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Election Dismay and Hope

13 Nov

Electing a self-serving neo-fascist will have immeasurable harmful consequences on working people, the environment, ethnic and racial justice, women and many more constituencies. We have a fight, an incredible fight on our hands for the next four years. Okay, that is obvious.

The analysis of the “why” presented in the media completely misses the mark, because it takes for granted a framework that has unraveled. More closely analyzing why voters voted (or didn’t vote) the way they did offers more peril and hope.

Trump’s election was a repudiation of the elite of both the Republican and Democrat parties. Leaders of the Republican party will opportunistically avail themselves of the fact that Trump happens to be in their party and his real (as opposed to his stump speech) politics align with their economic agenda.

Voters cast their ballots against the establishment candidates of both parties, or didn’t vote out of disgust or lack of identification with either party.

Uneducated white male voters (union and non-union) rebelled against economic policies of both parties that forced them to compete with the world’s most exploited workers for their jobs (and usually lose!). Trump and Sanders offered them a vision that validated their loss and gave them a vision (one false and the other true) including anti-free trade policy and industrial re-development.

The mainstream candidates from the Republican and Democrat parties simply offered more of the same, with somewhat different emphases.

Voters who did not opt for the ultra-right refutation of corporate politics, did not have a fervor for the Democrat version of corporate politics. After years of police brutality, record-level deportations, no employee free choice act, bank and corporate bailouts but no working people’s bailout, extra-judicial drone assassinations across the globe and the worst ever free trade deal in the Transpacific Partnership (TPP), we cannot get excited for more of the same.
The election of a candidate not of the mainstream indicates a widespread disaffection from corporate politics. That disaffection can go to the right (Trump) or the left (Sanders).

We have witnessed sparks of a left resurgence with Occupy and Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately the leaders of the labor have for the most part steadfastly endorsed the Democrat corporate agenda, an agenda working people have rejected.

If there is a silver-lining to this election, it is the fact that the majority of people in the US reject the status quo corporate agenda. They have lost faith that either party represents their interests.
The challenge to the left is to offer a vision and fight for it concretely. To start with, we have to shed ourselves of the corporate Democrat agenda. We cannot settle for the best we can achieve within the current political options. We must be bold and call for and strive for more. People of all kinds, including non-college educated white men, are listening. We will take part in a movement that does not start with the assumption that a race to global bottom for working people is in our best interest, a movement that does not start with the assumption that racial inequality has been largely solved, a movement that demands health care for all, … you get the picture.

Unions most of all must dramatically change course with their political agenda. We must do so not only for the broad political agenda but even our legitimacy to our members. Our future is in peril not only from the “Right to Work” and dismemberment of the NLRB but due the loss of support from our own members.
When asked the members of my union, CWA, by a large majority opted to endorse Bernie Sanders. Kudos to the leadership of CWA for asking members and following their opinion. Unfortunately most of the rest of labor opted for more corporate politics with the lesser evil argument.

The positive note of this election is that the majority of our country no longer endorses a lesser evil. Unfortunately, they opted for the greatest (not greater!) evil.

Let’s build a bold movement that does not merely propose incremental improvements that we can coerce corporate Democrats to endorse. Let’s go for what we believe in: a minimum wage of $15 (increasing with inflation every year), free higher education, immigration reform that legitimizes all workers in our country, health care for all, an end to the criminalization of ethnic groups (they are not minorities where I live!), and real solutions for the environmental catastrophe corporate America has brought upon us.

After thought:
The idea that the FBI director’s inquiry into Clinton’s emails changed the course of the election is as silly as the fact that Trump’s misogyny did not. Clinton’s politics lost the faith of working people long before any email concerns.

State Audit of UC Finances

8 Aug

Notes on State Audit of UC Finances July 2011

Jelger Kalmijn President UPTE-CWA

(The entire audit can be downloaded at: http://www.bsa.ca.gov/pdfs/reports/2010-105.pdf)

After nearly a year of in depth analysis, a team of 14 specialists from the state auditor’s office came to the conclusion that UC’s financial information lacks transparency. The audit, called for by UPTE, other UC unions and UC students and commissioned by Senator Leland Yee tasked the auditors to account for the public funds UC receives and how they were spent. With the accounting information provided by the Office of the President, the auditors were able to give a very general description of UC’s financial structure but had great difficulty in tracking particular expense categories.

The major points the auditors summarize are:

(1)    UC requires greater financial and budget transparency starting with an up-to-date and publically available budget manual that describes how funds are allocated

(2)    Students have been forced to make up for most of the loss in state funds, even while UC auxiliaries, research revenue and other sources all increased an average of 25% over the 5 years of the audit (income from investments went up by $446 million or 82% ).

(3)    The amount UC spends on students varies widely depending on the campus, with the campuses that have the greatest ethnic diversity getting the least amount of money per student.

(4)    UC Office of the President has a category of miscellaneous services which includes consultants that is more than $1 billion per year and has no more detailed information.

(5)    Escalators for staff raises included in grants are received by UC, even when UC allows no raises.

(6)    The negative balances in UC’s overall assets largely result from accounting changes requiring UC to post their retiree health benefits to their ledger and a reassessment of the pension liability.

