Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fat Chants and Other Tales of an Uppity UPTE Strike

I was out on strike today, along with thousands of members of the University Professional & Technical Employees (UPTE) union at all the UC campuses. UPTE has been in negotiations with the UC for a new contract for months, and as per the UC way, there has been little progress. So the strike was a means to call public attention to all the UC's unfair labor practices simply in the process of negotiations--in particular stall tactics and refusals to provide information which seem to follow the template established by Dick Cheney and his energy bill-writing buddies. It's hard to talk about how much money is available (or not) for raises when the UC refuses to acknowledge its true operating budget and refuses to admit it saves more than $2.5 million annually in "turnover savings." Turnover savings is the money the UC recoups because it pays poorly, so senior people leave, and when jobs get re-staffed--if they do, as many departments see positions disappear when an employee quits, leaving those workers left to absorb all those job duties--they are re-staffed at the lowest end of the pay scale for that position.

For more on the way the UC scams all its unions, go check the archives for my subtly titled "UC, You Suck" entry a month or so back.

I have to admit, despite our chants of "Who's Got the Power, We've Got the Power," and "UC wages under attack, What will we do?, Stand up, fight back," its was a disheartening affair. I joined the picket at the front gate of campus just before 8 am this morning and the picketers were outnumbered by the donuts left behind by an anonymous supporter. Many people honked in support as they drove onto campus, but while their horns were willing, their flesh seemed too weak to make it to the picket line. Even the noontime rally, when our numbers swelled, was a bit meager--we seemed to be more a sideshow for the busy skate-boarding undergrads than any kind of movement.

Which, of course, only pisses me off more. Why don't people come out and show they're tired of watching their pay in real terms fall 30% in the past 15 years? I'm mad as hell they're not mad as hell, and I'm not going to fight for them anymore.

At least that's what I want to say. Instead, I chanted right along and had a great time blowing my whistles, tuned at slightly different ear-piercing pitches, I might add--a union demo is only as good as its whistles, and we tweeted up a storm.

Paralysis has the upper hand, of course, and this sparsely-peopled strike is only one tiny element of the fear and resignation and sloth and immediate selfishness not even smart enough to bloom into long-term self-interest that defines the American populace.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Emily said...

As I was one of the chant leaders, it is good to read George's blog. Yes, the turnout seemed low but the impact on the University of California's business for the day was tremendous! We closed down construction on all of the campuses, stopped many deliveries and shut down departments that work with the trades.

I just wish you could have been there with George and I!

8:23 PM  

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