Saturday, April 26, 2014

Last Exit to UC Berkeley; Or: A Tale of Three Campus Protests in the Span of about a Week; Or: #ReclaimTheStrikeFunds

Last Exit to UC Berkeley


A Tale of Three Campus Protests in the Span of about a Week



What do you call a tepid UAW 2865 two day “strike” (pre-planned work stoppage with scheduled ending point) with mere dozens participating by walking in a small circle for a few hours, leading to the UC Administration “caving” leading to a “tentative agreement” where the Union wins the right of lactation rooms & transgender bathrooms, but not a cost of living increase, so a good percentage of the unionized workforce of graduate students still has to rely on food stamps to fend off starvation?  In 2014, a Historic Labor Victory, of course! 

Disclaimer:  I’m very supportive of transgender (/transgender-friendly) bathrooms and the role they play in our culture in reducing transphobia.

In a similar light, I also support the idea of a keg of free beer for workers off the clock… 

 but not the expense of a DENTAL PLAN! 
 …because Lisa needs braces.

The First Protest:

I don’t know if UC Berkeley still teaches The Simpsons as part of their Sociology curriculum, but I can guarantee that the students on the UAW 2865 “picket line” would have learned more by spending their time watching the classic Season Four Simpsons episode “Last Exit to Springfield” (synopsis here) than walking in a circle, pretending that their protest was more than useless Union theater.

The two day “strike”
For some reason, the United AUTO Workers represents around 13,000 graduate student workers at the University of California…

… and the organization has a history of conceding away all their labor organizing power to management for the past 30-plus years: the local UAW 2865 was in a position of negotiating for a ridiculously awful contract that wouldn’t  keep up with the cost of living/inflation.

'"Homer, organized labor has been called "a lumbering dinosaur".'
This article breaks down this farce of a “labor action” better than I probably could so check it out so I don’t have to repeat its prescient points.  I can provide a little more personal, on the ground context to how this “strike” played out at UC Berkeley.

This first point can’t be emphasized enough:  The UAW 2865 organizers planted themselves at the head of the #No2Napolitano movement (the movement against the appointment of Janet Napolitano, the former Head of Homeland Security as the new President of the University of California system) for the past eight or so months to usurp and manipulate radical student energy away from direct actions on campus and into planning for the narrow scope of campus workers’ contract struggles.  So when you look at these rather bland pictures of the UAW 2865 Graduate Students Workers on strike, know that months of planning and untold thousands of dollars of Union Dues went into a few dozen people walking in a circle in a faux-picket line for a few hours, accomplishing nothing; not even the tepid reforms of their negotiated contract.  More importantly, organizing support and populist student momentum on campus for #No2Napolitano was sacrificed on the ever-present altar of UAW moderation.

We at @CalOpenU (That’s the Open University student group, the last active working group of Occupy Cal) played the role of observers, chatting up with people who wanted to hear the broader story of activism at UC Berkeley in the past couple of years.  While the UAW dozens were chanting “Don’t cross that picket line!” and other tepid Union slogans… 

What do we want?

More equitable treatment at the hands of management!

When do we want it?


… I had a far more important counter-chant:
Where's my burrito? Where's my burrito? Where's my burrito?
Yes, snagging an unauthorized burrito from AFSCME was the high point of the day filled with Picket Line Theater.  Why “Picket Line Theater”?  There was no attempt to stop classes or stop students from going to classes.  The picket was in the sidewalk off campus property.  Thousands of students walked through the picket line unhindered (rightfully so, as what would they be scabbing?), but importantly with no idea of what this protest was about, no UAW members handing out flyers describing the nature of the demonstration and of the contract woes.  Useless.  Useless.  Ladies and gentlemen: the state of Labor Unions in the USA in 2014!

[Narrated not by me]

(Look closely… do you see ONE #No2Napolitano sign anywhere?  Another in a long line of proofs: UAW 2865 “solidarity” only flows one way…)

The Second Protest:

A few days later, an under-advertised event happened on campus.  Janet Napolitano was visiting the Boalt Law School at UC Berkeley for something or other, and the Students of Color Solidarity Coalition (SCSC [see section on Front Groups & Alphabet Soup here]) promoted a demonstration against the president’s presence on campus.  For a group that calls themselves a “solidarity coalition”, they sure do their damndest to make sure no one sympathetic to the cause finds out about their organizing meetings or their actions.  An anemic march of less than twenty came up from Sproul to the Law Center chanting “No to Napolitano!”
I had a bullhorn but mostly chose to only observe this farce of the eventually over 50 gathered, chanting at the side of a building, rather than, you know, go inside and challenge her directly.

Other members of @CalOpenU decided to troll the stagnant rally with counter-chants lauding Janet Napolitano, and even brought signs parodying the situation. 

