Students, campus service workers protest layoffs

Sophia Elia/Staff
Students and Workers rally over the firing of workers and fee hikes. The protest was held on the corner of Bancroft and Telegraph.

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Students and other members of the UC Berkeley community rallied alongside campus service workers on Sproul Plaza Thursday afternoon demanding that the campus rehire workers who will be laid off in November.

A group of about 50 protesters rallied at the intersection of Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way, criticizing the campus for plans to lay off the service workers and demanding that the UC support a state Senate bill that would allow graduate student researchers to unionize.

About five UCPD officers were at the scene to monitor the protest.

Students who took part in the protest said they wanted to show solidarity with the workers.

Students are often unaware of workers’ financial situations, said Isaac Kreisman, a UC Berkeley senior and member of Students for a Democratic University.

“It’s important to support them and make connections with students (who face) fee hikes,” he said.

Thursday’s protest was led by members of AFSCME Local 3299, a union representing service and patient care workers at the university, and coincided with protests at other UC campuses and medical centers. The union is currently working with UC officials to renegotiate terms of a contract between the two parties that expires at the end of the month, according to campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore.

Other groups also took part in the protest, including activist group BAMN. Aside from voicing support for the bill that would allow graduate student researchers to unionize, some protesters demanded that UC Berkeley become a “sanctuary campus” for undocumented students and increase the number of underrepresented minority students it enrolls.

According to BAMN organizer Justin Cheong, the organization wants to see UC Berkeley double the number of underrepresented minorities it enrolls.

Still, the protest centered around the five ASUC Auxiliary custodial workers who were notified in late August that they would be laid off from their jobs at Eshleman Hall, effective Nov. 1. All five attended the protest Thursday.

According to Gilmore, their jobs were terminated because Eshleman Hall is scheduled to be demolished as part of the Lower Sproul Redevelopment project. She added that the campus is working with the custodians to find them positions elsewhere on campus but cannot guarantee them another position.

“We were told if they demolish the building, there will not be enough offices to clean, and the Martin Luther King Jr. building will be remodeled too, so (the campus) is not going to need custodians,” said Ruben Reyes, one of the five workers who will be laid off.

Reyes said that because he and the other four custodians had worked at the campus for at least six years, it was unfair for them to be laid off without the guarantee of a replacement job.

Contact Lindsey Lohman at [email protected]