2019 Biennial Election Candidate Statements
Check out the candidate statements for the 2019 election. Berkeley members can elect a Unit Chair, a Recording Secretary, and 16 Head Stewards.
Hannah Ehrlinspiel for Unit Chair
I am running for the position of UC-Berkeley Unit Chair on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power (OSWP) slate because the livelihoods of unionized public educators are under attack [and our slate has a plan to fight back]. Neoliberal austerity measures, the forces of privatization, and the wealthy elite are working to dismantle the power of unions and to put public education up for auction. But, as the teachers’ strike wave has shown, workers are standing up and fighting back.
OSWP has the strategic vision, political program, and organizing chops necessary to make our union a key force in this fight. Our long-term goals are ambitious: we will win a fully-funded, tuition-free UC for All. To get there, we need on-the-ground, one-to-one organizing to build a supermajority membership with high member participation and meaningful democratic engagement among members.
As Unit Chair, I believe in just this sort of organizing. By having deep organizing conversations with hundreds of workers across the state, I have built relationships with and helped coordinate strike support for AFSCME, UPTE, and OEA; organized statewide escalation strategies around UCPath; led trainings on phone-banking, canvassing, and organizing conversations; made monthly membership meetings more accessible; and helped bring our union from 37% membership to majority, with 63% membership on the Berkeley campus.
This coming year, I advocate that we organize around the following priorities:
Build a strong, high-participation membership. After bringing our union back to majority membership over the last two years, our team of elected and rank-and-file leaders will spend the next two getting to supermajority membership.
Enforce our contract. We have formed contract enforcement committees across the state, and we will continue to ensure that our hard-won rights have meaning in workers’ daily lives.
Unionize GSRs/RAs. We must end the two-tiered workplace and build toward industrial unionism by winning GSRs and RAs rights and protections as workers.
Expand our union’s political program. By engaging in strategic campaigns – co-authoring a bill on wage theft in the CA legislature; fighting for rent control and affordable housing; pressuring representatives about workplace protections – we can make transformative gains on the issues affecting all workers.
Fight for collective liberation. We reject anti-solidaristic attempts to divide us along the lines of race, gender, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation, and we will strengthen our Equity Committee, International Students Committee, and more in order to end both economic and social oppression.
Our union represents over 18,000 workers. When united, we can leverage our collective power against the UC’s power-of-profit in order to force concessions from the boss, fight for the soul of public education, and win a UC that works for the many, not the few
Garrett Shishido Strain for Recording Secretary
My name is Garrett Shishido Strain and I’m a 3rd-year Ph.D. Student in the Sociology Department. I’m running for Berkeley’s Recording Secretary on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power (OSWP) slate. Student-workers face many challenges inside and outside the classroom: ballooning class sizes, skyrocketing rent, a culture of harassment and discrimination, attacks on immigrant and international students, and much more. To force the UC administration and those in power to make changes on these issues, our union must build power. As Berkeley Recording Secretary, I will prioritize: 1) building our union to supermajority membership with union stewards in every department across campus, 2) unionizing GSRs/RAs, and 3) expanding our union’s political program.
I bring to the leadership of our union over a decade of experience in the labor movement as a rank-and-file member, staff organizer, elected union officer, and bargaining team member. As a member and elected officer in UAW 2865 over the past two years, I helped form a campus-wide Organizing Committee that brought Berkeley up to majority union membership for the first time in seven years and revived our dormant departmental steward network. As a member of our union’s Bargaining Team in 2018, I played a leading role in helping win our union’s strongest-ever language against harassment and discrimination, a 12% wage increase and a new remission of campus fees, and expanded union orientations so that all new student-workers know how to enforce their benefits and rights in our union contract.
I believe our union must be an organization of all members acting collectively to force those in power to give us what we want, rather than a small group of activists or a third-party organization where union officers deliver for members. I propose three priorities to make this vision of our union a reality.
First, build our union to supermajority membership with union stewards in every department across campus. Membership is the primary source of our union’s power; it’s also the cornerstone of union democracy because only members have a voice in our union. Supermajority participation and dynamic shop-floor leadership are the key ingredients our union needs to secure the victories we so far have been unable to win. Second, unionize Graduate Student Researchers and Research Assistants. We must extend the rights that GSIs, readers, and tutors have won – and more! – to our colleagues who work as researchers. Third, expand our union’s political program. Working people are under unprecedented attack. In order to tackle many of the issues student-workers face – from a housing insecurity to xenophobic immigration policies – our union must play a more active role in local, state, and national politics. I will work with members and leaders across the state to build a comprehensive political program that defends public education and advances economic, racial, and gender justice.
