Members of the election committee of the United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 2865 halted ballot counting this weekend due to challenges in the election and claims of fraud.
UAW represents 12,000 graduate students who work as teaching assistants and readers within the UC system.
Challenges to the election came from both United for Social and Economic Justice (USEJ), the incumbent party within the union and Academic Workers for a Democratic Union (AWDU), UAW’s reform party. The election committee opted to refer the challenged 1,500 ballots from UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Merced and UC San Diego to the UAW Joint Council, so a more representative body could make the final decision.
“According to the elections committee, there were a number of challenges to the elections process that were leveled by both sides of the election,” said Daraka Larimore-Hall, UC Santa Barbara graduate student and UAW president. “In addition, folks on the AWDU side publicly stated that they were planning to object to the election before it even started.”
However, AWDU claims that election officials stopped counting ballots in order to keep the AWDU slate from winning the election.
“We won’t know if AWDU won the election until all the votes are counted, but it’s hard to understand why else the current union administration would abandon the vote count without having counted nearly half the ballots cast in the election,” said Cheryl Deutsch, AWDU candidate for president.
Many AWDU members agree, and hope that officials will continue to count all of the votes.
“Graduate students are demanding that the union officials count all of the ballots,” said Charlie Eaton, graduate student at UC Berkeley and AWDU candidate for UAW financial chair. “A lot of us feel like it’s a terrible thing for our union officials to silence the voices of graduate students, when we need to be standing together against budget cuts.”
Eaton said that he felt this issue showed that USEJ members wanted to keep their power as the incumbent group in UAW.
“People say that power concedes nothing without a struggle, and that’s what we’re seeing now,” he said. “Graduate students and the members of this union are taking our union back so that we can fight the budget cuts, and I think that the amount of resistance shows just how far people are willing to go to hang on to the privileges and perks of high paid union positions.”
Deutsch agreed with Eaton, and wondered why UAW would agree to stop counting ballots. Larimore-Hall repeated that the ballot counting was stopped because of challenges made to the election, and pointed out that these challenges came from both USEJ members and AWDU members.
“We want every valid vote to be counted. While all of us wish this contest could be resolved [Saturday night], the bottom line is that a careful, deliberative process is required to make sure that every vote counts, and the integrity of the election is ensured,” Larimore-Hall said in a statement.
As of press time, the uncounted ballots were locked in a conference room at UCLA. AWDU has posted a live stream video of the room online, as to monitor the ballots and make sure they are not tampered with.
AWDU members in Berkeley rallied Monday for the count of all of the ballots from the election.
The contested ballots will be seen by the union’s Joint Council, which will take into account the challenges to the election and make a decision about the uncounted ballots.
HANNAH STRUMWASSER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.