Members of the Undergraduate Workers Union, or UWU, blocked Sather Gate on Saturday afternoon during Cal Day, demanding higher wages, safer working conditions and tuition rollback.
About 40 members of UWU formed a human chain in front of Sather Gate about 12:30 p.m., chanting phrases such as “One, two, three, four, we need you to pay us more! Five, six, seven, eight, or we will retaliate!” and “Our hands, our labor, our terms.” One protester climbed the gate to hang a banner reading “Living Wages Now,” which was taken down at the end of the demonstration.
Beginning about 12:40 p.m., several individuals attempted to enter through the chain of protesters, prompting UCPD to assist in mediating any confrontations that occurred.
The student workers alleged that the previous night, several of them had been fired from their jobs for organizing and were told that they could not longer enter the premises of certain campus dining halls. UWU member Jessica Gonzalez alleged that she was fired from her Cal Dining job at Clark Kerr Campus for unionizing. Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff could not immediately comment on the allegations.
Campus freshman Nikki Lemus, a member of UWU and current Cal Dining employee, said the organization hopes the campus administration will look at UWU’s demands and begin to respond to them.
“We’ve been exploited as workers … because of the high living cost in Berkeley, we’re mathematically incapable of paying that … to sustain ourselves in Berkeley as students,” Lemus said. “We decided to protest on Cal Day because it’s one of the most visible days for Cal Dining.”
UWU’s tactic of blocking Sather Gate follows a recent trend of Cal Day protests. In 2015, members of the campus’s Black Student Union blocked the gate in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, and in 2016, students protested a lack of resources for undocumented students.
Cal Dining workers are currently paid the city minimum wage, $12.53 per hour, according to Ratliff. Ratliff previously said the wages will be increased to $13.75 per hour in October 2017. He has also previously noted that the campus does not recognize UWU as a union because it is not officially registered.
About 2 p.m., the workers marched to Crossroads dining hall, where they forced themselves inside, shouting, “You can’t fire all of us,” and blocking one of the food lines. UCPD was called to the scene, and Cal Dining staff in Crossroads were directed to stop production.
The protesters left Crossroads about 2:30 p.m.
Contact The Daily Californian News Staff at [email protected].