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Transgender rights and UCU

I am an unequivocal supporter of trans rights and the right to gender self-definition under the law. This will not come as a surprise to anybody who knows me or has followed my public pronouncements in the past. The rights of trans people are under constant attack in this country, in the mainstream press, in workplaces, and, unfortunately, in our colleges and universities. They suffer disproportionately from numerous forms of discrimination and violence. They are among the most vulnerable targets of the far-right ideologies that are becoming increasingly visible and influential in society. No candidate for General Secretary should be able to claim that they care about equality unless they have vocally and publicly defended transgender rights.

Our Union has policies upholding trans rights, updated most recently at its 2018 Congress, as well as academic freedom. To the best of my knowledge, nothing I have said or done is inconsistent with these policies. I will continue to uphold them if I am elected General Secretary. I hope that the other candidates in this election will also commit to doing so.

People sometimes ask me why I began using a service known as ‘TERF Blocker’ on Twitter last year, which provides an easy mechanism for blocking large numbers of accounts that have been identified as articulating transphobic views. The reason is that I was receiving an enormous volume of personal abuse for expressing my opinions about transphobia and trans rights. The right to freedom of speech or academic freedom is not a right to level unlimited personal abuse, in public, at individuals with whom you disagree.

I stopped using TERF Blocker after I stood for election to UCU’s National Executive Committee earlier this year, by which point the abuse directed at me had subsided. At no point did my use of TERF Blocker prevent anybody who was blocked from viewing my tweets, either by using a different account or by browsing Twitter while remaining logged out. Throughout this period, I have continued to receive and, when appropriate, respond to emails from individual members of UCU who disagree with me about this issue.

Endorsement: Daniel Davison-Vecchione, University of Cambridge

Endorsement from Mr Daniel Davison-Vecchione, University of Cambridge

I’m a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Cambridge and I’m pleased to say I’m backing Jo Grady for UCU General Secretary.

In an education sector where those of us beginning our academic careers are on the knife edge of marketisation, expecting to spend the years ahead on insecure contract after insecure contract, we need a General Secretary who will fight tooth and nail against casualisation. Jo plans not only to convert local claims against casual labour into a viable national strategy, but also to make the voices of precarious staff heard within the union’s channels. In other words, Jo is not only committed to making our union fight for us: she’s committed to making us feel a vital part of the union itself.

I’m also extraordinarily impressed by Jo’s assertive stance in favour of migrants’ rights. She keenly understands the horrific role thrust upon education workers to act as de facto border guards. This is an issue of which I became vividly aware back when I was Branch Secretary of Surrey UCU and on which I wrote during the USS Strike, when many UCU members on Tier 2 visas feared that missing consecutive work days would put them at risk of being reported for ‘unauthorised absence’. Jo will commit the union to resisting our forced complicity in the sprawling, violent apparatus of the immigration system and to helping migrant workers fight for their rights by organising in the workplace. She knows that we should push not only to protect our EU colleagues and students in the current context of Brexit, but also to extend the limited benefits presently enjoyed by EU staff and students to all international staff and students. I therefore trust Jo as a General Secretary who can make the slogan ‘Build unions, not borders!’ mean something palpable.

Lastly, it is an incredibly positive sign that Jo does not shy away from bigger political issues. She is upfront about the risks of simply leaving a socialist or social-democratic party ‘to do the right thing on the issues that matter to us, like immigration and border controls, Brexit, or direct funding of education and research’. She understands keenly that we need to build our own power as organised labour so that we can tackle such national and international matters ourselves, even during less politically hospitable times for the labour movement.

I therefore call upon my fellow UCU members to vote for Jo Grady.

Endorsement: Jo Edge, University of Manchester

Endorsement from Dr Jo Edge, John Rylands Library, University of Manchester

I was proud to nominate Dr Jo Grady for UCU General Secretary and, as an early-career researcher who is now on my second fixed-term contract since finishing my PhD, I firmly believe she is the candidate who best represents me and those in a similar position. I first became aware of Jo during 2018’s USS strikes and was impressed by her knowledge, expertise, and professionalism. I was so disappointed when the strike was called off, against the advice of experts such as Jo. She is also the only independent candidate standing for election and is not involved in the factional politics that have plagued our union for so long.

