Striking UAW academic workers occupied UC Berkeley’s Eshleman Hall and California Hall on Thursday in a continuation of the ongoing strike activities, while picketers outside voiced support for their respective bargaining teams by chanting and displaying banners on the steps of the halls.
Campus associate dean of students Sunny Lee called the new efforts to occupy buildings an “escalation” after academic workers interrupted a meeting between Lee, the ASUC Senate and ASUC’s Student Safety Task Force in Eshleman Hall this morning.
Jean-Luc Watson, a fifth-year graduate student and member of the student researchers’ bargaining team, alleged that out of several administrators invited to attend ASUC’s community safety meeting this morning at Eshleman Hall, only Lee and another administrator appeared; however, campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said other administrators stayed behind to monitor the situation at California Hall. After the meeting was interrupted by picketers, Watson said Lee reiterated “a vague sense of support.”
“What we really need is for administrators to talk to leadership, like the chancellor, the (UC) Office of the President,” Watson said. “We need them to let them know that the students are really feeling left behind by the university.”
Around the same time, a sit-in of approximately 150 individuals occurred at California Hall, according to Gilmore, after students rushed and gained entrance to the building around 10 a.m. She added that all staff, excluding security personnel, left the building in the afternoon.
However, Gilmore clarified that union bargaining negotiation sessions do not happen at the campus level with picketers.
“Campus officials were in conversation with leaders of the occupation to hear of their plans and to help ensure safety of those participating in the sit-in,” Gilmore said in an email. “Campus leaders did not engage in or seek to facilitate a discussion about the strike as the UAW contracts are managed at the UC systemwide level by the UC Office of the President. Individual campuses or individual administrators do not have that authority.”
California Hall’s doors remained closed to picketers, who claimed the building was occupied by UAW bargaining team members and UCPD officers. Protestors voiced interest in camping outside the building until bargaining begins.
Additionally, a bargaining update Wednesday described a compromise to reduce the original annual salary demand for student researchers and academic student employees from $54,000 to $43,020. According to Watson, the new amount is the median pay for peer institutions, while the compromise is to urge university representatives to approach the bargaining table.
“We’re just going to keep being out here. The strike is not going anywhere as long as the university doesn’t budge on wages, on childcare, on tuition remission,” Watson said. “We’re just one day longer, one day stronger.”
Ratul Mangal contributed to this report.