Did you get an email from the UC Administration announcing the postponement of the strike?
Are you a bit confused how this is coming from UC as a "joint" statement to return to the bargaining table right as we have an entire campus movement across the state ready to support AFSCME and stand in solidarity against the messed-up priorities of UC Executives?
Well, hold on to your thoughts about that email from the Executive Vice Chancellor and let's breakdown how all of these rumors and UC announcements are calculated to confuse and divide us.
Who is behind the legal maneuvers of UC Executives to try and halt AFSCME's right to strike?
The infamous anti-union law firm of Littler and Mendelson. According to LexisNexis, they are "the largest law firm in the United States representing management exclusively in the area of employment and labor law."
They boast on their website about how they specialize in avoiding unionization and busting unions. They recently hired Robert Battista, Bush's anti-worker appointment to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), to further bolster their legal team. John Logan of of the London School of Economics called Littler and Mendelson one of the "nation’s first law firms to conduct aggressive union avoidance campaigns." See a recent post of American Rights at Work about Littler and Mendelson, including an anti-union talking point memorandum for managers to use to intimidate workers. David Bacon, the labor photojournalist, has an article here mentioning Littler as the new face of union busting, especially on the West Coast.
Littler and Mendelson's specialty is coordinating anti-union campaigns to bust unions and stop worker movements. (If you can't afford the steep funds to retain them, you can pick up their 2008 second edition guide on how you can retaliate against whistleblowers for a cool $108 here.)
Combine this expensive anti-union law firm that filed for a temporary restraining order earlier this week with PERB, the Public Employee Relations Board, who has the power to take the legal right to strike away from union members. The four Republicans versus one Democrat at PERB were appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger.
Suddenly UC Executives claim that they still have proposals after their "last, best, and final proposal" was announced just last week, which did not come close to ending poverty wages at UC for Service workers and Patient Care Technical workers. The same workers that UC said were not important are now said to be vital to public safety if there was a strike.
This quick, legal move allows PERB to contradict and overturn AFSCME's legal impasse status and ten-day notification of the intent to strike. PERB is the highest governing body and can interpret facts differently despite the legal sanction by the neutral factfinder under the HEERA (Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act) process. It is similar to the way a higher court can overturn a lower court's ruling even with the same facts and evidence.
U.S. Labor Law can be manipulated by the anti-union legal team to force AFSCME back to the table in the guise of cooperation and negotiations. If AFSCME did not return to the table they could have lost the legal right to strike. But what about the timing of all this?
Removing Students from the Struggle
This is excellent timing to attempt to demoralize the power of students immediately before the summer—UC Executives' calculation as well. Again, demonstrating their fear of students and trying to minimize student power to act in solidarity with UC workers.
UCSC is inaugurating its 10th Chancellor on Friday, June 6th at 10AM with all eyes aimed on the illustrious world class institution. They do not want the stain of students standing up for workers who remain in poverty to precede the image of the regala events with an effective strike—the likes that UC has never seen before, UC-wide. By forcing AFSCME back to the table with these legal technicalities UC is depending upon confusion and frustration to deflate our organizing and let the inauguration pomp take place, unheeded and orchestrated to remove any hint of union green clothing from the participants and audience.
Imagine how much this ceremony costs...
20,000 AFSCME workers with students across the state brings out UC's big guns for legal and public relations hirelings exactly at the time students have the most power and when UC is anxious about its public image for its only inauguration statewide.
The Public Relations Professionals
In order to manage the image of UC's anti-union campaign the PR firm Hill & Knowlton (H&K) has been on the job for UC Executives since last summer. They've helped Enron, big tobacco, the nuclear industry, De Beers diamond mining, the Maldives dictatorship, and brought you Gulf War #1. Now UC has joined the client list.
Imagine how all the money that goes to pay the lawyers, spin professionals, and inaugration coordinators, could simply be used in other ways. UC would rather pay top dollar—and continue doling out poverty wages for UC Workers—than do the right thing. UC Executives want to build a different vision of UC.
UCOP Co-Opts Grass Roots Organizing
On the same day UCOP (UC Office of the President) spamed students urging them to write their state legislature to prioritize funding to construct more buildings on campus—using the language of access, recruitment and retention.
This was sent the same day the strike postponement was quickly announced by UC management (Thursday, May 29, 2008)—before you could hear anything from AFSCME workers, student organizers, and the real campus community. If you use the links in the email you are led to the UCOP website, trying to get people to create a bond measure for further construction at UC. This lovely service of "grass roots modules and software package" is provided by Capitol Advantage. The entire campaign has "action alerts" and high-end photography (notice the vintage 1950s vehicles in the foreground) of academic buildings to "protect access to UC" and sustain UC's "contributions to California's economy and society."
Brought to you by UCOP—the same people that ignore the poverty of UC workers at the bargaining table.
So, there you have it, all in one day:
- immediate email sent by the Executive Vice Chancellor announcing the rescinding of the strike by the union
- the Union-busting law firm hired by UC Executives threatens to use its filed injunction to force the union back to the table
- a Republican-stacked PERB that can take away the legal right to strike if AFSCME does not return to the table
- PR firm that worked for Enron coordinating the UC messaging and timing of email announcements across UC
- a calculation to wait for students to leave campus for the summer by forcing the postponement of the strike
- a sudden "grass roots" campaign to secure state money to build more buildings at UC through bond measures
All of this was well-coordinated and pushed on us at the same time, on the same day with quick emails to announce the love that the strike has been postponed.
The fight has just begun...
We graduate students—with undergrads, faculty, staff, and the wider UC community—will not fall for these divisive tactics attempting to disorient, divide, and confuse our solidarity with AFSCME. We are going to take back UC and prioritize real educational needs and end poverty wages!