The SCSC were so dense, they actually thought we supported Napolitano, until they were informed later it was a satirical gesture.

The formerly potentially vibrant movement was reduced to 10% of the students and activists once involved, not because the cause was any less pressing than it was on Feb 13th 2014 when over 500 showed up to rally against Napolitano, but because of poor leadership that caused students to want to bow out of boring protest theater that wasn’t meant to accomplish anything but advance and enhance a few organizers’ activist profiles and careers.  As I sat back and observed this cowardly farce, another grad school student who wrote this excellent piece criticizing that lack of radicalism and canned protest theater of #No2Napolitano for CounterPunch, said hello to me: “Did you hear the latest rumor going around about you guys (@CalOpenU)?  Supposedly you aren’t just cops, but are Specialized Infiltrating Agents.”

This is the latest escalation in an over two year smear campaign, led by a leader of the UAW/ReclaimUC sect, whom in tradition of not naming names in my exposes, I’ll just refer to her in this article as AA (for Anonymous Activist).  AA was part of the Original Facilitation Committee instrumental in splitting up Occupy Cal, moderating radical direct action away from campus into a useless one-day Democratic Party/Union led rally at Sacramento called “Occupy Education”.  When members of the still active (still winning direct actions) Occupy Cal saw that it was clear that these two UC Berkeley “Occupies” weren’t acting harmoniously as Occupy Education (UAW front) initially promised, but the latter were actively working against us, we started speaking out against DNC/UAW cooption in our GAs (more on a specific instance later).  And that’s when the generalized smear campaign began against Occupy Cal (which at that point [Jan 2012] still had 50 people +/- willing to meet twice a week), with unfounded accusations, backstabbing and mudslinging, which I won’t detail again here.  This led up to earlier this year when we called out the UAW usurpation of the #No2Napolitano, we were called “cops” in public, and the ReclaimUC/UAW sect/AA refused to denounce this, but instead kept propagating the dangerous lie to the fresh crop of student activists involved with #No2Napolitano.

We confronted this clique again on the edges of the #No2Napolitano “action” at the Law School, asking for an apology and a public refutation of calling us cops/snitchjacketing before the situation got any uglier.  Instead, they doubled down, again publicly saying we were cops.  The ridiculous dialogue continued something like this:

“What evidence do you have to make the accusation that we are cops?”

“Well, you act like cops.”

“How do we act like cops?”

“You take pictures of our rallies.”

“So do dozens of other people!  Are they cops?”

“You come across as threatening.”

“We have never, ever physically threatened anyone. Calling out UAW cooption is NOT a threat!   
Snitchjacketing is very dangerous: that threatens OUR safety as activists!”

We concluded this debacle by saying we will stop coming to #No2Napolitano meetings/”actions” if/when they are willing to have a public debate about tactics and UAW cooptation.  Another sheltered neophyte know-it-all activist (of which UC Berkeley has far too many) chimed in: “That’s a threat!”
“You can’t just redefine words like that!” I shouted back.  I pointed at the observing UCPD ten feet away, “They’re a threat! They have fucking guns!”

Incredibly, a UCPD cop addressed me with this sheepish chuckle, “Hey, I’m a peace officer…”
Incensed, I yelled at him: “I’m sure that’s what you were yelling to the students as you were beating them in the rib cages with your baton!” I pantomimed the infamous baton-thrusts versus Occupy Cal, with every jab yelling “I’M A PEACE OFFICER!  I’M A PEACE OFFICER!”  That shut the cop up.

The Third Protest:

A few days later it was Cal Day: a day when potential UC Berkeley students tour the campus with their families as the university has tables, displays and presentations all day long to promote the UC Berkeley brand.  One presentation of interest to us at @CalOpenU and the activist Berkeley community at large was a contentious groundbreaking ceremony of a new engineering building. It was bad enough that the university planned to cut down a grove of redwood trees for this project, but to put salt on the wounds was in the place of the green space was to be an ugly building that would basically serve as a privatized Qualcomm spy center on campus.  Another ominous sign of the increasing surveillance police state happening on campus along with former DHS head Janet Napolitano being appointed UC president.

So an ad hoc coalition of activists showed up, determined not to allow a farce of a groundbreaking ceremony with plutocrats giving self-congratulatory speeches go without dissent.

In response to a vague threat by known, committed direct action activists, the UCPD came out en masse with a 24 hour guard at the trees to prevent an occupation.  On the day of the groundbreaking, the ceremony apparently didn’t feel safe enough with armed cops on all sides, and fled, unannounced to an undisclosed location to make their presentation.

Leaving the UCPD to guard a field of empty chairs…

While the Qualcomm plutocrats had a groundbreaking indoors; their shovels symbolically digging into air on stage: total UC administration cowardice.

