By Worker’s Voice/ La Voz de l@s trabajadores – Bay Area
On November 20th, AFSCME 3299, the union representing over 22,000 patient care and service workers across the University of California and the UC’s largest union, will go on a one day strike, and other campus unions like UAW 2865 (UC Student-Workers Union), & UPTE-CWA 9119 (Healthcare, Research and Technical Employees – only UC Berkeley) will be going on a sympathy strike. This would put the total number of UC workers who could potentially strike at 35,000. AFSCME’s strike “stems from a coordinated campaign of illegal intimidation, coercion, and threats against UC Patient Care and Service Workers who participated in a two day strike back in May 21-22 over unsafe staffing levels at taxpayer supported UC hospitals—which posted record profits just this week.” The other campus unions also share similar grievances over wages not meeting inflation costs, increased work-load and speed-up, as well as cuts to pensions, healthcare and other work benefits.
The continued offensive on campus workers – the ones who make the UC run, is happening in a period when the UC is making record profits in its medical centers and as a whole, and comes after the budget cuts and the Operation Excellence program (a policy created by the privatization agency Bain and Co, which made cuts to offices and worsened working conditions for many workers).
STUDENTS IN DEBT
Not only that, but students, the main community that the UC is suppose to serve, are paying an arm and a leg for tuition and living costs (Tuition and fees this year for in-state students are $12,864), are getting into a huge loan debt, and are having trouble paying for school. In many cases, this has led students to take up a job on the side to survive. Furthermore, it also means that working class students , primarily [Aifrican Americans and Chican@s/Latin@s have and continue to be priced out. The only winners in the area of public education today are the highly-paid UC administrators and private companies making money off construction, war and oil research and multinationals investing in the UC.
Thus, it is no surprise, that on the eve of the strike, the UC management has been emailing, intimidating & threatening AFSCME workers and especially the student workers of UAW. It has even gotten some faculty and department advisors to disseminate these lies and threats. With great courage and determination, the UAW student-workers are not stepping down and continuing their sympathy strike. As UAW student-worker Amanda points out, “Faulty, illegal, contradictory information about labor law is being passed off as the truth and passed on to graduate students as a way to confuse them and to intimidate them from engaging in legally protected collective action.”
These same management officials and administrators – with outgoing UC Berkeley Vice Chancellor George Breslauer being one of the main ones at Cal– are the brains and policy-makers of not only the poor working conditions and low wages , but also of the brutal repression that workers and students faced in the beating and arrests of students and workers during the building occupations of 2009, the Occupy Cal encampment in 2012 and other examples where students and workers fought against the budget cuts and attacks on their rights and working conditions.
UNIFY THE STRUGGLES IN UC
Regardless of what the UC administrators and managers are saying, the strike and fight of the AFSCME workers, UAW student workers, and students will and must continue. Campus workers exercising their right to strike and sympathy strike are acts that seek to address collectively workplace issues by withholding their labor and all workers and students who seek to fight for a working public education must join them in the struggle.
STUDENTS CAN PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE
This is why it’s important that students – one of the main sectors that the campus workers serve – must come out to support the people that make the university run. We must fight the intimidation and threats that the workers are facing just as workers came out to support the struggle of students fighting back the fee hikes and budget cuts in 2009; AFSCME, UPTE and the other campus unions went on strike on September 24th, 2009 and November 19-22, 2009 not only to fight for better working conditions, but also to support the students who were facing tuition and fee hikes.
Students also have important reasons to join in on the strike, namely the increased costs of attending and living at Cal, the large decrease in Latino and Black student enrollment (some of which are at an all time-low), increased class sizes (some classroom sizes reach up to 100 students per graduate instructor), and the general decrease of quality of education at Cal.
The student and worker solidarity is what allowed the protests and fight back against the budget cuts and fee hikes to gain enough momentum to force then governor Schwarzenegger to return money to the UC education budget (in 2010), to stop the tuition hike in Fall 2012 and freeze further tuition hikes (UC President Napolitano says she will continue to uphold for the next year at least). These gains of the movement were achieved thanks to the student and worker solidarity that was build in the strikes, walk-outs and occupations and sit-ins since 2009.
Furthermore, faculty and other workers (unionized or not)) share an interest in supporting the strike and joining in the battle that will continue after the strike. Faculty have seen increased workload due to cuts in support staff (some who were represented by the mostly- clerical union Teamsters local 2010 and non-unionized workers) in the last 4 years, less chances for tenure (a permanent position as professor). Likewise, the other campus workers are working under similar deteriorating conditions like the AFSCME workers and face frozen salaries, increased workload due to staff cuts and “streamlining” and sizeable cuts to pension and medical benefits.
UNITED WE CAN WIN!
The building of a unified movement of students and their organizations, unionized workers and unaffiliated workers and the faculty is key to defend public education against management and government attacks. We must show the same strength that other workers nationwide (and worldwide) have shown in the past year, such as the Chicago Teachers Union strike of last year and the BART workers strikes this year. In both of these case, workers and community supporters faced intimidation, threats & public pressure from their employers, newspapers, TV and media. Thus, we must work on unifying our struggles in order to create a movement that fights for public education. And we will best do this by doing and supporting strikes, work stoppages,and other work/campus protests.
 http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2013/11/19/student-workers-face-intimidation-on-the-eve-of-a-historic-strike-at-the-university-of-california/ ““The UC Student-Workers union’s lawyers and labor consultant have been unequivocal: as student employees, working in the higher education sector in California, whose previous contract has expired, UI graduate student instructors, readers, and undergraduate tutors now have the legal right to engage in Wednesday’s sympathy strike.””
 ibid: “ In December 2011, Vice Chancellor Breslauer and then Chancellor Birgeneau were condemned by the Faculty Senate for their role in sanctioning police officers to strike with batons, on multiple occasions, demonstrators who were linking arms around the Occupy Cal tent encampment. Breslauer was partially responsible for this violence. “
JOIN WORKERS´ VOICE!
Workers’ Voice is a socialist organization that fights for workers and youth rights. We believe our rights can only be fully achieved in in a struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression. If you want to be involved in the struggles going on in UC Berkeley and would like to know more about our ideas, please get in touch with us! (Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org)