Unite Behind the Strike for UC Workers, Students and Staff

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We are currently engaged in a great struggle that will define what the University of California will be in the 21st century. There have been myriad questions about the details of furlough programs, UC reserves, program closures, the number of layoffs and how to challenge them, what temporary layoffs might mean and so on.

It is important that these details do not engross our attention so profoundly that we lose sight of the big picture: that UC President Mark Yudof and the UC Board of Regents are striving to downsize and privatize the university. If they succeed, thousands of jobs will vanish, protections for workers will and access to the university will shift away from the middle classes of California to wealthier people from other parts of the country and indeed the world. Programs that serve the people will be replaced by programs that serve the same corporate interests who back this shift.

This week, unions, student and faculty groups are calling for a massive strike to protest this fundamental change in the nature of our university. We ask everyone on campus including students, faculty and staff, to join us on the picket lines and at the many events and rallies planned. Business as usual effectively supports Yudof and the regents.

This is the time to make a stand and let the administration and the people of California know that we will not give up the university to this new corporate model. We are fighting for the heart and soul of the University of California. Please come out and show the world which side you are on!

These are some of the tactics being used to accomplish the UC administration's sinister ends. Enormous tuition hikes coupled with a calculated effort to attract wealthy students from out of state will fundamentally change the population which the university serves. Cutbacks in classes and small departments will rid the university of unique programs that serve minority populations or question political orthodoxies. The abrupt disregard for the historic shared governance approach that gave faculty a voice in setting campus priorities shows clearly that emboldened administrators now feel that it is their university to run without consultation with those who teach.

The university has never accepted the permanence of a union environment and has constantly sought to undermine them. Its salary reduction program, disguised as furloughs, is meant to reduce base salaries for UC workers who have fought for decades for very modest gains; the thousands of layoffs being made alongside this salary reduction manifest the goal of a smaller university which will serve a far more elite clientele.

When unions sought to prevent layoffs by agreeing to furloughs, the university effectively said "no dice." By refusing to bargain in good faith about these attacks, the university wishes to demonstrate that unions cannot protect employees. The university's stonewalling and intransigence leaves workers with little choice but to go out on strike and file unfair labor practice charges.

With the fundamental nature of the university being called into question, it is no surprise that every component of our campus community has arisen in protest and united in protest. We struggle to preserve quality public higher education for the people of California.

What is clear is that it is not lack of resources that engenders these tuition hikes and layoffs; the university has the resources to minimize or solve the fiscal shortfalls that they say necessitate these cuts. We are watching an iron fist enacting a calculated plan to privatize the university. In response, we say "Whose University? Our University!" The university was founded to provide quality affordable education for the people of California. Together, we make sure the university keeps fulfilling this mission. Justice is on our side and we will win.

We ask the whole community to join us this week as we shut down business as usual at UC Berkeley. By leaving our jobs and classes together, we demonstrate our solidarity, and solidarity is the key to winning this struggle. We will win back the jobs of laid off workers, we will keep the university affordable for students and we will make sure that there are enough classes and teachers for effective learning to take place. Walking the picket lines together, we show that we know our struggle is one. The university's attempts to divide students, workers and faculty will fail.

What do our strikes and rallies do? We show each other that there is hope and we can fight these cutbacks. We also encourage the many good men and women who serve in administration to challenge these policies and protest the directives of a UC president who does not serve the interests of the university or the people.

Last month UC San Diego administrators announced that they would take out a $40 million internal loan to cover the current shortfall. As one UCSD official stated, "If we'd had to take another $40 million in cuts, it would have been terrible. We're trying to maintain the quality of education as best we can." According to the most recent reports, the university's total unrestricted net assets amounted to nearly $5.3 billion. What are those reserves for if the university cannot use them in this emergency?

We reach out to the people of the Bay Area and the state to let them know that there is a crisis in education in this state, at every level, and that the future of state is at risk if a growing population is denied access to high quality education. In this, one of the wealthiest societies in the world, there must be a way to tax wealth to provide basic services like education to the working people and their families.

Working together, we can change the governance of our state university and restore it to the hands of people who have the welfare of the people at heart, not increasing the wealth of an insulated and uncaring elite. But at this moment, workers, students and faculty are engaged in a giant battle that is a part of this struggle.

We ask our co-workers, our fellow students and colleagues to come out onto the picket lines and show the University of California what solidarity really means.


Anthony Fontes is a graduate student at UC Berkeley. David Kessler is a staff member at the Bancroft Library. Reply to [email protected]

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