Letters to the editor: Week of Oct. 1

Proceeding with negotiations in good faith with AFSCME

The University of California values all our employees, including those who clean, cook and care for the university. Changes to the university’s retirement benefits are meant to assure employees of affordable, sustainable health care and pension benefits throughout their retirement.

The UC Board of Regents adopted measures to ensure the long-term viability of our retirement programs, including new contribution rates for current employees and a new pension tier for workers hired or rehired after July 2013. These changes came after extensive consultation with stakeholders throughout the university. They address an unfunded liability in the retirement system, and other UC employees — including members of some unions — are pitching in. We’re simply asking AFSCME to do the same.

Multiple tiers are common at other public agencies, including the state’s pension plan. Implementing this new tier will reduce pension costs by about 20 percent while still providing extraordinary benefits. This is crucial at a time when state funding for public higher education continues to shrink.

Even with these changes, UC employees pay less for more generous health benefits than other workers in the public or private sectors. In fact, the university typically covers more than 90 percent of health care premium costs for AFSCME workers and their families. Our AFSCME employees also pay less toward their pensions than many state workers or those at comparable universities with similar pension plans — all while some private-sector employers eliminate pension programs entirely.

The University of California has negotiated a fair contract with AFSCME. Our most recent data show that many AFSCME members at the university are paid wages approximately 10 to 13 percent above market rates. And the remainder of the current service workers’ contract includes another 5 percent in wage increases in October and next July.

We are perplexed by AFSCME’s desire to bargain terms through the news media. Nevertheless, we will continue to negotiate in good faith with our represented employees.

Peter Chester,

UC director of labor relations

It’s Not Just About Free Speech — It’s About Truth

You might recall a spread in the Daily Cal last week in reaction to a measure recently approved by the UC system’s largest body of student government. For a resolution handled according to routine procedure and passed without opposition, it might seem curious that the measure elicited the response of at least three opposing op-eds — to one positive piece — in a newspaper that purports to maintain a balanced view.

The measure was created as a condemnation of HR 35, a bill approved by the California State Legislature under the guise of preventing anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, HR 35 does not actually address this legitimate concern but rather equates the criticism of state policy with acts of religious hatred. By misconceiving disapproval of foreign Israeli policy as an attack on local Jewish students, HR 35 not only disregards Jewish students who take issue with Zionism but also perpetuates the stifling of free speech on the part of them and others who find fault with the state of Israel.

Unfortunately, the conflation of anti-Semitism with criticism of state policy has proved itself a consistent theme for those who defend an abusive political body under the guise of religious concern. For advocates of human rights in Israel and occupied territory, then, the consequent slew of op-eds in response to the UCSA was not really all that surprising. Criticisms of the student body’s measure focused on procedure but not on substance. More on feelings, less on facts. And the urging of both sides to make peace on the basis of their owning equal narratives. For most members of groups like Students for Justice in Palestine, the suggestion of accommodating those who disclaim fundamental facts and shift the focus to their “discomfort” at the assertion of the validity of those problems simply seems ridiculous.

The focus of SJP is not to make students happy and OK with each other in spite of disagreements on the elephant in the room. We sympathize with those who suffer from discrimination, and it is because of this disposition that we take issue with statements that aim to distract from and ultimately deny a form of severe and ongoing discrimination. To support a dialogue based on false equivocation — such as that embodied in HR 35 — would ultimately be to deny the true atrocities faced by those under the rule of a government that differentiates among its inhabitants on the basis of race.

That being said, maybe you’re OK if an allegedly democratic state currently maintains a system of segregated highways. Maybe you’re OK that a government daily funded by millions of dollars in U.S. aid not only possesses but exercises the right to detain prisoners for an indefinite amount of time and without trial. Maybe you’re even OK that this same government controls a naval blockade deemed illegal by a U.N. council and that restricts more than 2 million Palestinians from access to clean water.

In that case, you probably disapprove of the UCSA’s decision to protect students who speak out against government abuses, whether in the state of Israel or elsewhere. But for those of us who engage in the advocacy of Palestinian human rights as our cause of choice, I have to agree with Noah Ickowitz. It was, indeed, a victory.

Ley Cerezo,

UC Berkeley sophomore

Issue pushed through without enough consultation

I do think the Senior Editorial Board has a point when it suggests that the unruly behavior of some members of the public — including me — the night of the July 10 Berkeley City Council meeting on the anti-sitting ballot proposal might have played a role in temporarily costing others an opportunity to speak by singing civil rights songs.

But Mayor Tom Bates capitalized on that circumstance to permanently deny not just the public but members of the City Council opportunities to speak on the issue by shoving the issue through without appropriate process. You cannot make the case for disruption by one group and then ignore the issue when the council not only violates public rights but refuses to utilize the obvious remedies to afford everyone an opportunity to speak.

One needs to ask — what was the hurry? Your Sept. 14 editorial neglects to note that only the merchant associations were privately consulted regarding this matter. The service providers, those who represent the poor in legal matters, the relevant commissions — none of them was offered any opportunity to review the proposal before it was hurried through the council agenda.

This was no accident. Those with accurate information about anti-sitting laws and “quality of life” laws that unfairly target the poor have a chance to learn that as popular as they are politically, these measures make life for the poor harder, cost the public money and do nothing to affect business.

— Carol Denney,

Berkeley resident

Disappointed with Daily Cal coverage of UCSA resolution condemning HR 35

I am writing to express my displeasure with your coverage of the recently passed UCSA resolution condemning HR 35. It was spotty at best and maliciously biased at worst. On Sept. 21, Luma Haddad’s piece in support of the UCSA bill was set against three published pieces blasting the UCSA resolution, including one by your own editorial board. What happened to impartiality? The UCSA vote was that of a group of students elected or appointed by the different UC student governments, who voted in a way that reflects the overwhelming majority of their constituents’ opinions and best interests.

The implication on the part of all three negative editorials — the other two being by Joey Freeman and Noah Ickowitz — was that the Jewish community was purposefully left out of the conversation. Had you done your research, rather than pandering to falsehoods and fallacious arguments, you would have found out that one of the two students who proposed the condemnation was an Israeli Jew himself. The conspiracy theories about Students for Justice in Palestine — which, coincidentally, had no part in this as an organization — intentionally manipulating the system of the UCSA just goes to show how low your journalistic ethics, integrity and pursuit of the facts have sunk. The UCSA tends to meet on Saturdays because it is made up of student representatives from across the UC system who have classes on weekdays. This date wasn’t chosen; it was set. All procedures were followed. Get a clue.

It is important to note — and perhaps clarify, once again — that the position of Zionists and pro-Israelis on campus isn’t representative of all Jews. The Jewish community is one made up of a diverse array of opinions and viewpoints, and to imply that criticism of Israel makes one less Jewish or the wrong kind of Jewish is anti-Semitic in and of itself.

The coverage of the immediate aftermath of the UCSA vote was mishandled and just another blow to The Daily Californian’s already shaky credibility. I suggest you take a look at the California Scholars for Academic Freedom’s recently published open letter condemning HR 35.

— Iyah,

UC Berkeley junior

Contact the opinion desk at [email protected]

Correction(s):
Due to an editing error, a previous version of an Oct. 2 letter to the editor by Ley Cerezo indicated that the Daily Cal printed a series of op-eds on a UCSA vote on HR 35 a week before the letter was posted. In fact, the series of op-eds was printed on Sept. 21.