Union members rally for solidarity

Photo: Union members protested a wide range of issues Monday, including the pending confirmation of David Crane to the UC Board of Regents and changes to benefits.
Michael Restrepo/Staff
Union members protested a wide range of issues Monday, including the pending confirmation of David Crane to the UC Board of Regents and changes to benefits.

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Correction Appended

Hundreds of union members and supporters gathered in Berkeley on Monday, declaring their solidarity for fellow union members in other states while protesting issues closer to home, including changes to funding for benefits on the UC Berkeley campus and the confirmation of a new nominee to the UC Board of Regents.

Approximately 300 members of several unions assembled at noon on Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue. Chanting slogans, they marched up the hill to the International House, where they picketed in support of unions facing opposition in Wisconsin and against a proposal to decentralize the funding of benefits for graduate students on campus and the pending confirmation of David Crane to the UC Board of Regents.

The protesters included members of United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents GSIs; University Council-American Federation of Teachers, which represents non-Academic Senate faculty members and librarians; and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents UC service and patient care workers.

Members of UC-AFT and UAW protested Crane's confirmation because of a Feb. 27 op-ed Crane published in the San Francisco Chronicle - in which he wrote that "collective bargaining is a good thing when it's needed to equalize power, but when public employees already have that equality because of civil service protections, collective bargaining in the public sector serves to reduce benefits for citizens and to raise costs for taxpayers" - which many interpreted as an attack on collective bargaining rights in the public sector.

"To have somebody become a regent for the UC who said they don't believe in public bargaining rights is absurd for a public institution," said Mandy Cohen, head steward of UAW 2865 on campus.

Crane has denied that he disapproved of public sector collective bargaining, adding that protests have not changed his view supporting increased pension payments.

UAW members also protested a proposal by UC Berkeley administrators calling for funding of employee benefits to be decentralized to departments, according to Jennifer Tucker, a GSI at UC Berkeley and campus unit chair for UAW. The union has filed numerous grievances against the campus, stating that the proposal is a violation of the union's contract with the campus.

According to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore, the labor relations division of the campus Human Resources Office is processing the grievances in accordance with the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.

The noon rally was one of a myriad of events across the Bay Area and the state. Protesters gathered early this morning at the KPFA radio station in downtown Berkeley and later at the Frank H. Ogawa Plaza in Oakland. In the evening, many convened for a march through downtown San Francisco.

Protests were scheduled throughout the day at UC campuses as well. At UC Davis, roughly 40 protesters held a teach-in in the campus law school, followed by a discussion panel featuring a labor attorney and the president of the graduate student assembly, according to Bill Camp, executive secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council.

The protests in California were all part of the international April 4 "We Are One" rally - symbolically scheduled for the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination - which included demonstrations in cities in Afghanistan, France and Mongolia.

Correction: Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Clarification: A previous version of this article may have implied that Mandy Cohen is the only head steward for the union, when there are several head stewards.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

Contact Nina at [email protected]

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