University student leaders call for student-union solidarity

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Two UC Berkeley organizations have joined more than 50 student groups in calling on UC chancellors to support labor unions in their negotiations with the university, through a UC-wide petition.

Written by the UC-Wide Student Coalition for Campus Labor Justice, the petition demands that each chancellor “satisfy the bargaining demands of all UC labor unions,” including those from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 3299. The petition also stipulates that each campus must provide liveable wages, reduce short-staffing and end subcontracting practices as well as gender pay gaps, among other demands.

The ASUC Office of the External Affairs Vice President, or EAVP, and CalSERVE, are the two UC Berkeley groups to have signed the petition.

Nuha Khalfay, the current EAVP, said in an email that she supported the petition because she believed that all UC workers deserve a “fair” contract.

“We will continue to support AFSCME until the University negotiates in good faith,” Khalfay said in an email. “I would like to see AFSCME finally get the contract they deserve and are asking for.”

Current negotiations with AFSCME and other unions have been ongoing for over a year. AFSCME, Local 3299 has gone on strike twice this year after it failed to negotiate a new contract with the university, once in May and again in October.

In addition to labor concerns, the petition demands that the UC system end the “deployment” of UC police to oversee on-campus activities and divest from any companies complicit in the abuse of Palestinian rights. It also calls on the university to follow a “No Complicity, No Collaboration” policy with government agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, among other demands.

Sarah Abdeshahian, the EAVP organizing director who signed the petition as the EAVP’s office representative, specifically highlighted the need to end UCPD’s deployment in on-campus events as an important goal. She cited previous issues with UCPD’s  treatment of on-campus protesters, such as the arrest of AFSCME’s David Cole last spring.

Abdeshahian characterized the entire petition as important because it shows solidarity between students and the labor unions.

“This petition is exceptionally important because it clearly defines the asks that students and workers alike have endorsed and stand behind,” Abdeshahian said in an email. “The UC has constantly tried to pit workers and students against each other. But the reality is that we face a lot of the same struggles: housing insecurity and food insecurity, SVSH issues, racial and gender inequities, disrespect from admin, and more.”

While ASUC President Alexander Wilfert and his party, Student Action, do not appear to have signed the petition yet, Wilfert said he also supports student-worker solidarity, calling the work “vital” for the universities’ foundation.

“Too often, the UC takes advantage of their workers and we as students need to be in solidarity with their asks,” Wilfert said in an email. “I hope these negotiations produce tangible, positive results for our unions.”

Contact Alexandra Stassinopoulos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AE_Stass.