75.6 F

Davis, California

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

One big union: why UAW locals should merge at UC

Corrupt international leadership prevented Postdocs from joining UAW 2865 over a decade ago. Now, both UAW-UC locals will vote to right the wrongs of the past. 




Emily Weintraut is a third-year PhD student here at Davis in the Food Science Graduate Group, and a member of United Auto Worker (UAW) 2865.


On Oct. 10, members of UAW 2865 and UAW 5810, the two UAW locals at the University of California, will begin voting on amalgamating our two locals into one big union. An amalgamation of these locals would result in the creation of the largest union not only at the University of California, but also one of the largest unions in the state. Amalgamation would help us better share resources, be more organized and drastically increase our power as one union of over 48,000 workers. On the ground, I am seeing members about as excited (if not more) for amalgamation as they were for the record contracts we won last December. This excitement is because amalgamation would mean achieving the goals we set out when postdocs unionized and wanted to join UAW 2865 over a decade ago. And that goal? One of the largest, most powerful and most militant unions in all of academia. 


I remember when I first got into organizing with our union — it was my first quarter at Davis for grad school and we were running the first Strike Authorization Vote (SAV) for Student Researchers United (SRU). The SAV was extremely successful and the University recognized our union without us having to strike. This success, though, was partly due to the fact that it was a joint vote — postdocs in UAW 5810, who had their own complaints against UC, voted to strike the same weeks that we did. Getting the vote out took the coordinated efforts of Student Researchers (SR) in SRU, Postdocs and Academic Researchers (AR) in UAW 5810 and Academic Student Employees (ASEs) in UAW 2865. 


We often see solidarity and support across unions in the general context of helping to support the labor movement as a whole. However, this coordinated effort was more than just solidarity: it was a coordinated campaign because it was performed by workers with shared conditions and interests. Someone could work as an undergraduate Academic Student Employee (ASE), then become an AR after graduation, then go to grad school and work as an ASE or SR, then stay on as a postdoc and potentially even go back to being an AR again – all at the University of California. We work in the same labs, in the same buildings, under the same bosses and for the same employer. 


We most recently saw the power of our shared interests in our strike last fall, in which we won historic wage increases and workplace protections, and in many cases our contract language is so similar that it allows us to run coordinated grievance campaigns. All this, however, had to be performed with separate resources under different locals. If we amalgamate, we can resolve the vulnerability that comes from our formal division, and we will be that much more powerful moving forward. 


One large UAW local seems obvious. Forming two separate locals was a mistake made by former, corrupt leadership of the International UAW who were afraid of such a large, powerful union. Many of the postdocs who started the union campaign at UC got their first union experience through UAW 2865, and it was an act of cowardice by now-disgraced International leadership to force them into a completely separate local, rather than allowing them to join UAW 2865. The International UAW now has reformed leadership that is receptive to a powerful, single UC-UAW union and we have the chance to finally achieve what we had intended in 2010. In the face of rampant retaliation against our coworkers, including trumped-up student misconduct charges and felony charges over chalk at UC San Diego, amalgamating now would be the ultimate flex. We’d show the UC and the world that we are dedicated to ensuring that every last worker receives the respect they deserve. 


On Oct. 10, the minute I receive my ballot, I will be voting YES to amalgamate our unions. I cannot wait to finally be in one local with all my union siblings at UC and I am excited to demonstrate to the world just how powerful one union of over 48,000 workers in academia can be. 

Written by: Emily Weintraut — Guest Writer