22 campus students rallying for UC contract workers’ rights arrested

Sierra Brown/Staff

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At a sit-in at California Hall on Thursday afternoon, 22 campus students were arrested while rallying for the UC system to in-source contract workers.

At least 40 protesters entered the building through the front door and occupied the lobby in front of the chancellor’s office about 11 a.m. before the building was locked down, while approximately 30 more students marched and chanted outside the hall.

The protesters, some of whom were from the campus Student Labor Committee, allege that contract workers are being unfairly treated by not being offered direct employment.

“We have been victims … since we have been employed,” said Antonio Ruiz, a campus contract worker who works as a parking attendant for LAZ Parking.

About 3 p.m., after reading multiple dispersal orders to the protesters gathered in California Hall, UCPD officers arrested the students on the grounds of trespassing and interfering with lawful business, according to UCPD Sgt. Sabrina Reich.

“UC Berkeley is committed to ensuring that our employees and contractors are treated equitably and with respect,” said campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore in an email. “It is regrettable that this small group of students, by virtue of its continuing office occupations and disruptions, refuses to show the same degree of respect for campus employees who work hard to support the university.”

The University of California recently implemented a systemwide $15 minimum wage plan, which applies to all employees, including contract workers, hired to work at least 20 hours a week. But many contract workers maintain that salary is not the only issue at stake.

Consuelo Barrera, a UC Berkeley contract worker who works as a custodian, said that if they were to become direct employees of the campus, contract workers would be able to receive greater benefits, such as health care and sick leave. Additionally, Ruiz said that low wages mean he is forced to work two jobs in order to make ends meet. With direct employment by the campus, Ruiz said, he would be able to work only one job and spend more time with his children.

Gilmore said in an email that the wage plan — which will reach $15 an hour by 2017 — exceeds both the state and federal minimum wage and that “contractors doing business with the university are required to meet all local, state, federal and UC workplace regulation.”

Michelle Morris, a campus senior and an organizer for the Student Labor Committee, said the rally is the fourth action students have had since the beginning of this semester. She added that UC contract workers employed by ABM Industries, LAZ Parking and Performance First Building Services have been organizing since the beginning of summer to call for their insourcing.

“We have gone into the sit-in with the idea that we’re only going to leave by being forced to leave,” Morris said. “The reason for that is that we want to make a really strong statement that this is what we’re willing to do.”

All arrested students have since been released, according to Student Labor Committee member Kristian Kim, who participated in the sit-in.

Staff writer Haruka Senju contributed to this report.

Contact Ivana Saric and Michelle Leung at [email protected].