Undergraduate Workers Union protests in front of Sather Gate on Cal Day

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Ethan Epstein/Senior Staff

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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].

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  • fire them already

    • SecludedCompoundTTYS

      Seriously!

  • JP

    These students used the threat of force (not peaceful protest) to prevent freedom of public movement on the Berkeley campus, and the campus police did not intervene, contravening the rule of law. Perhaps these students should consider relocation to another university or college if they are so dissatisfied at Berkeley.

  • wandagb

    These ‘undergraduate student employees’ totally lost any support/sympathy I might have had as a consequence of their uncivil behavior blocking entrance to Sproul Plaza and forcing me and hundreds of visitors to go hither and yon to get to the lectures and activities offered the public. Alas, the Campus police aided and abetted this foul behavior.

    This offensive and selfish display of their demands left a very bad taste in my mouth on what should have been a wonderful day of showcasing the many wonderful things at UCB.

    A pox on these students for their aggressive behavior.

    And a pox on the Campus Police for sanctioning it and thereby guaranteeing a repeat performance next year for some new aggrieved group.

    • bws

      While my reaction was not as strong, I generally agree that the group lost my sympathy here. I support raising wages for food workers in general, and if asked prior to this incident I would have supported this group’s demands.

      But inconveniencing families when they are trying to have a fun day is not a good way to get their sympathy. My 3 year old does not understand a protest, he just wants to see the dinosaurs. My wife who had surgery recently was exhausted and having to walk further to get back to our car is not a good way to gain my support.

      If cal day was only about opening the campus to high school students then I could almost see the benefit to showing them that activism is a big part of campus life, but there were a lot of families with young children who are only going to have a bad experience from this protest.

      • Wabbit

        BWS: You missed a great opportunity to explain your 3 year old about what protest is, how important it is that people who serve make him hot-coco at a cafe have enough money to live, and how life is more than dinosaurs.

        WANDAGB: walking around Sather Gate — such a great inconvenience! I would place you and Nelson Mandela in the same category of people who have gone through hardship and suffering because of their principled position.

        • bws

          Wabbit: I do not think you understand what is appropriate for 3 year olds.

          There is no reason the group had to block the bridge. I actually saw the group when it was marching toward the bridge and I recall thinking good for them. Had they just formed next to the bridge and continued to chant, they would have had my full support.

          It is the act of blocking the bridge that I believe is counter productive. It lost my support for this group.

          • bws

            this is a perfect example of the thesis of this paper (Extreme Protest Tactics Reduce Popular Support for Social Movements):
            https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2911177

          • Shirkhan

            BWS:
            1. I have a 3 year old, and I fully understand what’s appropriate for her. Thank you.
            2. Of course they had a reason to block the bridge: they’re being exploited and they wanted to express it. If this is what makes you lift your support, then, well, apparently you’re not really their supporter. People have priorities: you prioritize not walking around the bridge (a 2 minute detour) over workers’ rights – I think differently.