UC Office of the President makes political choices about the University ‘s budget. They have chosen to dramatically increase student fees and dramatically cut their contributions for employee post-employment benefits to balance the budget.  Other decisions could have been made. UC, while taking substantial cuts from the state, has such a broad financial portfolio that it had other options. UC could reinvest the profits from auxiliaries, investments and medical centers into the teaching mission of the University.

The auditors show that less than 40% of UC’s public income is restricted to specific expenses. The remaining more than 60% can be spent at UC’s discretion. Over the 5 years of the audit only one of the main 10 function categories had reduced expenses: academic support. Research, institutional support, and student aid are among the 9 function categories where expenses increased for an average of about 15%. Academic support includes the libraries and activities related to educational departments.

The money from most of UC revenue sources gets divided up based on unclear formulas and with very little accountability for either how it is spent or if the expenses actually achieve the stated goals. When UC was asked to explain why some campuses got more per student than others they could only response that it was a result of decades of separate decisions by the Regents and the Office of the President and they had no time to reconstruct this history. In essence UC could offer no justification other than to say that is just how it has been done.

The overhead money from research grants gets divided into general funds, University opportunity funds (for high priority research and instructional needs) and off-the-top funds to manage the contracts and grants administration. Most of this money is returned to the campuses and the Office of the President has little oversight on how it is allocated between department funds, administrative support, chancellor’s discretionary funds, and other funds. These funds add up to nearly $650 million annually.

While outside the scope of this audit, the University medical centers made more than $525 million in the first quarter of 2011, making them 4 times more profitable than last year. This profit was made even though UC saw almost exactly as many patients this year as last year for the same time period.

UC has chosen not to take money from the highly profitable portions of the University and re-allocate it to support UC’s key goals of educational accessibility and quality staff. As long as there enough parents who can afford to send their kids to UC, UC will keep increasing the fees, even if the mix of student no longer represents the citizens of California. As long as UC can fill empty positions in a depressed economy, keeping knowledge and quality staff has not been made a priority. UC has opted for the short-sighted strategy of reinvesting like a business trying to make more money rather a tax-payer supported academic institution with a public service mission.

AP organizing campaign pushes forward

6 Aug

There are 12,000 administrative professionals (APs) throughout the UC system who are not represented by a union. That’s something many of us (who helped to found UPTE) hope to change.

APs are student affairs officers, analysts, admin specialists, programmer/analysts, buyers, accountants, learning skills counselors, and many other job titles. We deserve the same protections (and pay raises!) as other UC employees covered by union contracts.

And adding APs to the number of unionized employees at UC will strengthen us ALL at our bargaining tables.

Our next meeting to move the campaign forward toward reality is Saturday, August 21 from 10 am to 4 pm at UCLA.

We need your help and input, so please join us. If you need information about logistics or have other questions, please contact Lisa Kermish at lkermish@yahoo.com.

We Must Have A Say In Our Pension Fund

27 Jul

Would you put your money in a bank account where you could not choose when or under what conditions to withdraw, how to invest or even how much you had to put in it? Of course not, but that is exactly the conditions of our University of California pension fund.

UPTE-CWA insists that we have a say in our pension plan. Legislators in Sacramento agree and are concerned that the state makes contributions to the UC pension fund there will not be adequate accountability without employee participation in governance.

Where do decisions about our pension plan get made?

The decisions about how much we contribute, when we can retire, what the formula is for calculating our pension benefit are made at the bargaining table. In the past, we gave the Regents the unilateral power to change these benefits. We no longer trust the Regents to act in our best interest. The current TX/RX contract (link to contract: http://www.upte.org/contract-rx/benefits.pdf) and HX contract we will negotiate will restrict any changes to our pension to those described in the contract. Our members will vote on all changes as part of the contract ratification.

The decisions about how our money is invested and managed are effectively made by the Investment Advisory Group of the Regents. This committee has the responsibility to decide about who manages our funds and how much they charge. This committee reviews the conflict of interest between Regents and UC administrators with the investments made.

We need complete transparency and accountability. We want to know how much money there is. We want to know how it is invested. We want to ensure that our pension savings our invested responsibly and in a manner consistent with our principles.

This committee has no employee representatives on it. Together with other UC unions we have demanded substantive participating on this committee.

Our pressure has forced UC President Yufof to agree to place one employee representative on the Investment Advisory Group. Token representation on a board that decides how to invest our more than $40 billion pension fund will not suffice. We need a meaningful and effective voice.

Over the next year we will work with other UC unions to use political pressure in Sacramento and member pressure in our workplace to achieve our goal to have real say in our pension plan.

What can you do?
(1) Sign up for our political action campaign so we have adequate funds to make sure legislators friendly to our interests get elected.
(2) Get involved in our legislative committee by contacting our Rodney Orr, our legislative director at (805) 455-2813 or legislative@upte-cwa.org

Welcome to the new UPTE leadership blog

26 Jul

This is a new forum where systemwide executive board members will post statements for the public to read and comment on. We also have a web forum for member only dialog where anyone can post. You can sign up for this at www.upte.org/upteforum