100 UC employees rally for increased wages; UCPD arrests 1

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UCPD tackled and detained a UC Berkeley employee Thursday during a UC workers’ union rally to protest the University of California’s treatment of workers.

AFSCME Local 3299, which represents service and patient care employees and is the UC’s largest employee union, organized the rally as a part of a statewide protest across UC campuses, according to American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, spokesperson John de los Angeles. The initial protest started at 11:30 a.m. and dispersed about 12:40 p.m.

At the rally’s peak, about 100 protesters blocked the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue. The protesters were in the streets for about 10 minutes, but during that time, UCPD physically detained and arrested David Cole, a UC Berkeley employee and member of AFSCME, on suspicion of vandalism and resisting an officer.



Campus spokesperson Roqua Montez said in an email that Cole ran toward and threw a sign at a vehicle that was trying to make its way through the crowd. Montez added that according to UCPD, the driver then got out of the vehicle, and Cole allegedly approached the driver in a “threatening and aggressive manner.”

According to Montez, UCPD reported that a UCPD officer attempted to detain Cole, and Cole allegedly became “non-cooperative.” This is when multiple officers moved to physically detain Cole.

Cole sustained a cut on his forehead and was initially transported to the Alameda County Medical Center, according to Montez. Cole was then taken into UCPD custody and was released about 6:40 p.m.

In response to Cole’s detainment, about 30 protesters gathered in front of California Hall about 3:30 p.m., demanding his release. ASUC Senator Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff said she believes the cops singled Cole out as a Black man, and that it was not hard to see that Cole’s arrest was “racially driven.”

“On the first day of Black History Month, they target a Black man,” said Berkeley City Councilmember Ben Bartlett, who happened to be on campus for a presentation. “Why him?”

During the initial protest, members of the union called for increased wages, lower healthcare premiums and an end to tuition hikes. According to de los Angeles, wages for UC workers have remained constant for the past five years, and refusing to raise wages is “unjust,” given that Nicholas Dirks, the former UC Berkeley chancellor, received $434,000 while on leave for the 2017-18 school year.

“Administrative management and the top echelon of UC workers’ wages have gone up dramatically,” said Jess Jung, former Daily Californian columnist, UC Berkeley senior and an AFSCME intern who attended the protest. “Whereas the wages for regular workers have gone down or stayed stagnant … There’s growth, but it’s all happening at the top.”

According to a statement provided by Claire Doan, a UC Office of the President spokesperson, the wages for UC’s service and patient care employees are “currently at or above market.”

“UC has bargained in good faith since spring for service workers and since fall for patient care employees,” the statement said. “We hope the next steps … will encourage AFSCME to come forward with realistic proposals that lead to an agreement.”

The protest commemorated the 50th anniversary of the deaths of sanitation workers Echol Cole and Robert Walker, who were crushed by a garbage compactor and became martyrs in the fight against poor working conditions and low wages — a fight that continues today, 50 years after their deaths.

The protest concluded with a moment of silence for Cole and Walker, initiated by Shelley Mitchell of AFSCME. Prior to the moment, Mitchell said Cole and Walker were two workers who were “hurt” and lacked a union to represent them.

“It’s a shame that 50 years later in California, which is supposedly the most progressive state, we’re still dealing with these issues today,” de los Angeles said. “UC likes to present itself as an engine of social mobility, but what we’ve seen in practice is that it is a monument to inequality.”

Staff writer Matthew Lo contributed to this report.

Anjali Shrivastava covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anjalii_shrivas.