10.01.2013

Astroturfing comes to UAW 2865

Astroturfing is a commonly-used political tactic for the ruling class. Spreading propaganda for reactionary, anti-worker policies works best when they present themselves as simply concerned grassroots citizens, rather than as members of the 1%. Americans for Prosperity, the front operated by the Koch Brothers, is the latest infamous example of astroturfing.

Sadly, astroturfing has come to our union. Paycheck First, the website solely dedicated to attacking members of AWDU in the Bargaining Team and union leadership, has brought such a tried-and-tested tactic. They claim to be "just members" who want a higher pay and more say in the union, but they are "just members" in a way the Koch Brothers are just citizens. They individually might not hold office in the union right now - perhaps because they lost an election - but their interests are tied with the bureaucratic Admin Caucus, which used to control the union with an iron fist until 2011.

All astroturfs worthy of the name deny that they are astroturfs. But recently, their fa├žade was further broken. They wrote in favor of the Admin Caucus's desperate, so-called "boycott" of the bargaining retreat, which had been planned democratically for weeks in advance; and they displayed the name of the author of the email that advocated the "boycott". (http://paycheckfirst.com/riverside-bargaining-team-member-calls-for-boycott-of-bargaining-retreat/) Have they suddenly lost any commitment to protecting privacy, or do they have close connection with the Admin Caucus leadership? and who is funding their professionally-crafted website and unceasing stream of facebook ads? Where is the money coming from?

The deeply anti-democratic and nightmarish character of the old bureaucratic leadership is well-documented. As one activist put it, it was kind of a union where "nobody can so much as jump without the President authorizing the lifting of our feet off of the ground."

Under the control of the Admin Caucus...
President appointed the Admin Caucus member to an Executive Board position without an election
All emails were vetted by the statewide President of the local – campus leadership didn’t have access members’ emails.
All written materials and websites had to be vetted by the President. Even campus leadership (head stewards, Recording Secretary, Unit Chair) weren’t allowed to create a flyer without it being edited and approved by the President of the Local.
All campus-based actions, events, and campaigns must be approved by the President, the Executive Board or the Joint Council. Dare to organize an unauthorized protest, and risk being yelled at by statewide leadership or removed from your elected position within the Union.
The Joint Council, which meets quarterly and consists of representatives from each UC campus represented by the UAW (so not UCSF), was controlled by the Executive Board, the President, and UAW International staff. They came to Joint Council meetings with a set agenda and a series of reports and essentially suppressed most proposals they didn’t suggest themselves.
Each campus leadership didn't automatic access to at least minimal funds to use to make flyers, buy refreshments, reserve rooms, etc. We couldn’t even buy a ream of colored paper without the President asking us to pledge not to use said paper for “unauthorized” petitions, flyers, or other literature.
More than half of the Joint Council seats were regularly vacant.
The Admin Caucus leadership refused to participate in the mass student movement in 2009-10.
• They did not mobilize the membership during last contract negotiations in 2010 and gave us cuts in real wages.
They attempted to suspend counting of the votes at the previous leadership election in 2011, when it appeared that they would lose the election. Occupation of the union offices was necessary to ensure that they would not steal the election.

(Sources: http://slugorganizingcommittee.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/uaw-2865-is-anti-democratic/, http://uaw2865history.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/background-on-uaw-structure-and-functioning-aka-why-is-our-union-so-messed-up/, http://berkeleyuaw.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/uaw-leadership-abandons-vote-count-members-respond-count-every-vote/)

AWDU has transformed our union so drastically that the state of the union before 2011 is unimaginable today; an activist joining the union now would have a hard time believing it. We have struggled together with Occupy and student movements and stopped the planned fee hikes; and now, we have bargaining sessions and the Contract Committee that are open to all members. But the movement for a democratic, social movement union now faces a well-funded opposition, which claims to support more union democracy but would take us back to the bad old days, if they are to defeat us.

Paycheck First is for our paycheck as much as Americans for Prosperity is for prosperity of American workers.