Protesters critique handling of UC labor union negotiations

Bowen Xiao/Staff

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More than 50 students, faculty and community members gathered at Oakland’s Frank H. Ogawa Plaza at noon on Thursday.

The protest was in response to the UC administration’s decision to reschedule with short notice a public comment meeting regarding the impending negotiations over its contract with UAW 2865 — the union representing graduate student instructors, readers and other UC employees.

The “people’s public forum” lasted nearly three hours and included a march from the plaza to the nearby Marriott Hotel, where the UC Office of the President was hosting its annual Risk Summit. Protesters made a failed attempt to enter both locations, but no violence ensued. The march culminated at the Kaiser Center, where members of the department of employee and labor relations for the UC Office of the President listened as the protesters voiced their concerns.

According to Munira Lokhandwala, a UC Berkeley graduate student in film and media studies, the union had been organizing for weeks to get people to attend the originally scheduled meeting when the university announced last Thursday that it would reschedule. Lokhandwala says she was one of only two public commenters in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting.

“(The UC administration) was very disingenuous about actually wanting people to come,” Lokhandwala said. “Seeing that people were coming made them anxious.”

Shelly Meron, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said that the meeting was rescheduled in consultation with UAW 2865 and that there would be a second public comment meeting on June 19. Meron said the university is “looking forward to collaborative and productive” negotiations.

In attendance were union members from other UC campuses who intended to go to the originally scheduled meeting. Protester demands included smaller class sizes, quality health care and affordable university housing.

“As future teachers, we are all concerned about the UC promoting excellent, accessible education,” said protester Michelle Glowa, a UC Santa Cruz graduate student in environmental studies. She also added that as a parent of a 3-year-old, she was “committed to him receiving a real education rather than just being a pump in a mill that churns out profit.”

Zoya Street, the spouse of a university employee and the co-chair of the Affordability Committee for the Village Residents Association, was also in attendance. Street said the university provides subsidizing housing for its employees, but she claims it is “failing to live up to its promise of affordability.” The union plans to address this issues in the upcoming negotiations, Street said.

Contact Sam Strimling at [email protected]