After six weeks on strike, we have voted to accept a contract. We write as union organizers from Santa Cruz, where workers on our campus voted No by a massive margin. Here is our perspective on ratification.
We must celebrate the level and depth of rank and file engagement throughout this contract fight and strike, which has exceeded any mobilization in the history of our union local. Our contributions have won some significant gains over our previous contract, changed the landscape of our union’s culture, and inspired workers across the country. The rank and file has clarified for all observers that workers have immense power in collective action, and that this power lies fundamentally in their capacity to withhold labor — not in labor law, bargaining, mediation, or at the ballot box. All other points are secondary to this lesson.
What comes next will depend on how we build upon the power we have built over the past six weeks. As the voting margins show, a large (though not majority) section of workers still perceived the unfulfilled potential and future points of leverage of the long haul strike. Many rank and file organizers may experience intense frustration and disappointment. This is natural, but has the potential to lead to a phase of demobilization and inactivity. We may even see calls for outraged No voters to revoke their union memberships, “dual-card” with a different union, or otherwise attempt to disaffiliate from our union locals. We must resist this urge, and instead redouble our commitment to the organizing that has taken us this far.
There is a much larger core of organized rank and file workers in our union now than there has ever been. This organizing capacity is greater than it was six months ago, or even six weeks ago, and reveals another important truth. The union does not simply organize a strike for workers to participate in; the strike also spurs workers to self-organize a stronger, more robust, fighting union.
We still have urgent tasks before us. At the end of all lengthy strikes, certain matters remain unresolved. By ending the strike, we also lose some of the power we had to dictate terms and prevent retaliation. In our case, there is the obvious question of the struck grading labor, as well as the potential for retaliation against isolated workers, especially SRs. Below are some essential points, and we will need to meet together soon with our departments, labs, and campus networks to talk through them in more detail.
- GRADING: Fall appointments vary by campus. At UCSC, our appointments ended on Dec 14, while we were still on strike. We cannot be asked or pressured into picking up this work, nor can faculty or lecturers. On other campuses, workers have workload and holiday protections that they will need to organize to enforce.
- RETALIATION: It remains possible for UC to distribute “attestation” forms as a way to determine whose pay to dock retroactively. That we are no longer on strike may make this option more attractive to UC, and we need to prepare for this possibility. Otherwise, we retain all our protections. The challenge we face is making these count without the power of ongoing strike action. We cannot allow a situation where isolated individuals bear the brunt of UC’s anger over the strike.
Next week, UC Santa Cruz will host a campus union meeting to discuss these matters and the next steps for organizing them in our departments. We encourage workers on other campuses to do the same.
UC Santa Cruz UAW Leadership