UC union members march through UC Berkeley campus, form picket lines on 1st day of strike

Thao Nguyen/Staff

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On the first day of the three-day strike by the UC’s largest employee union — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 3299 — union members rallied, marched through the UC Berkeley campus and formed picket lines Tuesday.

The Patient Care Technical Unit called the primary strike, but UC custodial, maintenance and food service employees represented by AFSCME Local 3299 are participating in the strike in solidarity. In a press release, the union cited the outsourcing of UC jobs as a primary motivation for the strike.

“UC is run by the folks standing here today. … We are a beautiful community, comprised of many people that want to give their children a fair chance,” said Libertad Ayala, lead AFSCME Local 3299 organizer, at the strike’s rally. “(Our students and patients) deserve more than the food that we’re giving them, they deserve more than the service that they’re getting, because we’re understaffed, underpaid and overworked.”

About 150 people marched through campus throughout the day, most of whom were members from AFSCME Local 3299, the University Professional and Technical Employees, CWA 9119 union, as well as the UC Student-Workers Union.

A UC statement said the university is working to limit the “negative impact of yet another ill-advised strike,” on campus communities. The statement said AFSCME Local 3299 leaders’ “combative” approach has done little to help their union members.

“As a negotiating tactic, this AFSCME-led strike is no more effective now than it was in May,” the UC statement said. “Union leaders certainly have the right to express — even scream — their opinions, but the way to a deal is at the negotiating table, not on the picket lines.”

Many classes on campus were canceled because of the strike. Some graduate students canceled sections in solidarity or because they were striking.

Campus English professor Janet Sorensen moved her class off campus so that students would not have to cross the picket line. She said in an email that she feels strongly about standing in “solidarity” with her striking co-workers. Sorensen added that her students, many of whom work in service jobs, helped her locate an alternative venue for the class.

“It felt good to be able to support actions closer to home trying to resist outsourcing and the poor working conditions that so often come with it,” Sorensen said in an email.

The union members began gathering at 6 a.m. and focused on picketing dining halls in the morning. They then returned to Upper Sproul Plaza to hold workshops on Weingarten Rights, which guarantee employees the right to union representation during an investigatory interview.

After the workshops, the protesters picketed in front of Sather Gate and later blocked the intersection of Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue, while various community members in vehicles honked in support of the union members.

The group then marched back to Upper Sproul Plaza and held the main rally at 12:30 p.m. Speakers from the Berkeley City Council, multiple unions and the ASUC talked about issues within the UC system and the importance of solidarity with workers.

“These workers make the school run and they make our lives easier every single day,” campus junior Sheyda Khonji said. “It’s required of (students) to take the sacrifice of a few of our days to come in solidarity with them and show the university that we’re on the workers’ side.”

On Wednesday and Thursday, picket lines on campus will begin at 6 a.m. and end at 6 p.m. Rallies with guest speakers will occur at 12 p.m. each day. The union will also be striking at UCSF Mission Bay on Wednesday and the Oakland Marriott Hotel on Thursday, with hotel workers as special guests.

Contact Hannah Piette and Thao Nguyen at [email protected].