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Organizing Update from Roxi Power, V.P. for Organizing


UC-AFT local unions have just kick-started an intensive organizing drive in preparation for the predicted loss of Fair Share next year, after which public sector unions are expected to suffer significant declines in membership and revenue. Our research shows that Fair Share correlates with major gains in union members’ salary and other benefits. We are organizing now to make sure we can retain our valuable staff, while preparing our members to become more participatory on behalf of their own job security going forward.

unnamed-1.jpgWe are activating our members to talk with colleagues about the value of our union. UC-AFT has fought for, and won, better job security and much better pay through our singularly strong contract. There is a lot at stake. Our Continuing Appointments, health benefits, retirement benefits, pre-six mentoring, and significant pay increases are due to our active membership and our negotiating efforts coupled with the financial resources provided through membership dues and the Fair Share fee. We must renew our effort to educate colleagues about the importance of maintaining membership and we must mobilize our membership so we can retain these gains and fight for more.  

As Vice President for Organizing, I proposed an Organizing Plan for 2017-18 that was adopted by the UC-AFT Council: “Getting and Activating Members.” The two-pronged approach includes a membership drive that shoots for super-majority membership statewide (80%). More importantly, it builds active membership over the long term, through work site activism, or the Site Rep Network, whereby new members are signed up, then involved in work site activism on behalf of their own professional interests. Site Reps will sign up and help activate new members. Site Rep networks will ensure long-term, deep organizing around our work sites. We also need to involve lots of members in a series of “small asks,” widening our activist base. How can we get more of our colleagues involved? Small asks. Even liking a Facebook page builds a sense of important involvement in an important project without overwhelming potential activists. Make them feel good about the small work they do and invite them into the community.

Central to this plan is a DIY union that has access to effective resources to help us develop leaders and educate members. I launched our UC-AFT ORE (Organizing Resources and Education) Google Drive during our September Council meeting. Please work with your local to make use of our newly designed, exciting materials.  We have a wonderful slide show for Orientations; new flyers and door cards; Site Rep trainings; so much more. We will continue to develop the ORE resources with your feedback and support. 

I visited most of the nine campuses in the two months since our Organizing Plan was adopted at the Council meeting in July. This has been the most rewarding part of my job so far: getting to know local leaders and activists, and learning about your projects, stories, and devotion to the work of our union. I have been impressed with the readiness, focus, and energy of each campus and have found that each local is—in the immortal words of Patti Smith--“totally ready to go!” Some, like UC Irvine, are putting in motion a huge membership drive in the first few weeks of the term. Others, like UC Santa Cruz, are centering their energies on creating a complete Site Rep Network with a first-ever lecturer orientation. 

Over the years, we have held membership drives and developed "site rep networks" on our campuses, but in the face of Janus, our efforts have stepped up, and we can see our “Year of Intensive Organizing” already taking shape with exciting projects and efforts by all of the locals. Each campus is responding according to their own capacity and culture in relation to the ambitious organizing plan. The plans will unfold on each campus, yielding grounded, concrete strategies and results we can all learn from. For now, here is an exciting preview of local campus organizing this fall.

UC Berkeley: We kicked-off the semester with a Welcome Event - pizza in the courtyard, in beautiful weather, outside of the Ethnic Studies Library. Our first membership meeting had excellent unnamed-2.jpgturnout and great planning. Two Site Rep Coordinators are identifying/meeting with site reps—7 so far—with future trainings and a goal of 15 by semester’s end. A team will do classroom visits sign-up new members. We have signed-up 60 new members this semester so far, ahead of where we were this time last year! We just held our first New Lecturer Orientation and we have an Excellence Review workshop planned for November. Members are being trained in grievance work. A contingent of Lecturers and Librarians went to the Rally Against White Supremacy that took place on our campus with our UC-AFT banner and one of our members spoke at the rally. See part of his speech on our Facebook site: Lots of new people getting involved. And we are making new t-shirts with a fabulous logo designed by one of our members!

