Students claim UC Berkeley is ‘corporate-motivated,’ trying to ‘privatize the university'
Students at the University of California – Berkeley (Cal) on Thursday protested against the school’s administration claiming it is attempting to “privatize the university by subcontracting out union jobs.”
“The students and workers at Cal are adamantly opposed to this corporate-motivated management of workers and will do all that we can to spread the injustice of the administration’s actions,” reads a statement put out by an event organizer last week.
The protest flared after the administration fired five custodians who worked in Eshelman Hall.
Sponsors included the International Socialist Organizers, Mecha, Students for a Democratic University, and multiple unions which include the UAW 2865, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, among others.
Event organizers demanded “justice for the Eshleman 5,” insisting the move was made with the specific aim of eliminating union jobs.
Cal, however, insists the move was simply a necessary common-sense measure.
University spokeswoman Janet Gilmore told Campus Reform that the building in which these five custodians currently work is set to be demolished in early 2013, thus, eliminating the need for custodial staff.
“It’s simply because the need wasn’t there,” said Gilmore. “The building won’t be there.”
Gilmore added that she had “no idea” why protesters were under the impression the move was motivated with the goal of eliminating union jobs.
About one-hundred protesters passionately disagreed, however, picketing on campus for one hour and then listening to various speakers at the steps of Sproul Hall.
“What they are doing is undermining the unions by hiring subcontractors who don’t get good wages,” student senator Devonte Jackson told Campus Reform. “It’s a clear attempt to privatize the university.”
Jackson added that his hope is to “build attention to the cause so the university has a lot of public pressure to transfer the workers.”
So far, Jackson said that the Cal administration has failed to respond to the protester’s demands or take action.
Event organizers also encouraged students to express their support and sorrow for the fired workers by don all-black attire.
This tactic, known as a “black bloc,” was developed in the 1980s by a set of left-wing protesters advocating for Marxism.
Protesters also called for the “right for Graduate Student Researchers to Unionize” and for “all considerations of tuition hikes to be taken off the table.”
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