Zach Angulo for Head Steward
I am running for Head Steward at UC Berkeley on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power (OSWP) slate. My experience fighting for a union contract has taught me the great value of actually having one. The diverse roles I have served in the graduate worker movement uniquely position me to see how moving parts in a union can fit together. Drawing from this experience and perspective, I want to cultivate a culture of organizing throughout our Union. To accomplish this, we require dependable procedures, a trained and active membership, and an efficient flow of information throughout our union and beyond.
This is my platform:
Build and preserve our institutional memory. Develop archival procedures and training modules for UAW Local 2865 Committees, consolidate listservs and Google groups into an accessible index, curate a list of institutional partners and community supporters, and build an alum network for our union.
Foster a pro-labor culture across our bargaining unit. Promote workers’ artistic engagement in our Local; foster a democratic dialogue among our membership through monthly membership meetings, walkthroughs, and section visits; build coalitions with campus student groups to work on common causes; celebrate holidays that honor the contributions of civil rights activists, labor organizers, exploited peoples, and workers at large in our departments, our campuses, and our state-wide union; coordinate campus-level outreach committees to plan regular social events for labs, departments, and interdisciplinary clusters; and promote organizing opportunities across a wide and diverse scope of involvement, so that every UC student can contribute their strengths to our Local.
Enforce our contract. Grow our contract enforcement teams across our campuses, develop a handbook with cases and guiding texts for grievance handlers, define state-wide standard operative procedures for grievance handlers, design a standing enforcement report for monthly membership and JC meetings, and create a “hotline” of grievance handlers familiar with enforcing particular articles or solving particular procedural puzzles.
Join the graduate worker movement at large. Encourage our Local to build strategic coalitions with graduate worker campaigns and unions, participate in Coalition of Graduate Employee Unions (CGEU) conferences and regional graduate worker gatherings, and maintain solidarity with our International and all unions organizing graduate workers.
Hero Ashman for Head Steward
I am running for the position of Head Steward on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power (OSWP) slate. As a union steward and active member of the Organizing Committee, I have worked this year to strengthen the rank-and-file base of our union by helping to build out a steward structure within departments. Conveying to workers the importance of unionization is critical to building a supermajority membership, as is listening to the myriad problems faced by student-workers across campus. As a Head Steward, I will continue work to sign-up and organize student-workers so that we can respond in full force to attacks on public education and workers-rights. I will also work as a member of the Equity Committee to make sure our union is responsive to issues such as health care access and discriminatory workplace environments that face marginalized workers. I share OSWP’s vision of a union built on worker solidarity and collective liberation, which for me means organizing to connect workers both to their union and to each other.
Layne Frechette for Head Steward
My name is Layne Frechette, and I am a 4th year Ph.D. student in the Chemistry Department at UC Berkeley. I believe in the power of student-workers to help collectively achieve a democratic, responsive, and just university. Translating this goal into action requires concerted effort on the part of union leaders to build union membership, center and respond to the needs of student-workers, and strengthen our union’s role in the broader fight for public education. That is why I am running for Head Steward on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power (OSWP) slate. I have been actively involved in our union for nearly a year, during which time I have helped build our membership, signing up new members at onboardings, walkthroughs, and section visits. I have also had many conversations with fellow student-workers about the hardships faced by Graduate Student Researchers and Research Assistants, solidifying my conviction that we must work towards the creation of a GSR/RA union. In my role as a delegate to the Alameda Labor Council and through my participation in support of the recent Oakland Teachers’ strike, I have seen how our struggles as student-workers are tied to the struggles of other public education workers. As Head Steward, I would continue to build our membership, communicate with GSRs and RAs in my department and beyond in a push for GSR/RA unionization, and participate in political work that strengthens public education.
Holly Gildea for Head Steward
I was initially galvanized to get involved with union organizing after I was injured in a lab accident and realized that as a research worker I lacked many of the protections that I was granted through union bargaining for my GSI work. I am running for a Berkeley Head Steward position on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power slate because we need the power of member involvement and advocacy to start the fight to organize graduate student researchers. It is unconscionable that we show up to work difficult and often dangerous jobs every day while the University remains completely unaccountable for our safety and well-being. By expanding our membership, increasing willingness to take action, and coordinating across the UC system, we can put resources into action to make a graduate student researcher union possible by 2021.