I have been so impressed with Jo’s inclusivity and attention to detail throughout her campaignfor example, she was careful to get high-quality translations of her materials into Welsh and Scottish Gaelic. This not only shows solidarity with colleagues in Welsh and Scottish institutions, but is also a commitment to diversity. She is standing on a broad range of issues that affect us all, from PhD students to the professoriate including casualisation, pensions, pay and conditions, and mental health. The managed decline of our sector has to stop if it is to survive, and Jo is the person to lead UCU’s fight against this.

 

All-Member Email 4

Below is the text of the fourth of four emails which I am entitled to send to all members of UCU as one of the candidates in the General Secretary election. It will be sent on Sunday 19 May. To read the first, second, and third emails, click here, here, and here.

Dear colleague,

Further and Higher Education are part of a social context which we cannot ignore. Both sectors have been shaped in the last decade by a series of crises: from the financial crisis, to the human and macroeconomic crisis of austerity, to the ongoing crisis of Brexit. Governments have cut some costs, and shifted others to us and to our students.

Managers of universities and colleges have, at best, failed to protect us from politicians and the private sector. At worst, they have actively conspired to undermine public education. Universities and colleges could be part of the solution, but they are becoming part of the problem. It is up to us to turn things round.

You have a few days left to vote. The pre-paid envelopes in your ballot papers are Second Class, so you need to post them by Monday to be sure that they will arrive in time. Today is the last day you can order a First-Class replacement ballot.

The USS crisis: what we have learnt

Last year’s USS dispute showed how far managers’ priorities have diverged from our own. It brought out the worst in them. But it brought out the best in us. Our students supported us. We gained thousands of members. Our collective expertise and experience overturned more than a decade of conventional wisdom about the supposed decline of good, guaranteed pensions. We taught each other what is possible when we take collective action.

Building an open, democratic, proactive union

The fight for USS is not over. As I point out in my manifesto, we still need to secure our pensions for the longer term. But we also need to turn UCU into a union that can confront all the challenges I have mentioned above, and bring about sector-defining change.

We need a plan for Further Education. We can convert local action into a return to meaningful national bargaining, and rebuild the union’s FE membership in the same way we have for HE. But we also need plans to protect our international staff and students; combat climate change; repair the damage done by the Brexit Referendum; eradicate sexual harassment from our workplaces; and replace irresponsible and harmful metrics with meaningful standards for evaluating what we do.

There are no shortcuts. Nobody will do these things for us. I stood up from the ranks of university staff to stand for General Secretary because I know that we are the answer. We can turn UCU into a union that reflects the full diversity of our workforce and represents the very best of tertiary education.

We can reach out to casually employed staff; take action to support our colleagues in professional services; and advance the cause of equality in our annual bargaining.

We can make negotiations more transparent, so that our members can make informed decisions and hold their representatives to account.

We can form member ‘task groups’ to develop new campaigns, and convert our understanding of what is going wrong in each sector into meaningful action against it.

Use your vote, give me a mandate for change

My website now contains an extensive list of my responses to questions from members on a range of issues, and I continue to welcome your inquiries via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

For all our efforts over the past decade, UCU has struggled to find a way forward. This election gives us an unprecedented opportunity to do so.

If I win this election, I will have the honour of being the first General Secretary to come from the membership. I hope to see a record turnout, and a strong mandate for change.

Dr Jo Grady

Image from Scott Hurrell

Endorsement: Debora Price, University of Manchester

Endorsement from Professor Debora Price, University of Manchester

I endorse Jo Grady for General Secretary. Jo and I first met through our mutual research interests in gender and pensions, and we have collaborated for the last couple of years in pursuing research funding to investigate the pension implications of growing precariousness in work. This period coincided with great stresses in the further and higher education sectors and the pension dispute resulting in strike action, and of course we had many conversations about these issues. Jo’s knowledge, anlaysis, approach and leadership on these issues has been hugely impressive and I cannot think of a better candidate to lead us through the forthcoming challenges.

 

Find 10 UCU members who haven’t yet voted!

This is an email sent to subscribers of the #Grady4GS mailing list on Thursday 16 May 2019 (some subscribers may have received this later). To subscribe to our GDPR-compliant list, please fill out your details here!


