Administrative, clerical, and support workers at UC Berkeley went on strike based off claims of unfair labor practices against the University of California on January 10.
The UC workers are represented by Teamster Local 2010, a union that is a part of the national Teamsters Union, which has around 14,000 members, the majority of whom are women and people of color.
According to studies conducted by the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College, 70 percent of UC workers in clerical, administrative, and support services reported experiencing struggles to afford enough food.
Of those surveyed, 25 percent said they had to resort to lower quality food because of lower incomes, and 45 percent said they experienced hunger because of the same reasons.
According to a statement made by Teamsters Local 2010, the strike is in response to the University’s “numerous violations of state labor law, including retaliation against workers for engaging in union activity, bargaining in bad faith, and interfering with workers’ rights.” The statewide strike culminated from the conflict during negotiations of wages between the university and the union when revising the workers’ oncoming five year contract. The union states that the UC has enough funds to be able to declare a salary increase, although wages have decreased by 24 percent since 1999. “UC has the fund to pay a 25 percent general salary increase and an additional service increase for eligible staff but management is stubbornly refusing,” the statement continued.
On Tuesday morning, dozens of people picketed along the northeast corner of the UC Berkeley Campus, and the numbers increased as the day progressed.
Protesters carried signs stating, “UC: pay workers enough to live.” At the protesters’ check-in table, organizers issued rain ponchos, water bottles, and megaphones. People chanted, “What do we want? A living wage! When do we want it? Yesterday!”
Joseph Meyer, administrative assistant at UC Berkeley and an organizer of the protesting, is critical of the way UC has been handling contract negotiations.
Meyer claimed that before UC brought their current offer to the table, negotiations were delayed for weeks, and the waiting period lasted for more than six months. Allegedly, UC used delay tactics and intimidation tactics, saying that employees will be disciplined for partaking in the strike.
Meyer said that the UC’s are “digging themselves a hole” by intimidating those who wish to go on strike. “A lot of people lie in fear because they don’t want to speak out for fear of losing their job,” he said.
Meyer, a UC employee for the past three years, considers himself lucky to be able to have a supervisor who isn’t aggressive and retaliative in this situation. He also added that, while UC has claimed that the strike is unlawful, they never pressed any charges.
The current offer made by UC suggests an eighteen percent average pay raise over the next six years.
UC also stated that the average annual salary of clerical employees is $47,300, and compared their health insurance amounts to the average American worker’s, which is close to five thousand dollars more.
They concluded by standing behind their current proposals and encouraging teamsters to timely finalize a contract.
UC Berkeley administrative, clerical, and support workers are currently no longer on strike. The teamsters union is still hoping to be able to make progress in their communication with UC Staff.