Tara’s Response

Dear Joint Council, Bargaining Team Co-Chairs, and comrades,

I’m writing to respectfully disagree with the repeated assertion that the appellants of the Mussman appeal are somehow collaborating with management.

I, as well as the other 48 signatories of the appeal, are UC student workers. We believe in the collective power that this union makes possible. This is why I was deeply disappointed—along with the many hundreds of workers across California who voted no–when the potential to build this power was foreclosed by undemocratic means. I believe that the best way to fight the boss is to trust in the capacity of our workers to organize a mass action to fight for the contract we deserve. This position is not and can never be compatible with any interest management might have in this appeal. And this is why I signed the appeal.

We are not anti-union workers. You know this because you know who we are. We are student workers, dedicated members of the organizing committee, and active rank-and-file. Before and during the contract campaign we tabled and did walk-throughs on campuses across the state, went to JC meetings, organized actions, built CAT structures in our departments, held town halls, talked with our fellow workers, attended bargaining, shared our stories, and convinced our friends and colleagues to join us in all of this important work. We did this in order to build our union, in order to make our union strong. We did this because we believe in solidarity and worker power. Knowing many of us personally and the work we’ve been doing, the suggestion that we are coordinating with the boss is disappointing, and unfair.

What the above-signed letter from the Bargaining Team co-chairs does not do is address the appeal in any substantive way. And what matters most is the substance of our appeal. The document was addressed to and sent to the E-board for formal review under the union’s own internal appeal process. Following the advice of a lawyer who was consulted about the appeal, management was cc’d in the initial delivery of the appeal. We contest the validity of the contract because of the means through which it was ratified, and all parties to the contract must be made aware of our legal claim. The intention does not go beyond the communication of the appeal to all parties involved.

The purpose of the appeal is to respond, via the union’s democratic procedures, to the irregularities that took place in the process of ratification. We don’t believe that the union should move on from this decision without taking a hard look at whether we faithfully followed our own rules and procedures when the BT didn’t reach 50%+1 to ratify, when the vote took place before most campuses were in session, when the E-board sent out biased ballot materials after much of the Elections Committee resigned, when paid staff were directed to campaign for the ‘Yes’ vote, when there was interference with the ‘No’ campaign reaching members, and when technical issues prevented members from accessing ballots and voting. Considering that the appeal contests the supposedly democratic character of the ratification itself, repeated claims to “democratic will” and a “large majority” are simply restatements of arguments against the appeal itself. I joined this union because I believe in its mission and I believe in solidarity. It is our right and obligation as union members and leaders to stand up when we believe that our democratic principles are not being respected.

I didn’t get it before, in fact, I resisted this narrative. But now I’m beginning to understand what many of my colleagues have been saying these past months about how the new union bulldozes dissent. It happens by de-legitimizing concerns, in microaggressions via email and in person, and it happens under the guise of “efficiency.” You all foreclosed the fight before it could get off the ground–and now you want to chase anyone out of town who does not agree. I feel no genuine invitation to join efforts to build the union in this email, despite the claim that it’s important to have “each other’s backs against the boss.” This is not only because we’ve been here all along doing our part, it’s also because it accuses me of betraying my fellow workers. I cannot tolerate, and I will not accept this false accusation.

I haven’t stopped organizing or caring deeply about this union. I want to keep fighting, but not at the expense of my integrity or the dignity of my fellow workers who can’t wait four more years for a good contract.

In solidarity,
Tara Phillips
Head Steward, UC Berkeley
Shannon Ikebe, Spencer Adams, and Mary Mussman sign in support.