Students, Workers Strike Against Fee Hikes, Layoffs
Strike Against Fee Increase: Day OneOn Wednesday, students, faculty, and supporters gather to strike and speak against the proposed fee increase.
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Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Category: News > University > Higher Education
Amid chants of "no cuts, no fees," about 50 union workers took up their signs on Sproul Plaza beginning at 5 a.m. to protest an expected 32 percent student fee hike at Wednesday's UC Board of Regents meeting and employee layoffs.
The union members were mostly workers from the local chapters of University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), Coalition of University Employees (CUE) and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
They also held protests at North Gate, West Gate, East Gate and five university construction sites, forming a picket line around the perimeter of the campus. Union members have elected to strike Wednesday and Thursday.
Union leaders described the mood of the protest as "bubbling," despite many of the picketers' claims to have begun as early as 5 a.m.
"We want to change the priorities of the UC administration," said UPTE Local 1 President Tanya Smith. "The decimation of UC's resources is unacceptable. Student fees don't have to be raised like this."
However, some students did not seem to share the concerns of the protest, such as sophomore Steve Giahos who said of the protesters, "They're lucky to have jobs."
"I'm still going to school no matter what," he said. "My parents are still going to pay for it."
Although picketers blocked the south entrance to campus, many students still crossed to attend their classes as some protesters were heard shouting at them to respect the picket line.
"I think if they took the time to educate themselves about the cause they'd be less complacent and more respectful towards the volunteers out here picketing," said senior Casondra Koufos, a political science major.
Picketers were also sent to construction sites around campus--including Boalt Hall and Memorial Stadium--to try and disrupt the workers there, but were unsuccessful, according to UC Berkeley spokesperson Dan Mogulof.
According to estimates by UCPD officials, more than a thousand union members, students and other supporters assembled on Sproul Plaza for a noon rally.
Speakers included UC Berkeley professor Ananya Roy, UC Berkeley professor and Poet Laureate Robert Hass and a host of union members and students from several UC campuses.
"It is not business as usual when faculty are told to put up or shut up," Roy said. "Take back the state of California."
Two buses carrying around 80 supporters departed the campus for Los Angeles around 2 p.m. to protest the regents' meeting at UCLA, according to Liz Perlman, bus trip organizer and and member of the AFSCME Local 3299.
"I am going to UCLA because I think its outrageous what the regents are doing to the University of California, and there's no better way to express that," said Sanjay Garla, a fellow organizer and union worker for AFSCME Local 3299.
Later in the afternoon, about half of the protestors went on a march to Berkeley High School and Berkeley City College and began chanting to show their solidarity with public schools.
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