More than 100 members of a union representing academic student employees throughout the UC packed into a statewide membership meeting Saturday afternoon, overturning a challenge to the recently concluded leadership elections, unseating a recently elected member and discussing the future direction and structure of the union.
Approximately 130 members of United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents nearly 12,000 graduate student instructors, readers and tutors, gathered in Boalt Hall Saturday for a special statewide membership meeting where members — both elected leaders and rank-and-file — were able to discuss and debate a variety of issues, including a recent challenge to the integrity of the election as well as the eligibility of a recently elected member.
Because a quorum of 100 members was met, under the union’s bylaws, members present were able to vote and make binding decisions for the union.
At the meeting, one of the key debates surrounded a protest to the union’s recently concluded tri-annual leadership election.
On May 15, a group of union members, many of whom are affiliated with the incumbent leadership, filed a formal protest of the election, citing “irregularities” that they asserted occurred during the election and calling for a re-run of the entire election.
However, at the meeting, a rebuttal to the challenges to the elections was presented. According to the rebuttal, there was no evidence that the election was compromised, and for the challenges that might be plausible, they would not have had a determinative effect on the overall election.
“Even given an extremely generous reading of the plausibility of allegations made about the election, there is no evidence that the recent election was compromised,” the rebuttal reads. “The question is not, were mistakes made? But rather, could those mistakes have had a determinative impact on the results?”
Following discussion and debate among union members, a motion was put forward and the members that were present voted by a large margin to reject the protest of the election.
According to Xochitl Lopez, a law student and recently elected head steward at UC Davis who was a union member who signed the protest, with the challenge rejected, concerned union members are still considering what their options are.
“We’re still considering our next steps for how we will proceed with this challenge,” she said. “We’ll have to meet and discuss what the plan is.”
Under union bylaws, members would be able to appeal the decision made at the membership meeting to the UAW International.
In addition to rejecting the election challenge, a second protest was discussed at the meeting. Earlier this week, members of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union — a reform caucus in the union — challenged the eligibility of a recently elected head steward from UCLA, Sayil Camacho, stating that she was both ineligible to become a member of the union and as a result, ineligible to run for elected office.
However, at the meeting, several union members stated that she was eligible to run and also defended Camacho, stating that the challenge was a “political witch-hunt.”
Members assembled ended up voting for a motion that unseated Camacho and instead replaced her with the next highest vote getter at UCLA, Yuting Huang. According to Lopez, the vote disenfranchises voters at UCLA, many of whom were not present at the membership meeting to vote on whether or not to disqualify Camacho.
In addition to those two decisions, at the meeting, members broke into groups to discuss issues the union faces and solutions for dealing with them.
“The meeting went really well. It was very unifying, after having resolved the election results, to come together to discuss the future of our union,” said Charlie Eaton, financial secretary for the union. “This meeting was a really powerful sign that students and workers at UC are mobilizing in larger numbers than ever.”
Aaida Samad is the lead higher education reporter.