Who are we?
Rank and File Action (RAFA) is UAW 2865’s newest and most militant caucus. Emerging out of the UC-wide struggle for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA), RAFA is organizing a counter-power within our union to advance the political assertion of rank and file members, rather than following the conservative playbook of union staffers.
We have a program to rebuild UAW 2865, guided by the knowledge that committed labor actions and strikes are our most important and powerful weapons in the struggle for workers and students throughout the University of California. This program includes striking to win a contract so student workers can afford to live where they work, striking in solidarity with the just demands of our sibling unions in the UC, and striking to disarm, defund, and dismantle the UC Police Department (UCPD).
Right now, our union works like this: Between a small, enlightened circle of well-paid union “leaders” and an abstract mass of union “members,” there is an exceedingly wide gap. The leadership knows nothing about its members — each one is not much more than a potential signature on a petition. You can’t take action until you get everyone to sign a pledge first. But if you get enough signatures, anything is possible. It’s the SurveyMonkey theory of power.
Workers are not stupid. Unionized workers who decide to take action are rarely persuaded purely by the iconic one-on-one conversation. They are persuaded by the concrete apparatus of a union that is able and willing to protect them when they act together, and to fight for (and robustly defend) real gains.
RAFA exists to transform UAW 2865 from a union bureaucracy led by highly paid staffers into a labor union led by rank and file organizers. In this crisis moment of higher education, with so much to be won and lost, UC student workers need a labor union, not a legal team. For too long, university administrators have used undergraduate student debt to finance non-instructional capital ventures, and used student workers as a source of cheap labor to keep that debt flowing.
Student workers are uniquely placed to effect meaningful change in the UC because the boss needs us — both as workers and as students — to realize its business model. Our struggle will advance the struggle of others, just as AFSCME 3299 finally won their contract in the context of the wildcat strike after years of stalled negotiations and uncertainty. And our victories will set precedents for further victories.
It is common to hear at demonstrations that “students and workers run the UC.” Right now, this is an aspiration, not a reality. The timidity of UAW 2865 has given free reign to an austerity university and the results are plain to see. It will take rank and file action to assert student and worker control. Only rank and file action can win living wages for all workers, turn back undergraduate tuition hikes, and remove cops from our campuses.