Union Dropped Plans to Picket in Response to UC Labor Concession Prior to Clinton Visit

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Hours before former President Bill Clinton came to UC Berkeley last week, a UC employee labor union struck a deal with university officials to halt the privatization of campus bus services.

After a meeting with UC Regent Richard Blum and UC Executive Vice President of Business Operations Nathan Brostrom on Feb. 24, representatives from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 negotiated a deal to halt privatization of the university perimeter bus shuttle service, which is currently operated by AC Transit and driven by UC employees, according to Kathryn Lybarger, a member of the union and campus employee.

Members of the union threatened to picket in front of Zellerbach Hall during Clinton's visit to campus as well as outside a dinner meeting between Clinton and members of the American Himalayan Foundation that was to be held later that day at the Fairmont San Francisco Hotel, said Maricruz Manzanarez, a UC Berkeley senior custodian and organizer for the union.

But once the settlement between the university and the union was reached, the union called off both protests voluntarily, Lybarger said.

The union negotiated three demands at the meeting, which involved benefits for custodians at UC Irvine and concerns about wage cuts throughout the UC system in addition to the prevention of the bus shuttle privatization, according to Lybarger.

UC spokesperson Steve Montiel confirmed that the deal was reached last week, but said that it in no way mirrors any of the events that occurred recently, such as the Durant Hall occupation, or events that may occur in the future, such as the March 4 statewide day of action in support of public education.

"Talks were strictly local on a range of bargaining options," Montiel said. "To draw a link between this ongoing conversation and any ... other incidences would be a stretch."

Lybarger said the university was mainly concerned with the rising cost of funding buses and keeping the jobs of the UC employees.

Manzanarez said that though some positions were saved due to the deal, union members who had previously been furloughed due to budget cuts still do not have job security.

"The custodian who had been working for 20 years wouldn't get their job back, but for convenience sake, the bus driver may simply be relocated with no knowledge of how to perform in their new position," Manzanarez said. "If we hadn't accomplished what we did with Blum, it is very likely that this would have been the case."

Hank Chapot, a union member and a campus gardener, said that the settlement did not necessarily correct the various financial issues facing the university system.

"We take what we can get at this point," Chapot said. "For now, the private bus companies don't have anything to propose to the university to sweeten the deal, so the whole idea was pushed off of the table."

Lybarger added that as of now, the negotiations between Blum and the union regarding the privatization of the bus services was not removed from future dialogue.

"We made it clear we didn't want (the buses) to be contracted out," Manzanarez said. "We are willing to work with the administration for federal funds for bus services. This is more than just saving jobs, it is saving the livelihood of the workers and their families."


Contact Katie Nelson at [email protected]

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