Union Builder Communicator: August 05, 2008

State Budget Blackmail, Yudof E-Picket
Governor Schwarzenegger has issued an executive order that more than 200,000 state employees will only be paid the federal minimum wage and more than 10,000 will be fired. He has vowed to hold firm on his budget demands to cut to schools, social programs and other reductions of state services.

California cuts taxes for the wealthy in times of economic health, but with the current economic crisis the governor and conservative legislators will not consider taxing oil companies (California is one of only two states that doesn’t), taxing yacht owners, and closing tax loopholes. (For details, see California Speaker Karen Bass’ webpage).

Lines at DMV offices, summer student programs, and many other state agencies are already being affected. How many will avoid careers in state employment in the future if they stand to be used as pawns in political maneuvers? The state of California already has one of the worst school systems, and its state highways are in disrepair (see Karen Bass page for list of previous cuts and their effects.)

While these cuts do not yet directly affect UC employees, the new UC President Yudof sent out a message to staff saying “UC will take appropriate measures to assist the governor and the state in addressing its financial situation.” The head of the California state university system has promised that CSU will come up with the money to pay its staff. The state controller has defied the governor stating that he can’t reduce state workers pay, and even if he could, he wouldn’t reduce state workers pay to the federal minimum wage. Why can’t our new president stand up for staff instead of sending out ominous emails? To make clear to President Yudof that he shouldn’t even consider cutting our pay, UPTE-CWA set up an e-picket. If you and your co-workers have not sent him an email yet, please do so right away before he decides to take any action.

Talking To Our Community: Faculty Petition & YouTube
All faculty received the petition from 1000s of UPTE-CWA members requesting their support for decent wage increases and the preservation of benefits. The faculty we work with hold important political sway over the UC administration, but they often do not know the challenges we face. In our effort to negotiate new TX/RX contracts, we will keep them involved and call on their support. At each campus, we need a team of UPTE-CWA members who can meet with sympathetic faculty to coordinate how they can best support us. Contact your local to volunteer.

We want to make better use of video and other forms of communication and to support our contract campaign. If you have not yet had the opportunity, check out the professionally produced YouTube videos of UPTE-CWA members explaining their work and what they want in a union contract. We are also developing a website to show how UC’s wage and benefit policies are undermining the quality of our university. Do you have suggestions or additions to this website? Personal testimonials, relevant statistics and creative suggestions would all make this a more compelling website for legislators, faculty and news media. Please send your suggestions to Jelger Kalmijn, UPTE’s president.

CWA National Convention
The annual convention of our national union, the Communications Workers of America, focused on crucial electoral and legislative campaigns.

Our effort to reform labor law so that a majority of workers can obtain union recognition without having to pass through a rigged election process has built momentum by getting 1 million union members to sign cards. The Employee Free Choice Act, as the federal bill is called, will give workers across the country similar rights to those we currently have for higher education employees in California. UPTE-CWA members are signing the legislative support cards and having their pictures taken for a massive event where we will use the photos of 10,000 workers to surround the U.S. Capitol the day the Employee Free Choice Act is submitted.

Also at the convention, UPTE-CWA delegates played a leading role in setting CWA policy on health care reform. Rather than accepting reform strategies that would strengthen the insurance industries grip on our healthcare or just waiting for a more receptive elected leadership, our delegates presented a resolution to support current, profound legislative health care reform proposals. Proposals such as that proposed by Schwarzenegger/Nuñez in California last year have countless fundamental flaws. They force workers to purchase health care they can’t afford, and punish them if they don’t, and they set no minimum standard on the quality of care employers need to provide. For health care reform, the devil is in the details, and we need reform that will refocus our health care system on quality care and not profits of the health care industry.

In addition to these two important legislative efforts, the delegates unanimously endorsed Barack Obama for US president. CWA also held an election for the national leadership, and we voted to retain the current leadership of our district and the public sector.

Stewards Tip: Comp Time or Pay for Overtime Worked
Animal Care departments at various campuses are juggling schedules of animal technicians so that they do not have to pay them for any overtime when they come to work on weekends and holidays. Our contract, TX/RX Article 13, states that regular work schedules are 8 hours a day and 5 hours a week. Employees may request alternative work schedules by the procedure described in the same contract article, but management does not have the right to impose another schedule. UPTE-CWA will be challenging schedules where employees’ hours are shortened during the week so that when they are forced to work on the weekend, they get no overtime. Contact your UPTE-CWA stewards for more information or questions.

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This e-publication was prepared by UPTE-CWA President Jelger Kalmijn. Contact him if you have any questions or comments. If you wish to be removed from this list, please email info@upte-cwa.org.