See, this is what happens when a protest is legitimate; when a demonstration is a threat to The Powers That Be at the University of California: the suit and tie brass in the UC Administration tuck tail and run and send in the riot gear clad pigs of the UCPD with their batons and pepperspray.  

Yet when activist organizers leaders direct a demonstration away from radical direct action, IE don’t enter the building Janet Napolitano was at to directly protest her to her face, occupy the WRONG BUILDING; don’t allow the masses to occupy the wrong building with the vanguard, making them wait outside and merely, meekly, observe the preening “Blum 11” (psst: you don’t get to call yourself the Blum 11 like the "Chicago 8" until you are arrested/prosecuted, you egotistical fucks): this is when Protest Theater is ensured, and therefore no threat to The Powers That Be.

How else can one explain the fact that dozens of UCPD riot cops lined up and left en masse WHILE THERE WAS A BUILDING OCCUPATION IN PROGESS… unless they too knew that it was protest theater?

Never once in my six years of being an activist at UC Berkeley have I known the UCPD to leave a direct action in progress, to not collect that overtime pay like the leeches they are.  This is unprecedented, and many veteran Berkeley activists agree…


"Smithers, where is that union representative? He's twenty minutes late!"
"I don't know, sir. He hasn't been seen since he promised to clean up the union."
"What the Hell?"

"Welcome, brothers of Local 643. As you know, our president, Chuckie Fitzhugh, ain't been seen lately. We're all prayin' he'll turn up soon, alive and well."
(everyone laughs)

Besides the mostly behind my back smears (rarely to my face, online or otherwise) calling me a conspiracy theorist, a wingnut, or a cop, coming from this ReclaimUC/UAW sect, they do offer one (and ONLY one) line of thought to actually argue against the points I’ve been making for months (years): let me go ahead and disprove this fallacious counter-argument now, again.  This cabal says all of my arguments are invalid because there actually is a leftist wing inside the UAW 2865 that is against the Democratic Party entrenchment in the union and has been doing some excellent radical organizing since 2011.  Let’s highlight/bullet point some of these Great Moments in the UAW 2865 Faction of Radical Leftist Communist Organizers, shall we?

 (On being elected new Union President)
Congratulations, Homer.

The crowd picks Homer up, cheering.
Hey, what does this job pay?



Unless you're crooked.

First, disclaimer, I grow weary of the Alphabet Soup/Front Groups this sect puts forth: from this UAW 2865 clique since 2011 there have emerged the ADWU, PEC, Occupy Education Facilitation Committee, SDU, CPE, SCSC, and probably a handful of others I missed.  For the purposes of clarity in regards to my Occupy Cal article, I rebranded them the OFC for Original Facilitation Committee of Occupy Cal, though at the time in fall 2011, they were sardonically called the “Trots”; a play on Trotskyites… AND wet runny shit, for the way they fucked up a mass student movement with their terrible leadership.  It isn’t my paying job* (*more on this later) to write the War and Peace version of the history of the UAW 2865, but I’m well aware of this Communist/Trotskyist/Marxist/Leninist/Syndicalist/Leftist/Unionist/Whatever-The-Fuck-ta-vist sect of the UAW 2865 lack of radicalism, ratfucking, and Agent Moderation, however much they deny connection to the Democrats (beyond the obvious example of their union dues going directly to the DNC).  Twice in a matter of a month in late 2011 did AA go beyond her bounds, representing herself as a/the leader of Occupy Cal; first unilaterally stalling direct action on campus until February 1st, and in another Occupy Education coalition meeting, stalling it again for another month until March 4th 2012, doing her damndest to make Occupy Cal a lame duck organization for 3-4 months.  As mentioned before, Occupy Education was a one day rally of the who’s who of DNC-funding Unions, with a keynote speaker in Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom… but of course, UAW/Occupy Education has NOTHING to do with the DNC: they’re radical communists.  (Oh, I have more examples… I’ll just leave it here for now)

This is your chance to get a fair shake for the working man.
"And make life-long connections to the world of organized crime. Mmm... organized crime..."
The fact is, this “anti-DNC” sect of the UAW 2865 claim to radical organizing fame is Occupy Education and ratfucking Occupy Cal: no matter home many times they want to ignore this truth, or pivot from this reality.

Why more journalists aren't covering this story:

 (Springfield, 1909) -"You can't treat the working man this way. One day, we'll form a union and get the fair and equitable treatment we deserve!"

"Then we'll go too far, and get corrupt and shiftless, and the Japanese will eat us alive!"
"If only we'd listened to that boy, instead of walling him up in the abandoned coke oven."
 (Of course The Simpsons isn't calling out the UAW here: Bosh!  Flim-shaw!)