We need your help if we are to pull off a Grady4GS victory

We could be on the point of pulling off an historic Grady4GS win in the Gen Sec ballot. Grady is the underdog in this election – up against the incumbent in UCU head office and a substantial political machine. Even as there is huge enthusiasm for Grady and for her campaign across the sector and the country, our biggest opponent is apathy. Last time under 14% of members voted. We can beat this – if we all pull together.

Find 10 UCU members who have not yet voted

If each of you on this subscriber list persuades 10 more UCU members to vote, we could secure thousands more votes for Grady. In the last Gen Sec election, only 8000 votes were cast for the winning candidate (Sally Hunt).

Ballots need to be in the mail by next Monday (20 May)

You might need to remind people several times to put their ballot in the mail. People can add a first-class stamp if posting on or after Monday to ensure it is received by the deadline (23 May). Help people to order replacement ballots – preferably delivered to their home address. (The very last day to order is Sunday 19 May). All election FAQs are here.

Don’t be deceived by Twitter coverage

Grady4GS is everywhere on Twitter, but most UCU members are not on Twitter. The campaign team has come across multiple instances in which UCU members still know little to nothing about any of the candidates. Don’t just use Twitter: use other media and face-to-face discussion. Bcc’ing your colleagues in your department, as well as in your discipline and/or domain of expertise, is particularly effective.

Campaigning materials

Everything that you might need is gathered at Grady4GS.com, including our template email that you can adapt yourself when emailing colleagues.

We truly believe this election is crucial – not just for the future of our union, but for the future of Further and Higher Education in this country.

Vote #Grady4GS – and get at least 10 others to vote #Grady4GS too!

The Grady4GS campaign team

The Final Push for the #Grady4GS Campaign!

This is an email sent to subscribers of the #Grady4GS mailing list on Tuesday 14 May 2019 (some subscribers may have received this later). To subscribe to our GDPR-compliant list, please fill out your details here!


Thank you so much for what you have been doing on the ground to support Jo Grady’s campaign. Jo and the rest of the team are truly humbled by how colleagues have mobilised in all sorts of amazing ways to try to secure what could be a momentous win for our union and our sector. At all the hustings Jo has been greeted with people wearing badges and posters on walls. You are all doing an excellent job, and helping us run a completely different election campaign from the ones we have previously seen in UCU.

Don’t be complacent!

When speaking to people on the ground, many of us have encountered the view that Grady has already won, because her campaign communications have been so visible, on Twitter andthanks to all your wondrous workas posters, postcards, flyers and manifestos spread around campuses all around the UK. But this election is still far from being won and we need you to keep mobilised to fight against any complacency of this kind.

Negative campaigning against Grady

We also need to be aware that the other candidates’ supporters have vigorous campaigning tactics of their own, even if they are less publicly visible than ours. Sadly, over the course of the campaign we have been forwarded emails containing false assertions and insinuations about Jo Grady: in particular that she is, or has been, a member of the SWP. This despite Grady’s repeated explanations since the start of the campaign that the only political party she has ever been a member of is the UK Labour Party. Where possible, we have contacted the authors of such emails directly, and received an apology and retractionbut only after threatening to take very serious action.

We are saying this to make you aware that this election is a long way from over. We know that most voters will not care about or pay attention to smears like this; they will be convinced by Grady and by the strength of her manifesto and the transparency of her campaign. But if any misinformation does come up in conversations you have with people while campaigning for Grady on the ground, please correct it, and then, if you can, let us know about it. We would also encourage you to do the same if you are aware that this is happening to the other candidates. The election of our General Secretary is too important to allow negative campaigning and lies to be influential.

Staying positive

Overall, please just keep doing what you are doing. At every husting Jo has spoken to dozens of people who are inspired by our positive campaign and hopeful we can make positive changes. So please do continue to speak to people about what inspires you in Jo Grady’s vision and manifesto. This is what people want to hear.

