Concerns Raised as GSI Union President Resigns

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Correction Appended

The president of a union representing nearly 12,000 academic student employees throughout the University of California resigned Friday morning to pursue work with the international branch of the union, raising concerns among some union members regarding the timing of her resignation.

After almost three years serving as president of the United Auto Workers 2865 - which represents graduate student instructors, readers and tutors within the UC - Christine Petit resigned at a union executive board meeting in Los Angeles Friday.

Per union bylaws, Daraka Larimore-Hall, a UC Santa Barbara graduate student and formerly the union's northern vice president, was sworn in at the meeting as the new president.

According to Petit, her reasons for resigning stem from her work as a union organizer for the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America - the larger union that UAW Local 2865 falls under. Since January she has been working on

the international union's campaign to organize auto workers in the South. Part of this campaign includes global solidarity work.

"We've been doing some great work to support auto workers all over the world, like Korea, Mexico, India to name a few," Petit said. "It's really been intensifying in the last few months, so it was logical for me to concentrate my efforts there."

The timing of Petit's resignation - two weeks after the union's vacant elected positions were filled uncontested - has stirred some contention, said Charlie Eaton, a trustee for UAW Local 2865 and a member of the union's opposition caucus, Academic Workers for a Democratic Union. Eaton said because the resignation fell after vacancy elections, Larimore-Hall will appoint someone to fill the now vacant northern vice president position. Had Petit stepped down before the election, the position would have been opened up to an election, Eaton said.

"It's really bad for our membership that our executive board is being filled through this game of musical chair appointments, instead of letting members vote for change in an election for the leadership of this union," he said.

However, Petit said increased work with the international union, not vacancy elections, determined her decision.

Larimore-Hall said he is consulting union leaders before making the decision of who will fill his seat. He added that focus should be on the challenges the union is currently facing.

"As president, what I want to do is focus on the work we have before us," he said. "We want to focus on enforcing our contract, informing and involving the membership and fighting for progressive change in California."


Correction: Thursday, February 24, 2011
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Petit has worked since January for the international union, organizing workers in a variety of countries. In fact she has worked for the union since before January organizing workers in the South. The Daily Californian regrets the error.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Aaida Samad covers higher education. Contact her at [email protected]

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