The Simpsons episode “Last Exit to Springfield” accurately portrays Union corruption and shiftlessness with hilarious biting satire: this was in 1993, before NAFTA hammered in the near final nail to USA’s middleclass unionized manufacturing base.  Business unions since 1945 were too busy purging leftists from their ranks, lobbying against Post-War Universal Healthcare for all Americans (unlike their European counterparts), and making life-long connections to organized crime, to mount any kind of fight against the outsourcing of labor to Japan than Mexico in the 1970s or 1980s.  Instead of using their vast organizing dollars to lobby for tariffs (for example), the corrupt, intransigent Union bosses of the UAW were paid off by neoliberalism, letting the once prosperous manufacturing cities like Detroit or Flint Michigan become the dystopian urban hellscapes we know them as now.

Once upon a time (pre-Reagan +/-), journalists were paid a salary to research and report on Union corruption (and other worthwhile news that falls through the cracks of modern News Media).

A scene from “Superman: The Movie” circa 1978:
Clark Kent (Superman) and Lois Lane in the Daily Planet newspaper newsroom:
 (Remember newsrooms?  Of course you don’t)

Editor in Chief Perry White walking through the room of bustling reporters, stops for a brief moment to praise Clark Kent: 
(walks away around the desk again, says over his shoulder while examining some papers)
Hey, nice job on that union scandal, Kent.
(half-rising out of his chair)
Uh, gosh, thanks, Mr. White.
Today, in 2014 there are basically only two types of journalists who get paid to write about Unions.  One being right wing/libertarian trolls like the Breitbart band of scumfucks, being paid by billionaire plutocratic earth rapists like the Koch Brothers to denounce teachers barely making a living wage as greedy.
The other types are the progressive, liberal, “indy” news websites: and the only type of reporting that pays is uncritical, unexamined Pro-Union shameless cheerleading.  Somehow they never find the glaring faults of the entrenched Business Union hierarchy, but keep feeding the propaganda “If we win this next (minor) union struggle and #ElectBetterDemocrats, the benefits will trickle down to the rest of the American workforce!  The Union makes us strong!

All the usual indy media outlets gave the predictable rah-rah pom-pom & flag waving to this two day strike (variations of "Historic Labor Victory" was a term thrown around pretty casually in these articles), all the while knowing damn well knowing the UAW/UAW 2865's historic and recent roles, nationally and locally, in ratfucking real populist/leftist activism.  But hey, journalists gotta get paid, amirite?

(Witness this conversation where I call out a semi-apologetic journalist from Al Jazeera who damn well knows better.)

Wrong.  I'm not naive, I know we ALL sell out in this fucked up capitalist system in varying degrees, but this shit is a bridge too far.  This style of reporting is more propaganda maintaining the illusion that faith in the Union bureaucracies will be fruitful, despite 70-plus years of evidence to the contrary.  Every word written for money to propagate this lie is selling out the working class, and stifling visions of something better.

On a more personal note, these journalists know they are working for the forces of censorship, which is enemy Number One to any notion of a free and open press, the 1st Amendment, the 4th estate, etc.  The UAW have done just about all they can to discredit me with a smear campaign, snitchjacketing, and censorship and your bullshit cheerleading is supporting this travesty.

Combined, they've maintained this elitist notion of the liberal journalist caste: you only get a meal ticket as a writer if you went to the right school and sucked up to the right people; not on the merits of how well you write.  They've done their best to stall/sabotage my paying freelance writing career.

Or as Nathan Explosion so succinctly puts it:
"That's my bread and butter you're fucking with."

This isn't exactly new: since the start of Occupy Wall St there have been a vast number of "rad" "indy" journalists sidling up to activists, schmoozing with us: only to sell us out at the drop of a hat... or at a potential MSNBC spot.

"I for one welcome our new insect overlords..."

" a trusted TV personality I could be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their underground sugar caves!"


To wrap up...

Fuck you, you fucking sellout journalist hacks.

And fuck you, you fucking sellout activists, who choose cliques over truth.

To the rest of you reading: we can work together to form better models of organization than Business Unionism.  I'm rather optimist in this, despite all the reasons I have to be jaded and cynical.  But we must confront these last Sacred Cows of the Left, the Unions who backstabbed the radical populism of Occupy, sitting on collectively BILLIONS on dollars in unused, purposefully dormant strike funds.  The UAW alone has around $800 million: think about how just 1% of that money could have been a game changer for Occupy. These strike funds were set up a century ago as a public trust to wage a class war against plutocracy: generations of greedy, corrupted Union bosses have denied these funds to We the People, leading us to this hellish austerity illusion of modernity: IE where Teachers' Assistants still on food stamps is a "Historic Labor Victory."

I still believe that the Power is still with the People: The Unions ARE NOT the people.  Not anymore.

They have the Plant, we have the Power.



No comments:

Post a Comment