Just a week after a reform caucus swept the majority of leadership positions in a union representing UC academic student employees, a group of union members have challenged the integrity of the election, calling for an invalidation of the results and another election run by a neutral third party.
On May 15, exactly a week after the election results were certified for the United Auto Workers Local 2865 — which represents nearly 12,000 graduate student instructors, readers and tutors — a group of union members, many of whom are affiliated with incumbent union leadership, filed a formal protest against the election with the union’s executive board, calling for another election due to “irregularities” they asserted were present, according to a statement from United for Social and Economic Justice — a caucus affiliated with the incumbent leadership.
The protest was filed in accordance with both UAW International and UAW Local 2865 bylaws that allow a challenge of an election to be filed within seven days of result certification as well as multiple appeals of any decision made about the election. The protest included 41 challenges to the integrity of the election.
“The election that occurred was marred by irregularities, deception and intimidation,” said Xochitl Lopez, a graduate student and head steward-elect at UC Davis. “We are calling for a fair election.”
The union recently concluded one of the most highly contested elections in its history. The election and subsequent vote counting were marred by multiple breakdowns and allegations of fraud, negative campaigning and aggressive tactics from both slates.
On May 8, the results were certified by the union’s Election Committee following more than a week of punctuated vote counting. Members of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union — a reform caucus — swept all 10 executive board positions and the majority of Joint Council positions.
According Lopez, members who signed the petition would like to have the balloting run by a neutral third party. She added that the petition calls for an agreement by both sides that the election be conducted in a fair manner.
Among the irregularities and concerns listed were the security of the ballots and voting materials through the voting and counting process and alleged aggressive tactics and campaigning over the course of the election.
However, according to Charlie Eaton, the union’s recently elected financial secretary and a graduate student at UC Berkeley, “members of AWDU held themselves to a high standard of conduct in the election,” and moving forward wanted to unite all members.
“We think it’s really important that everyone have confidence in the election outcome, and we certainly want everyone’s concerns to be openly discussed and heard,” Eaton said. “Now that the election is over, we are focused on trying to unite all the members around making the union more bottom-up, more empowered and more effective in fighting the budget cuts.”
The election challenge is scheduled to be addressed at the union’s next statewide membership meeting at UC Berkeley on Saturday where, if a quorum of 100 people is met, members present will be able to vote on the challenge.
Aaida Samad is the lead higher education reporter.