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Candidate Statements: Special Election--Interim Vice President for Legislation 2019

Due to a mid-term vacancy in the Vice President for Legislation position on the Council Executive Board, we are conducting a special election for an interim VP for Legislation. The interim VP will hold office from the date of election through the end of the regular term June 14, 2019.

The election will be held on Thursday, February 28th at 7pm during a special Council Meeting via Zoom and conducted per voting procedures in the UC-AFT Constitution.  

Candidate statements are below in alphabetical order.  Each candidate will also have the opportunity to speak at the Council meeting prior to casting ballots.

Ramona Collins
John Rundin
Daniel Schoorl

Ramona Collins
I am a librarian, and I've been at the Berkeley Law Library since I was an intern in 2002. I've been a member of the UC-AFT union for my entire career at Berkeley, and I joined the Executive Board last year. I've had an academic interest in legislation for a long time. In fact, I'm the resident expert in legislative history research questions. Recently, however, I've become more involved in politics. Last year, I joined Axel Borg in Sacramento to advocate for fully funding California higher education, and I testified in a budget committee hearing. Also, I did some phone-banking for a State Assembly candidate ahead of the November 2018 election. I am encouraged by the increased level of member engagement in our union. I'd like to see that increase in engagement and enthusiasm translate into more visibility and influence in Sacramento. Our members need a voice in the legislature, and I'd like to help deliver our message. I hope you'll support me for VP for Legislation. Thank you.

John Rundin
I seek your support to serve as the UC-AFT’s interim Vice-President of Legislation. I hope to forge ties with legislators and other politicians to support our union.

I have a long record of union activity. At my previous place of employment from 1998 to 2004, the University of Texas at San Antonio, I was the president of the union that represented faculty there. At the University of California, I joined the union immediately on being hired as a lecturer in 2005, and regularly attended meetings. Once I passed my six-year review I became the UC Davis local membership officer. Shortly thereafter, I was elected president of the UC Davis local. In my time at UC Davis, I have largely devoted myself to organizing. Over the last seven years, I have recruited many tens of members, perhaps over a hundred. I continue to do the work of getting new members to sign up today and will not shirk that duty if elected to the UC-AFT state board.

I have experience in general in dealing with legislators. In Texas in the early 2000s, I was on the board of the San Antonio Stonewall Democrats and was the Vice-President of Development for the ACLU of Texas. In both capacities I regularly visited legislators and provided public testimony at hearings to support the cause of human rights. In California, I have participated in various CFT lobby days, in testimony for the CFT before legislative committees, and in the process of turning UC-AFT resolutions into the CFT’s legislative agenda.

Currently, the union is working to pass two resolutions of support for Unit 17 and 18 in the California Legislature. If elected as VP for legislation, I will seek to have those passed. In that work, we will strengthen ties between our union, legislators, and other politicians. We wish to become a valued resource for legislators seeing information on the University of California. As part of that effort, I will work to make this year’s CFT lobby day on April 2 a success.

The University of California and the Legislature have a unique relationship. The University gets funding from the Legislature, but it has autonomy, which keeps the Legislature from interfering in its internal affairs. This is a good and bad thing. It protects the University from political interference in its academic endeavors. This is important; academic integrity requires that the University be shielded from such pressures. I would guess that no one in our union wants politicians shaping University curricula and research programs.

However, autonomy does have downsides. One downside is that the University, shielded from legislative oversight, has been able to foster an environment oftentimes quite hostile to those who work for it. Another downside arises because the University, sheltered by its autonomy, takes money from the legislature with little accountability. Legislators, feeling resentful at the University’s independence (and for other reasons), do not fund the University at appropriate levels. Therefore, the University relies more and more on non-legislative funding sources, including student fees. The result is an increasingly privatized University.

In the long run, our way forward to address the problems caused by autonomy should be structural reform of the UC Board of regents. We should maintain autonomy, but we need to put in place engaged regents who listen to all stakeholders in the University, students, workers, educators, researchers, and California citizens. If, after this interim appointment as VP of Legislation, I become the regular VP of Legislation, that will be my long-term goal.

In the short run, I hope to work towards passing legislation favorable to us and developing a statewide team of union activists who are ready to visit the Capitol when we are needed and also teams local to each campus so that we can lobby legislators in their home districts around each of the U.C. campuses.

