Rank and File Scientists Demanding our Rights

Check elitism at the door!

Novemeber 12, 2010
Please forward to the CAPS board. 
At the DTSC CAPS site meeting last week Chris Voight took time to explain to the assembled that CAPS members are professionals, that many members have advanced degrees and that we are not like those other workers; in particular he referred to janitors and administrative workers.  Presumably we do not act like them and we struggle for our rights in a more refined manner!
This is not the first time I have heard this line of reasoning from of CAPS staffers.  Members should take offense at this attempt by our staff to separate CAPS members from, create an air of rarified elitism over, and there-by prevent solidarity in word and deed with, our co-workers who are janitors, admin staff and the like; most of whom may not have had the opportunity for the elevated level of education that CAPS members had access to. 
Luckily this embarrassing derogatory attitude was not embraced by the CAPS VP (Valarie Brown) who told us that she started as an administrative person herself.  Kudos to Valarie Brown for speaking to the issue of worker equality and not bowing to the elitist viewpoint that Chris has adopted. 
There is no room in the trade union movement for this type class-ism and our board should admonish CAPS staff to change their attitude or keep it to themselves.  Ultimately this type of class-ism prevents us from uniting with our natural allies and puts us in the camp of the elite the very bosses, bankers and speculators who own the politicians we have to negotiate with for our contract.  This attitude, on the part of our staff, indicates that staff has internalized the dominant ideology which drives a wedge separating the middle class and the traditional working class and, in turn use that separation to impose the austerity on us all  with out a fight.
This commentary by Chris Voight was Blanning and Baker’s way of telling us that our options, of how to fight against the attack on our wages and benefits, are limited to reliance on the courts and the politicians (the two failed options they are masters of).  Those may be the only options Blanning and Baker are capable of envisioning but they are not the only options.  Only a few weeks ago the RNs at Children’s Hospital in Oakland (many with advanced degrees and commanding salaries which might make State Scientists feel like janitors and administrative persons) took strike action for three days.  It is not unheard of for workers in similarly “rarified positions” and with advanced degrees to show a little muscle.
Despite CAPS staffers claim that they won the furlough case, it was pointed out from the floor, that in actuality the loss of over 60 days pay so far and ongoing furloughs,  indicates that the abstract paper win in the courts has translated in to concrete hardship for our members.   While parity issues were addressed as the perpetual legal battle they have become, no one mentioned that we have lost close to 18% for lack of COLA’s over the last 10 years.  Of course parity would be nice (if it is ever won) but regular COLA’s are essential!
When one rank and file member suggested that we press Jerry Brown to end the furloughs on his first day in office, Chris and the assembled board members admonished us to not pressure Brown or expect much from him as he is already under the right wing gun and media scrutiny for supposedly being in the pocket of the unions.  Ending the furloughs, we were told, is going to take time, a long time.  And again we were assured the furloughs are, in our legal expert opinion, illegal.  One might then ask, if they are indeed illegal, what’s would be the problem of insisting that the new governor abide the law?
One might also ask why did CAPS give support to a politician who we can’t even ask to take our cause immediately.  But it is clear why.  The CAPS staff and apparently the board have distain for any type of independent economic or political job action by the rank and file  worker members of CAPS which might confront the cozy relation the lobbyists have developed in Sacramento or threaten to by-pass the court based solutions which keep CAPS funds flowing to Blanning and Baker and which just lost us 60 days and counting of pay already.   
There were plenty of opportunities to build joint action with other state workers during the period of the furloughs.  If the State Scientists and Engineers (also under the influence of Blanning and Baker) took to the streets and mobilized their members these highly educated and relatively well paid workers would have inspired others and could have changed the dynamics but when other state workers marched on Sacramento, held pickets at state buildings and highway overpasses, reached out to the communities of public services and education which were being cut the CAPS leadership and staff  did nothing.  This is proof positive that the current staff and leadership has no winning strategy. 
As for the view that professionals don’t take job actions like those other lowly janitors and administration workers, consider the Doctors in Luxembourg :

“Doctors in Luxembourg continue protest against health reforms

Thousands of health workers may strike indefinitely in Luxembourg later this month. They are seeking to pressure the government to abandon its health reform. Members of the Association of Doctors and Dentists in Luxembourg (AMMD) trade union have worked half their normal hours in recent weeks. Their action began on October 22.

Medical workers are concerned that the reform, which gives the state greater control, would mean an end to patients being able to choose which doctor to visit. There is also fear over a proposal to place the personal details of patients into a national database.

On Wednesday, AMMD General Secretary Claude Schummer said that the members of the union would continue to provide reduced services. Representatives of the union had “unanimously decided to carry on with the strike but would not enhance the measures taken so far”, she said.”

 Charles Rachlis

Associate Industrial Hygienist/

September 2, 2011 - Posted by | CAPS HISTORY | , , ,

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