The Undergraduate Workers Union shut down Golden Bear Cafe Wednesday afternoon as part of a larger protest demanding that Cal Dining student employees receive back pay for alleged wage theft and an increased wage of between $17 and $19 an hour from Cal Dining management.
UCPD arrested 17 protesters who had locked themselves inside GBC, according to UCPD Sgt. Nicolas Hernandez. During the protest, the demonstrators brought up their concerns to officials from Cal Dining management, who refused to immediately meet their demands, UWU organizer John Anthony said.
The protest began shortly after noon in front of Crossroads Dining Hall with a brief speech from Anthony outlining the reasons for the protest. From there, UWU marched to GBC, where some members of the union entered the building, locked it from the inside and chained themselves in a circle around a cash register.
The rest of the workers stayed outside the front of the building, publicizing the protest and forming picket lines. Starting at 1 p.m., this group also distributed free food to passersby, which was donated by the Food Not Bombs collective.
Union member Grace Lin said UWU wanted to ensure that those who rely on GBC for food would still be able to get something and not be harmed by the shutdown.
Lin, whose firing from Crossroads was one of UWU’s points of contention at their speak-out last month, also gave a speech outside of GBC as part of the protest. Lin alleged that, although they were rehired through May 12, management failed to address the concerns of workplace harassment they originally raised.
“I got my job back, sure,” Lin said, “But the workplace has to be safe … and we’re gonna fight Cal Dining until we get that.”
Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff said in an email that the campus does not recognize UWU because it is not officially registered as a union or student organization, but he did stress resources available for individual student employees.
“Cal Dining leaders have been making themselves available to individuals to hear specific concerns regarding their employment with Cal Dining and have established open office hours for in-person meetings,” Ratliff said. “We hope that students will sit down with Cal Dining leaders and discuss any issues so we can work collaboratively towards a common solution.”
Lin, however, expressed frustration with the campus’s approach, calling it “disrespectful” that they focus on meeting with individuals rather than the union as a whole. Lin said UWU provided management with an email address to contact the organization, but management has not responded.
The arrested protesters are facing charges for obstructing the operations of a business.