Nathan Kenshur for Head Steward
I am a second-year undergraduate math tutor at the Student Learning Center at UC Berkeley and a co-captain for the tutoring sector at Berkeley. I am running to be a Berkeley Head Steward on the Organizing Student-Worker Power slate because I believe that our union's strength comes completely from its membership. UAW 2865 needs to massively expand both membership and participation among student-workers. We face serious threats: a national government deeply hostile to organized labor and higher education, a state government unwilling to increase funding to the necessary levels for our university system, a university administration resistant to any assertion of labor rights. We can only confront these threats as a united group of student-workers. To do this, we need to make our union a space which protects and hears all student-workers. Undergraduate workers specifically are less involved in our union, and are thus less involved in the democratic processes. Undergraduate workers are also more prone to exploitation due to having less information about the rights afforded to them by our union.
My highest priority as a Head Steward will be to expand membership and participation among low-density sectors, particularly the tutoring and STEM sectors. I believe I am uniquely positioned to organize in these sectors due to being a tutor studying math. I will organize other undergraduate student-workers to be more aware and involved in all aspects of our union's democratic process and resistance to exploitation by the university administration. Through connecting with undergraduate workers, I have learned about multiple violations of our contract by having students tutor for units instead of for pay. I have and am continuing to file grievances requiring the university to pay all student-workers for the work they perform, and I will continue and expand upon this work as a Head Steward.
Sam Kohn for Head Steward
I am a 6th-year physics grad student. I’ve been organizing with our union for two years, and I am running for Head Steward on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power (OSWP) slate. I take pride in my teaching and in my research work. I know many other GSIs, readers, tutors, and GSRs do as well. We all deserve to be paid a living wage; we deserve class sizes small enough that we can remember our students’ names and research advisors who spend time actually advising us; and we deserve a stable set of workplace rights whether we are teaching or doing research. The only way we will win new rights—and enforce the rights we already have—is to teach workers about our union, learn what the biggest issues are, and take collective action around the universal demands of student workers across the UC.
Through our campus Organizing Committee, I have talked to hundreds of workers all over campus to help build our power, and I have seen many challenges that workers face, from low pay to long or irregular work hours, large class sizes, and sexual harassment on the job. Just as frustrating is that workers see their contract protection disappear when they transition from teaching to research work. We all know someone who’s struggling with their teaching or research job because of a crummy supervisor or arbitrary UC policy. These workers deserve union leaders who will put in the time to solve these problems and rally colleagues to their side. That’s why now is the time to vote for candidates on the OSWP slate, who are doing the work to identify and solve these workplace problems and build our union’s membership and collective power. As a Head Steward, I will work for union policies that promote these goals, and I will work to expand student-worker power by helping unionize my fellow GSRs. I would be honored to have your vote.
Yvonne Lin for Head Steward
I am running for Head Steward at UC Berkeley on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power (OSWP) slate. When I arrived at Berkeley, it quickly became apparent to me that current bureaucratic procedures have far-reaching and unacknowledged negative impacts on graduate students. Standard practices like discrepancies in funding between members of the same cohort, the lack of opportunities to renegotiate funding packages over a period of often six or seven years, the complex (and often poorly communicated residency requirements) for out-of-state students, and the limited support for international students are considered immutable, but these practices can be changed. I believe that worker solidarity is a key component of solving equity problems. In order to identify and resolve instances of systemic issues impacting individuals, it is crucial to talk to workers on the ground and facilitate coordinated, cross-departmental efforts. Through a developing a robust departmental steward program and running union trainings, we can also build a strong enough network of active union members that every worker can turn to their immedisiate community for support in contesting exploitative labor practices. As Head Steward, I would target issues of unequal pay practices and hostile workplaces, especially as they disproportionately affect people who are marginalized on multiple axes.
Alex Mabanta for Head Steward
Unions, as democratic spaces, represent who we are and what we fight for as workers.I am committed to three specific platforms as an OSWP candidate:
Political Power: We refuse to accept another four years of Trumpism. Along with the whole OSWP slate, I have helped to revive our union’s engagement in electoral politics, helping to author a local elections guide for all of Berkeley’s union members before the 2018 midterms. As a head steward, I will continue to do this work in our burgeoning political committee. Ahead of the 2020 election, our union will be the student voice to lead the political fight to vote out Trump and Trump allies. We will march and rally and organize and hustle. We will knock on doors, make calls, and drive up turnout. Moreover, UAW Local 2865 will push candidates who proclaim to be our allies to be accountable to us and to the needs of student workers. As a UAW Local 2865 Delegate of the Alameda Labor Council and member of the Berkeley Labor Coalition, I hope to leverage labor leaders, new and old, to join UAW Local 286-led political campaigns citywide and countywide: to ensure our politics are people-powered, corporate-free and student-centered. We cannot sit out of this election. We cannot permit our union to sit out this election. We must stand up and fight back.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: This year’s OSWP candidates represent more departments, gender identities, ethnicities, nationalities, sexualities and faiths than before. Our commitment to inclusion must extend to every level of our union: for underrepresented students, marginalized by the UC, to find strength and belonging organizing with us. Moreover, our campaigns must reflect the problems students, in their different identities, face. Together, let’s build a union militant against white supremacy, sexism, racism, ableism, anti-Blackness, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. This will take building campaigns together that will make UC safer and more inclusive for everyone. To this end, let’s deepen our solidarity and partnerships, invest in our Equity Committee and International Students Committee, and focus on unionizing and empowering more women, people of color, LGBT people, and people with disabilities than ever before. I, along with the entire OSWP slate, is committed to focusing on low-density and low diversity sectors, and to cultivate and mentor underrepresented union members.
