On Strike Readiness

Our union’s power lies in the thousands of workers who constitute it, and their ability to withhold their labor — to strike. Our union’s strategy must therefore place rank and file membership and strike readiness at its center. We win meaningful gains not through legal maneuvering, canny arguments, or the humanity of UC management, but because we are prepared to strike.

Our organizing must gear itself towards building and consolidating strike readiness. But strike readiness is not a formula or a numerical threshold, set out in advance by union leaders — just as union participation cannot be measured meaningfully by clicks, likes, and other data metrics. Genuine labor actions that inspire broad participation within a cycle of struggle are not predicated upon conventional scripts or formulas, prescribed in advance by leaders who never fail to let you know who’s in charge. 

The specific organizing targets we set for ourselves need to be calibrated by a concrete analysis of our power relative to our employer’s. For student workers, employed half-time at UC and not for more than a few years, building to a major strike action will almost certainly need to pass through smaller or localized strikes, such as the recent wave of wildcats, rather than be set up as an absolute precondition for taking strike action in the first place. 

Together, we are nearly 20,000 workers earning 50% of a low salary. Yet we perform essential and irreplaceable functions as both workers and students. We are uniquely positioned to force meaningful change in the UC, but only if we are able to use our strategic position to hit the UC where it hurts. 

The past year has proved that labor action itself has an organizing function, capable of precipitating majority participation. True union participation, beyond the formalities of online votes and pledges, means building a framework that empowers workers of the rank and file to make decisions in real-life fights with the boss. 

In Spring 2020, UAW 2865 rejected a historic opportunity when its leadership declined to let its membership vote on strike authorization, despite having the rare legal opportunity to strike while in contract, and an engaged and organized rank and file ready to lead the effort. 

A union leadership adequate to the struggle of student workers must either engage a large and organized core of rank and file workers, and propose militant labor action which can actively advance our fight, or be led by the actions and propositions of such an organized core of rank and file workers. 

Right now, UAW 2865 does neither. RAFA will do both.