The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, or AFSCME Local 3299, launched a campaign condemning UC administration for alleged use of police force on a UC worker due to a language barrier.
The worker — one out of more than 27,000 people represented by the union — allegedly lived with roommates who had tested positive for COVID-19, according to UCPD Lieutenant Sabrina Reich. An AFSCME Local 3299 campaign letter alleges that UC management gave the worker instructions to leave and quarantine, but put “minimal effort” into communicating the message.
As a result, the campaign letter added that the worker did not understand the COVID-19 protocol and arrived to work during his next scheduled shift at Dwinelle Hall on Jan. 18.
Reich said UCPD was called to Dwinelle Hall on claims of “a public disturbance” at 11:11 p.m. the same day. The reporting party requested a Spanish-speaking officer, and UCPD officers met with the involved worker and their supervisor, Reich added.
According to Reich, the supervisor said the worker refused to comply with instructions to leave the premises. Eventually, UCPD officers instructed the worker to return home and not return to campus until testing negative for COVID-19 at the supervisor’s request.
“UC management has once again defaulted to threats of police force on its own employees at the expense of its employee’s safety and well-being,” the campaign letter reads. “The UC has long perpetuated this particular kind of language discrimination against its employees of color, and it is beyond unacceptable.”
Additionally, the campaign letter alleges that campus routinely employs UCPD “against its own students, workers and community.” Students and the Berkeley community have been working to remove UCPD from campus for years, according to the letter.
AFSCME Local 3299 student intern Alexander Orozco said campus administration acknowledged its role in the incident and called it a mistake. Orozco said a greater concern was that campus has not taken additional steps to ensure accountability since referencing the incident during an Independent Advisory Board meeting April 6.
Orozco and other members of AFSCME Local 3299 co-sponsored an ASUC Senate resolution calling for Eugene Whitlock, assistant vice chancellor of human resources, to address the incident. The resolution was made in collaboration with representatives from Cops Off Campus, ASUC Senator Sarah Bancroft and ASUC External Affairs Vice President Derek Imai.
The resolution demands that UCPD “never be called for labor disputes or on behalf of management” and that the university guarantees language accessibility for workers during all labor disputes or negotiations. The resolution also calls for transparency in the investigation of all current and future incidents of the university’s misconduct involving labor disputes.
The resolution passed during an ASUC Senate meeting Wednesday.
Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore explained that staff training regarding COVID-19 procedures is offered in both Spanish and Mandarin when necessary to ensure that all employees are informed of campus safety policies relating to COVID-19.
While the trainings are conducted in English, they rely heavily on visuals and a written translation of the presentation is always offered at the beginning, Gilmore added.
“Generally, when an individual staff member requires a translator for a work-related conversation, the campus will identify an individual (it could be a supervisor, a co-worker or other person who is capable and available) to assist,” Gilmore said in an email.