Socializing and Social Belonging: Our union is a union of for everyone. We need more spaces to hang out, laugh, cry, conspire, and meet each other as we organize, and activate membership engagement from every part of campus. As a member of the UAW Local 2865 Social Committee, I hope to co-institute more social events: to deepen our relationships, foster belonging, and facilitate pride in our union. As an intersectional organizer, I also hope to co-create events to uplift and celebrate working women, workers of color, LGBT workers, and workers with disabilities.
A lot is on the line in 2019-2020. I am running for Head Steward on the OSWP slate at UC Berkeley to support a union where, together, we build supermajority membership, fight for stronger contract enforcement, fight for wins beyond UC, and dismantle economic and social oppressions built into the UC system.
Ali Marzolf for Head Steward
I am incredibly honored and excited to be running for Head Steward at UC - Berkeley on the Organizing for Student Worker Power (OSWP) slate. I am running on the OSWP slate because my values as an organizer align with the principles of the others running alongside me. In my previous workplace I saw the power that we have as workers when advocate for ourselves via union organizing. As a GSI I have seen the ways in which the university is run like a business. Even though we are the folks who make the UCs run, we often are met with pushback when we ask to be treated with respect. As a union, we can build a sense of community and strength in knowing that we look out for one another. I fundamentally believe that your dignity is all of our dignity, and that the university will listen when we all speak together. I plan to build the strength of our union through internal organizing (boosting membership numbers and building a sense of community) among our peers. Often I feel that it is difficult to conceptualize what exactly a union is. My core belief is that a union is only as strong as its members. Of course, leadership is important, but it is my goal as head steward to increase our members ownership over what is our union, rather than the union.
Valerie McGraw for Head Steward
I am running for Head Steward on the Organizing for Student Worker Power slate. Building worker power is not an easy task, but without strong leadership and an empowered rank-and-file membership, it is impossible. Historically, our union has had especially low membership among undergrad, professional school, and STEM workers. In order to build connections with workers in all departments, we must develop a strong network of rank-and-file leaders across all departments on every campus. Over the past year, I have had countless conversations with workers, during which I have signed up new members, identified new organizers and leaders, and helped workers address workplace issues. In addition to planning and facilitating Organizing Committee meetings, I have led organizer trainings and new worker orientations. These experiences have given me insights into how to organize effectively, and as a Head Steward, these insights will allow me to contribute to a bold organizing campaign to grow our union to supermajority membership and advocate for the benefits and protections that we deserve as academic workers.
Along with increasing membership and involvement of GSIs, readers, and tutors, the most important way to strengthen our union is to unionize graduate student researchers/research assistants (GSRs/RAs). A successful RA organizing campaign will bring thousands of workers into our unit and extend to them the protections that we have fought for and won in our GSI contract. A strong organizing plan is crucial to building worker power, and I believe that this plan must include developing department-level stewards, mobilizing our members to participate in organizing, and making strategic efforts to have organizing conversations with as many workers as possible. I am running for Head Steward because I am excited to implement a bold and comprehensive organizing strategy that will foster solidarity among academic workers across all job titles, departments, and campuses.
Alexa Nicolas for Head Steward
We can only win a fully-funded, tuition-free UC for All when workers have power. Our power can only be both built and seen when we reach everyone. To include over 18,000 readers, tutors, GSIs, and – soon – GSRs into our home-grown democracy requires us to build organizational structures in departments and cohorts, structures that reach through the ways our work atomizes us in classrooms, labs, carrels, cafes, all the spaces we work. We need to organize deeply and build strong coalitions with all of the unions at UC, because we can only win collectively.
