really got everybody going and organized these trips to go up and do a protest yeah there’s been a lot of stuff going on and I’m sure I’m not barely remembering very much of it.

It’s different as a staff person because you’re watching it happen and we often will attend it you know to support our students who are doing the protest, but I remember one when our students, they block off the road and then the police come and then one time somebody got arrested, the students sat around the car so that the police car couldn’t drive off, so you say you’re worried about the students, you know you’re a UC employee. You’re supposed to try to protect them on the other hand, also they have a right to be protesting what they’re protesting. It’s kind of an odd position to be in.

AS operations, how has it evolved over the years within finances and budgeting? Has it always been a committee or how is it changed?

Well we’ve had different student leadership, sometimes our leadership is more conservative, sometimes it’s more liberal and it kind of just goes that way. I think right now because we do have a lot of funds to give out our students are able to be more active and they’re able to participate in a lot of different things which is great so regardless of the leadership there’s just opportunities for students to become part of a group and to kind of steer it in whatever direction they want to go in. There’s just a lot of opportunity to do stuff there’s opportunity to go on trips to go to conferences. We’ve had students go to Norway for the Power Summit, they’re really fascinating things. Our students have gone to Washington DC, most years to do lobbying with their representatives there. They’ve often lobby in Sacramento, there’s all kinds. Now we have the alternative break that happens with CAB twice a year where they’ll go. I think they just came back from Florida helping out with where the last hurricane was so it’s a very wide variety of stuff that students can become involved in. Which it’s really there’s more and more opportunities as we keep expanding to get involved and we employ 300 students, 3 to 400 students we give them employment and they’re doing  work in the AS Food Bank or they’re working in the ticket office or they’re working in the media center or stuff where they’re actually learning really good job skills.

And again you know having money gives an opportunity to students depending on what they want to do with it and again we’re a student-run organization so staff people we kind of we might have some ideas and feed some ideas to students but mostly it’s students coming up with their own ideas of you know, you know Community Financial Fund was a student idea. They went for a lock-in and got it and then as staff we kind of help develop the program with a student board. So it’s always in collaboration with the student ideas and stuff to do that.

I’m kind of curious about aspect of  funding new organizations, is it just  they just go to the finance committee or has the process changed?

It’s pretty much been the same throughout the only thing that really changes is how much money finance and business committee has to give out. You know, back when I started they didn’t have much they give a couple hundred dollars to groups here and there to go do their funding. Now they have it they have a lot of money three to four hundred thousand every year to give out, granted there’s a lot of requests for funds but they’re able to give out money every year to different groups for there things. We went through a time when s didn’t have much money to give out all of our student groups are spending a lot of time doing fundraising selling food at the MCC and there was so much fundraising activity to try and fund enough money for all of their events because we didn’t have the money to give out and then there’s less fundraising when we have more money to give out, I notice that a lot.

Is there any message or anything that you would to send out to the students and UCSB?

Just get involved, get involved and it seems to me that there’s a place not even necessarily in AS, but in some organization on campus where they would find a lot to do and I think it’s really important to do some of those extra activities rather than just go to class. You can learn a lot in class, but sometimes it’s those outside activities that you can do that really enrich your whole time here because you’ll get your degree, but sometimes all the activities really make the experience so much better and you just learn so much more different kind of knowledge.


Interviewed by: Christine Hoang