UC Davis: We are gearing up for a major membership drive. [And “major” for this campus means big numbers if last spring is any indication!] Its Board has met and has planned an event to welcome our colleagues back for the fall. Membership forms are already coming in from initial efforts. We have a number of site repsin place. When our lists are prepared we intend to go into action asking people to join.

UC Irvine: We have a mega-membership blitz planned for weeks 2 and 3. Already, we have 20 volunteers signed up to walk the campus in 2-4 hour time slots with experienced activists all day. Sept. 13, our E-board meeting with Roxi turned into an organizing meeting entirely focused on membership growth and member to member organizing. We discussed Fair Share attacks, organizing plan, local vision. Eleven attended and 7 members signed up for the drive. Sept. 23, we had a Welcome Back Pool Party: 5 more members signed up. One part of Roxi's plan that we have really taken to heart is the "small ask." We tend to get our small asks accomplished at large meetings. A part we haven't yet gotten to is site rep coordinators and site reps.  Our numbers come from relationships we have built over the past years based in our social events, grievance work, and social justice work.

UCLA: After the first week of classes, UCLA is building its site rep network and membership drive. Our membership meeting will be October 16th, where our invited speaker will be Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, our Assembly Member. The librarian clusters are getting very organized in advance of our bargaining campaign.

UC Merced: Our organizing plan is moving forward with the identification, development and support of new site reps, continued recruitment of a systemwide-high membership percentage, in part through an active calendar of events designed to offer value for the union members and serve as new-member outreach. Our calendar of upcoming events is here: We had about 15-20 people at our most recent Coffee & Comradarie meeting, and we also have had success in having all lecturers listed as 'Faculty' in the faculty directory: Previously there was a separate directory for non-Senate faculty!

IMG_9168 2.jpgUC Riverside: We started out with an event to honor our team of activists for all of their work over the last year which helped us reach 100% membership for Librarians and 71% for Lecturers and Non-Tenure Track Faculty during the Spring quarter. We discussed the threats posed by Janus v AFSCME and UC-AFT's plan to win. After putting together schedules and lists, our team is just getting started with recruitment work through classroom and office visits.

UC Santa Barbara: Our organizing effort is off to a good start. One of our new Board members, Jennifer Martin, has stepped up to serve as our Site Rep Coordinator and has developed an organizing plan for our Local. She presented her proposal at our Sept. meeting, and the Board supported prioritizing building our Site Rep infrastructure that will help us outreach to new hires and other non-members. We will hold a Site Rep training workshop on Oct 20, followed by a New Hire Orientation workshop on Oct 26. Jennifer has also spearheaded a monthly happy SC Pub Meeting.jpghour at a local pub and look forward to a Fall Social Gathering in late November.

UC Santa Cruz: We have been recruiting and training our network of Site Reps. We have fifteen confirmed, covering most parts of campus, and are aiming to recruit another ten this quarter. One of our new Site Rep Coordinators, Derede Arthur, has bottom-lined our first ever Lecturer and Librarian Orientation on October 12th,: a 3 hour event with Donna Haraway as our keynote speaker; a slide show on the value of our union; Site Rep breakout sessions; a series of 6 workshops members can choose to attend, including training in a successful review; unemployment; student debt; library-lecturer solidarity; UC-AFT history; and how to get organized. Pizza and potluck follow. We will follow up with a rolling membership drive.

UC San Diego: We secured 8 Site Reps, and will continue to recruit more. In Oct/Nov each rep will meet with 5-6 people (focusing on those with 50%+ appointments). We have plans to assess and hopefully sign up 52 folks in October and 50 in November. Our librarians have worked to build a new bargaining team and committee--they are currently organizing their colleagues in preparation for negotiations. They will be hosting a Know Your Contract workshop this quarter. Preuss will be hosting their first Know Your Contract, Know Your Union Workshop next Tuesday, October 10th. They will determine their structure and begin the process of organizing their unit.

Roxi Power
Vice President for Organizing, UC-AFT