I am running on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power slate because building organizing structures and coalitions means that we can develop long-term strategies and resilient power. These are the tools that will allow our organizing to outlive our academic work at UC. Building power means we can win real raises and bargain creatively: continually enforce and uphold our contract, fight in our state legislature for better working conditions within California's largest employer, and build common bargaining goals across all unionized workers at UC. As we've seen from other labor wins this year, we can, like teacher unions in California and nationwide, win big on issues we've never been able to bargain for before – affordable housing, paid peer-to-peer equity training, and ensure our workers are safe from UCPD. We can change what it feels like and who can work at UC.
Teri Oehmke for Head Steward
I am running for position as a Head Steward at UC Berkeley on the Organizing for Student-Worker Power (OSWP) slate. For most of my time at Berkeley, I have been trying to determine what it is that I want to devote my time to. I have had an interest in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives for many years now, but had not found a way in which I felt I could contribute to these projects. Earlier this semester, I learned about the creation of the Equity Committee and its goal to span across departments, colleges, and campuses. I believe that the most efficient way for us to change the campus climate is to work together, and learn from what others have done before us. By establishing a strong Student-Workers Union with concrete goals on what needs to be changed and a plan for how to change it, we can make our working environment a welcoming and productive place for students of all backgrounds. As Head Steward, I would work as part of the Equity Committee to coordinate efforts across UC Berkeley to change the climate felt by marginalized communities and strengthen the plan for how our Student-Workers Union can support these communities.
Diana Ruíz for Head Steward
I’m running for a Head Steward position on the OWSP slate because I want to continue the work of building a durable, inclusive, action-oriented union that both attends to pressing labor needs of my fellow student workers and long outlasts my own tenure as a graduate student. In our political landscape of resurging union power (and backlash), I want to help build a union we can all be proud of years from now. As a member of the Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment and Equity Committees, I am particularly invested in the protection of our most exploited student workers. I believe the OSWP focus on building supermajority membership is a crucial first step towards real leverage against UCOP. Beyond building supermajority membership, I want to work on structural policies that ensure each student worker signing a labor contract knows their rights and how to reject all-too-common discriminatory or unethical labor practices through the union grievance process.
Joseph Stahl for Head Steward
An active membership is the backbone of any strong union. The recent surge in teacher strikes across the country and their impressive wins are an inspiration and model for our own efforts for safe and equitable working conditions. The teacher unions in these strikes had incredible amounts of participation: in some cases, the support for the strikes was at nearly 90%. A divided, inactive membership cannot win - the teachers in West Virginia, Los Angeles, and Oakland knew this, and we know this too. What we won in the last round of contract negotiations is a massive improvement on many fronts, and it was only possible because of the coalition we've built. Nonetheless, we deserve more and can win more by increasing our membership and realizing our united power.
I'm running on the OSWP slate because if we want a just workplace, we must build to supermajority membership. The word "union" itself explains where our true power lies. Building a powerful membership is not antithetical to having uncompromising politics and unconditional support for social justice movements and worker rights; in fact, it's necessary if we want to make real changes. We must help our fellow workers recognize that we deserve more and can demand more. If I am elected to the position of Head Steward, I will continue to organize and activate workers at Berkeley as I've been doing the past year. I will fight for union policies that guarantee more protections against sexual harassment and discrimination, more LGBTQ+ rights and protections, and the end of police brutality and police presence on campus. I will also bring marginalized voices to the table, so they are heard and represented. If we give workers the opportunity to participate and encourage them to do so, we will have a stronger union and will achieve much more.
The task of increasing membership and participation in our union is a large one, as are our broader goals of realizing equity, justice, and liberation from the systemic injustices we face as workers and in our lives. But in my time organizing with our union, I've seen it happen. Behind every frustrated worker is an ally; we just need to talk to them and help them realize that the problems we face as workers can be fixed if we come together and use our true power to demand what we deserve.
Wendy Wang for Head Steward
As a head steward, I will
continue working on the organizational activities for recruiting more members
help with the benefits and rights of international students to be better protected, and
help to arouse our members’ awareness to the the equity and justice issue around our local communities.
Yueran Zhang for Head Steward
Since last fall, I have helped found and coordinate our union’s statewide international student committee. Compared to their domestic counterparts, international student workers face a set of unique challenges ranging from the burden of the NRST to various visa restrictions, from employment caps to workplace discrimination. I believe these challenges could be most effectively addressed not by our union fighting “on behalf of” international student workers, but by the greatest possible number of international workers taking initiatives and forging solidarity through our union. As Head Steward, I will build on this effort to bring more and more international student workers into organizing and develop member-driven projects to identify and fight for the changes we want. This is the only way to make our union one which each and every of us international students could truly identify as our union.