For those of you who don't know, I am - pomp and circumstance! - a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley and a quiet, if impassioned, member of Academic Workers for a Democratic Union. (AWDU is the progressive caucus within UAW Local 2865, which represents graduate-student instructors, readers and TAs throughout the UC system.) Over the last few weeks and months, we at AWDU have been campaigning for seats on the state-wide Executive Council - and for campus-level positions at each of the UCs as well. Elections were last week and now - after an unfortunately bitter and partisan vote-counting bonanza - it's official: we've won.
There are many brilliant people involved in crafting AWDU's message, and there are many insightful commentaries out there on the 'webs on what we do and why. I have little to add here. I'd merely like to say that I am inspired and humbled in equal measure by the people I've had the privilege of working with in AWDU. Their courage, tenacity and take-no-prisoners approach to social justice are exemplary. While I'm sure that many among the old guard of the union care deeply about the same issues that concern us, I have no doubt that AWDU will do a better job of standing up for student workers and their rights and dignity in the workplace. I look forward with joy and abandon to standing with my friends and colleagues and fighting the good fight for the next year (and maybe longer if they'll let me).
There are those, perhaps, who would pooh-pooh our movement as inconsequential. I would only say this: American higher education (and especially public higher education) is in deep crisis. The entire system needs to be radically reformed if it is to fulfill its mission of creating an informed and engaged citizenry. It's simple: we need more and better teachers, from K through Cal, and we need them now. All of us at AWDU - indeed, all of us in graduate school, and in teacher-training and -accreditation programs everywhere - are committed to doing our part to fill the gap. Working to ensure that student teachers are treated fairly is only part of our ongoing effort - in solidarity with our students, our faculty mentors, and the incredible support staff that make our work possible - to fix the system. If you know us at all, you know that we won't stop, ever, until our schools and colleges and universities are the havens of justice and inclusion, ingenuity and curiosity, diversity and debate they were always meant to be.
So look out. Because victory for AWDU in this election doesn't just mean yay. Victory means what's next. And what's next - to invoke Donald Trump - is gonna be huge.