Unionized UC Berkeley students occupy Provost's office

The University of California, Berkeley student workers’ union staged a sit-in Tuesday to demand higher wages, the disarming of campus police, and financial support for illegal immigrants.

According to The Daily Californian, members of the UC Student-Workers Union - UAW 2865 (UCSWU) occupied Sproul Hall to protest expensive on-campus housing and low wages, as well as in support of numerous social justice initiatives. 

The UCSWU, which represents more than 17,000 student workers from UC campuses, claims that roughly 60 members participated in the protest, about half of whom occupied the office of Fiona Doyle, vice provost for Graduate Studies and dean of the Graduate Division.

UCSWU, whose slogan is “Agitate! Educate! Organize!,” is currently negotiating a new contract with the University of California system, and at the time of the protest had already scheduled negotiations for Thursday and Friday.

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During the occupation portion of the sit-in, about 20 union members read their demands to Doyle while crowding into her office wearing matching red shirts.

According to its “Bargaining Goals,” the union has 12 demands, which include full off-campus childcare coverage, dismissal of mandatory tuition and fees, improved cost of housing, and the provision of housing and legal support to illegal immigrant student workers affected by “immigration law, travel bans, and/or Executive Orders.”

A June social media post from the union features an image of numerous UCSWU flyers demanding support for additional various social justice policies, which include banning ICE from campus and a call to “disarm & demilitarize UC police.”

The organization claims on social media that only “1% of the UC’s budget [is used] for workers who provide >50% of all instruction at the university,” adding that new university housing costs “$2,100 a month or 106% of student worker salary.”

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Images and video of the protest, published by UCSWU, show students sitting and standing in Doyle’s office, as well as in the halls of the Sproul building, wearing matching red shirts featuring the organization’s logo, a raised fist closed around a pencil.  

According to the Daily Cal, students began chanting “Whose university? Our university!” and “No justice, no peace!” as they left the building.

Although Doyle listened politely to the group’s demands, which even included calls to “divert her $317,000 salary to student workers,” some UCSWU members aren’t convinced that their demonstration made an impact.

“I’m disappointed that we weren’t heard here today by Fiona Doyle, but I’m not surprised,”  union chapter chair, Maggie Downey, told the protesting students. “But I’m really heartened by everyone being here today.”

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In May, the group organized a similar protest, during which they demanded that the university “immediately impose a freeze on rent at UC housing complexes, remove discriminatory language from lease agreements across UC, and bargain with the Student-Workers Union to establish affordable housing across the UC system,” according to a press release.

“Our goal is to reach a multiyear agreement that recognizes the significant contributions of academic student employees by providing fair pay, family-friendly benefits, a safe workplace, and good working conditions,” Danielle Smith, a UC spokesperson, told the Daily Cal.

Neither UC Berkeley or UCSWU has responded to Campus Reform’s request for comment. 

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