The final push

The next few days are crucial: it is our last chance to Get The Vote Out. Ballot papers need to be posted by Monday 20 May in order to be sure to arrive by Thursday 23 May (the postage on the return envelopes is second class!). If, for some reason, you still do not have your ballot–you need to get a replacement now from this page on UCU’s website! One of the most helpful things you can do now is to go knocking on office doors to have a chat with any colleagues who are willing to speak to you, using whatever time you can spare. Even just 15 minutes would be great. If each of you could spare one hour this week to do this, the effect on overall turnout could be phenomenal. If you have not done this before, it can feel very awkward at first, but feedback from our ground game teams suggests it can become enjoyable, and it is certainly effective. This is how we find the people who still have their ballot papers on their desk or kitchen table and convince them that they should vote. You do not need to do a hard sell for Grady: just ask colleagues if they have received their ballot paper, and if so whether they have posted it back yet. If they have not, try to convince them it is very important to do so. If they ask about the candidates, you can tell them why you are supporting Grady. If/when you are not on campus, you can focus on sending out personal emails.

Thank you so much for your support. If we win this, it will be thanks to the hard work on the ground of people like you! You are making a real difference!

The #Grady4GS campaign team

Getting the Vote Out for Jo Grady!

This is an email sent to subscribers of the #Grady4GS mailing list on Wednesday 8 May 2019 (some subscribers may have received this later). To subscribe to our GDPR-compliant list, please fill out your details here!


Thank you to so many of you on this list for the amazing work you’re already doing on the ground to Get The Vote Out (GTVO) for Jo Grady. We are building our campaign from the ground up. We need any level of support you can give in these next two weeks. We have an historic opportunity in this election to vote in an extraordinary candidate: we are relying on you to help us get out the vote for Grady all across the country.

There is a huge energy to this campaign. Endorsements for Grady from across all parts of the membership have flooded in. Our crowdfunder has exceeded its target of £3,000 (many thanks if you have donated). We need now to convert all the support and enthusiasm for Grady4GS into votes.

Ground Game

If you’re not yet part of our ground game (i.e. working ‘on the ground’ at your own institution), we’d love you to join it. Whether you have 15 minutes or a couple of hours, you can help! To be put in touch with other colleagues at your institution to help with GTVO, email Claire Marris.

Winning a Campaign

We’ve heard so much enthusiasm for Grady and her campaign. But none of us should take anything for granted: huge numbers of UCU members still know little to nothing about this ballot. The remainder of this email focuses on additional ways in which you can help the Grady GTVO campaign. In short, to get the vote out, we need to get the word out.

GTVO Infosheet

We have prepared a short 2-page infosheet – to give you some of  the nuts and bolts of Grady’s campaign, and to assist you in GTVO conversations with colleagues.

Keep on Talking

You might know from other GTVO experiences that support for a candidate doesn’t magically turn into votes. Don’t assume that your colleagues know about the Gen Sec election. Don’t assume they know when it closes (ballots should be posted by Monday 20 May to be sure they arrive). Don’t assume they know anything about the three candidates. Don’t assume that someone’s support for a candidate means that they have put their envelope in the postbox. Keep on going – initiating conversations; reminding people of the ballot; checking that they have actually voted.

Using Different Media

We can see how much excitement there has been about Grady and her campaign on Twitter. We want to be sure that we are reaching those using other media. We would love it if you could (i) like and share materials from Grady’s campaign Facebook page; and/or (ii) email colleagues from your institution and discipline/professional community about Grady (using material from the GTVO infosheet and/or the template we’ve prepared). And if you are on Twitter, do keep tweeting about Grady’s campaign under #Grady4GS.

Campaign Materials

A reminder that the Grady4GS.com website contains everything you might need – Grady’s manifesto; copies of her all-member emails; Grady’s blog posts about particular issues (Brexit, climate change, etc.); posters and gifs, etc. Do use these yourself, and distribute to others.

Ballot papers and Election FAQs

If you or a colleague have not received a ballot paper, you can order a replacement. Also note our FAQs about the election.

Subscriber email list

Finally, please urge any Grady supporters you know to subscribe to our email list if they haven’t already. This list is a crucial tool for our campaign: we cannot stress this enough. We will be sending out information on ways in which people can help out, apart from putting up posters and distributing flyers/postcards. The campaign team takes privacy issues seriously and we are determined to be GDPR compliant. We promise we will not flood subscribers with emails. We are able to build our campaign only if people actively subscribe to our list: the Grady4GS campaign HQ does not email anyone who has not subscribed.

Any questions about any of the above, or the campaign, do email us.

We are enormously excited about the transformations that Grady will bring to our union if elected.

There’s only two weeks of campaigning to go! We are counting on you.

The #Grady4GS campaign team