Open Letter to Workers

. Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On Tuesday, April 20th, Lou Pisano, the head of the UW bargaining team, wrote an e-mail to "leaders"--ie management, department chairs, deans, etc, encouraging them to terminate workers who take un-approved vacation time, and in other ways encouraging retaliation against workers who may strike May 3rd.  The letter contained mis-information, and UW SWC responded.  See the letter below.  After the jump, you can see his e-mail as well.

April  28th 2010
To all Workers and Students of the University of Washington,

On May 3rd, after over a year of struggles against privatization, students, workers and concerned members of the community will be striking against the budget cuts, tuition increases, and attacks to the standard of living of workers at the university.  This action is organized by the Student Worker Coalition, a diverse group of undergrads and graduate students, teachers and research assistants, custodians, skilled trades workers and professional staff, alumni and members of the community that have united to act in solidarity for affordable, quality education and workers rights on campus.  The May 3rd Campus Strike is a struggle not only for student demands but also for worker demands such as no layoffs, no extra work, no cuts to the custodian swingshift, no outsourcing/union busting, and no management harassment/ retaliation. 

We know workers face many challenges which make it difficult to participate in this movement.  For example, the UW Police Department recently attempted to spy on our strike committee meeting by sending an undercover cop posing as a union supporter. We exposed her and in the media controversy that followed, UW spokesman Norm Arkans claimed that the UW administration is against the police spying on student groups.  However, he mentioned nothing about workers.  The Strike Committee is also a worker organization and the UWPD’s actions are a violation of workers’ right to organize.  It is only the most recent example of a pattern of UWPD harassment of workers including surveillance during custodian break time organizing meetings and at clock stations as well as  the arrest of two women of color journalists who were interviewing custodians about poor working conditions in Health Sciences.  Despite this harassment, the movement against the privatization of the university--both as a place to work, and a place to learn-- has built serious momentum. 
On April 21, 2010, Lou Pisano, Assistant Vice President of Labor Relations at UW, wrote an email addressed to "leaders" (that is, managers), stating that "employees who decide to participate [in the Campus Strike] by taking an unapproved, unscheduled absence from work may be subject to discipline...up to and including the termination of employment from the University."

Pisano's email is both misleading and desperate. Contrary to his claim, there is no clear provision in state law forbidding public workers to strike----nor is there a provision expressly allowing it. Washington State law is ambiguous with regard to whether public employees have a legal right to strike. Public employees DO often strike ---and succeed.  Teachers and Metro drivers have gone on strike, and WFSE, SEIU, and academic student employees on campus all went on strike in 2001.

Further, contrary to Pisano’s claims, any individual employee who joins the strike on May 3 doesn't violate the no-strike clause in the union contracts, since this clause refers to the unions themselves calling a strike. It is also important to recognize that the State of Washington has repeatedly violated state workers’ contracts by denying cost of living increases and threatening furloughs and health care cuts.   Why do workers have to follow the contract but management doesn’t?  

Pisano’s letter shows that UW administrators are scared of the powerful student-worker solidarity that has been built the past year.  UW administrators know its potential to unite similarly affected sectors of campus against privatization, and Pisano’s letter is an example of how they are trying to break up these coalitions.

On May 3, the UW campus will be striking together.  Students will be setting up picket lines at the main campus entrance at 15th and 40th, and we will set up lines at other entrances if we have enough people.  We may also have roving picket lines at various worksites throughout campus.  UAW local 4121 may officially strike or rank-and-file UAW members may unofficially walk out to protest the layoffs of hundreds of TAs and the large class sizes that will result.  WFSE local 1488 and SEIU local 925 both passed resolutions supporting the UAW and reminding their members of their right not to cross the picket lines of another union or employee organization for safety reasons. 

We know from talking with many workers in a variety of sectors that you would like to join us on the picket lines May 3rd. We know that you recognize that no fight can be won alone--that solidarity among all workers is necessary for the movement to grow and victories to be won. We are humbled by your willingness to not cross the picket lines as long as students and workers are striking, and we pledge that we will support you with follow up protests if management threatens to fire you for making this choice.

And when the time comes for you to strike and fight for your right for a fair contract, or safe working conditions, or a wage that will support your children’s' educations and healthy upbringings, you can count on our support.

Join the May 3 strike, for wages, job security, benefits, and accessibility to higher education.

In Solidarity,

UW Student Worker Coalition

From: [] On Behalf Of LOUIS PISANO
Sent: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 3:19 PM
To: ''
Subject: [UW Administration] Proposed Student Strike - May 3, 2010

Dear Leaders,

The University has become aware that several groups have been notifying the campus community of a proposed student strike on May 3, in which some employees may choose to participate and show their support.

Employees are, of course, free to express themselves in a variety of ways with regard to such issues. Participating in demonstrations, rallies, or other expressive activities before or after work hours or during their lunch period or break period is permitted. However, employees who decide to participate by taking an unapproved, unscheduled absence from work may be subject to discipline.

You should also know that public employees (which include employees of University Medical Center and Harborview Medical Center, and all other University employees) do not have the right to strike under their collective bargaining agreement and state law. Any employee who participates in an unlawful work stoppage may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including the termination of employment from the University.

Please contact your Human Resources consultant if you observe any unusual activities in the workplace, if you have any questions or concerns related to proposed labor actions, or before you proceed with any disciplinary action.

Lou Pisano

Lou Pisano
Assistant Vice President of Labor Relations
Office of Human Resources, Box 354555
1100 NE Campus Parkway, Room 306
Seattle, WA 98105
206-616-0885 fax: 206-616-1081