Finally, I am happy to contribute to the ongoing work of managing the union as a State Board member. We must revise our by-laws to reflect our democratic aspirations, while, at the same time, respecting our various constituencies including librarians and the campus locals.

Daniel Schoorl
I’m running for VP of Legislation because I believe our union can benefit from increased advocacy efforts and a heightened presence in Sacramento. If elected, I would first dedicate myself to increasing the visibility of our union with our elected officials in the Assembly and Senate. Secondly, I would work to demonstrate the ways UC-AFT can put students and education at the center of our advocacy via the Legislative Committee. Politics, like organized labor, is deeply rooted in relationships. If elected, I plan to visit Sacramento regularly, where I have a network of support via family and friends at the Capitol. Furthermore, I plan to work with the Legislative Committee and engage our membership to be more active in visiting elected officials in their district offices.

While Gov. Newsom’s recent budget proposal includes expanded higher education spending and is a step in the right direction, I believe our union should still be proactive in calling for even greater funding that addresses student needs. Specifically, the $240 million ongoing General Fund and $15 million in one-time funding Newsom included to support expanded degree completion and certification programs at UC extension centers is simply not enough and too narrowly focused. By centering our legislative efforts on reemployment preferences for non-Senate faculty our union can highlight shortcomings of the UC, specifically calling attention to the dwindling ratio of tenure track professors to students and the forcing of UC-AFT faculty turnover.

As the UC continues to drift further away from its educational mission, I believe there is a need for more oversight in Sacramento, especially more inquiry into the lack of implementation by UCOP on the financial transparency recommendations made by the state auditor. If elected, I plan to work with the Legislative Committee to further UC-AFTs long-term goal with a focus on increasing the percentage of the UC budget dedicated to undergraduate education.

My interests and connections in state politics are deeply rooted in my family and upbringing in Sacramento. From conversations with my late Grandfather, Arie, who worked as a political consultant, administrative law official, and eventually judge for the California Labor Relations Board, I learned to root for the underdog. UC-AFT may not be the largest or the loudest union, but it should not prevent us from speaking out and pursuing the most effective strategies and tactics in our contract campaigns and legislative goals.

I have worked to increase our unions’ visibility on campus by organizing librarians and the UCLA union coalition. In early 2018, I took on the role of grievance steward for unit 17 at UCLA. In this capacity, I have been active in filing grievances with Labor Relations and helping coordinate meetings regarding the ongoing abuse of temporary appointments in UCLA Library Special Collections. I have been proactive in organizing bargaining day actions at UCLA and helped to build the UC-AFT strike fund by coordinating bake sales and creating the strike fund Venmo as a method of payment. Following the recent winter break, I made a point to reconvene our local librarian organizing committee, which now meets bimonthly to plan actions and pursue other tactics with the goal to gain increased support in our bargaining proposals from local decision makers and influencers.

During this time, I have also been proactive in continuing the work of our UCLA union coalition by organizing meetings, maintaining the email listserv, and helping to organize joint actions.

As a campus labor leader, I have largely seen my role as a motivator and convener of leaders and union members to share organizing goals and tools with each other to advocate for improvements in the conditions and rights of represented UC employees. For example, the night before a scheduled informal joint UC union meeting with UCLA Labor Relations I took the intiative to go through the UCPath Portal. I discovered an Ask UCPath Center article titled “If I Leave the Union, Will My Union Dues Be Stopped or Refunded?” and took screenshots. After sending these screenshots on to our local representative for review, we discussed how this article is an unlawful communication and brought this issue up at the meeting. As a result, the UC took action and the UCPath Center removed this article from the UCPath Portal. I will bring this same diligent and thorough approach to my work in an elected statewide role.

We are all aware of the rampant inequities that non-tenured track faculty and librarians in the UC system confront. I plan to empower the Legislative Committee by creating ties with campus labor coalitions, to foster understanding of how our brother and sister UC unions are approaching their legislative efforts. I look forward to working with local leaders and members interested in participating in legislative advocacy. If elected, I look forward to chairing the Legislative Committee and working with the President, staff, and the entire UC-AFT membership to develop and implement UC-AFT’s legislative program. It would be an honor to serve as Vice President of Legislation for UC-AFT, and I would greatly appreciate your support.