With 35,000 members in AFSCME 3299 and UAW 2865, today’s one-day strike was the largest in the University of California’s history. Graduate students from the 13,000-member UC Academic Student-Workers’ Union UAW 2865 walked out on nine campuses in a sympathy-strike with UC service and patient care worker union AFSCME 3299, which, after nearly a year of contract negotiations, called a strike in response to the university’s alleged illegal intimidation of workers who went on strike last May.
At Berkeley, UAW members gathered outside their departments and marched together to join AFSCME workers at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue. Students at Dwinnelle Hall chanted and sang, winding through the halls and into Ishi Courtyard in the rain before making their way through Sproul to the picket line.
Students sang Berkeley spins on classic tunes, such as a version of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” with the chorus “Solidarity forever…for the Union makes us strong”. Taking Woody Guthrie’s tune and playing with the lyrics, they marched along to:
This school is your school, this school is my school
From California Hall to the Mining Circle
From the redwood forest to the Strawberry Creek water
This school was made for you and me!
In addition to the picketing, over the day there was an assembly on Wheeler steps, a rally on Sproul Plaza, workshops in front of Dwinelle, and in the evening, members marched through campus to UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks’ house.
Today’s actions follow highly popular strike authorization votes in both unions earlier this month. UAW 2865 held a strike authorization vote two weeks ago, which received 96% support from members to authorize the union’s Joint Council to call a strike, should the occasion warrant, including in the event of a sympathy strike with AFSCME.
The strong support for UC workers’ rights has attracted media attention beyond the university, even gaining coverage in Salon, an interest in union rights that contrasts sharply with the administration’s obstinacy in contract negotiations.
Rhetoric PhD student and Berkeley union secretary Amanda Armstrong reports in Tikkun Daily that Berkeley’s Vice Chancellor George Breslauer sent out an email misinforming students that it was illegal for them to participate in the strike due to the state of UAW 2865’s contract negotiations. The university administration also tried to block the strike through legal action, with an injunction aimed to keep AFSCME medical workers from striking. A Superior Court judge decided yesterday to allow the requested injunction to stand for only 50 of the 21,000 AFSCME workers set to strike.
Despite the university’s bids to thwart this historic strike, rain, puddles, and heavy police presence throughout the day, there was a strong turn out. As the graduate students’ chant promised,
When AFSCME workers are under attack
What do we do?
Stand up and Strike Back!