Stop the Closure of Stephens Graduate Student Lounge!

Dear Union Members,

Dean of the Graduate Division Andrew Szeri recently announced that the Stephens Hall Graduate Student Lounge would be discontinued for use by graduate students as a study and workspace, effective May 16, 2014. The Stephens Lounge is a unique and important site of graduate scholarship. But the closure decision was based on unsubstantiated claims about its “underutilization” and about the ready availability of comparable study and work spaces. Moreover, the decision was made without any consultation with the graduate student body, and the Dean continues to assert that the decision is “final and beyond appeal.” The plan to close the Stephens Lounge therefore represents a serious disregard for graduate student working conditions and their right to shape those conditions.

At our monthly membership meeting on Thursday, the Berkeley Unit voted unanimously to demand a reversal of the closure decision. We are asking for your support in the following ways.

Please sign the petition to save the Stephens Hall Graduate Student Lounge by clicking the following link: http://goo.gl/Gx87sS. The petition will be even stronger if you include personal reflection on how this space is important and why it should be saved. And of course, please tell others about the proposed closure and ask them to sign the petition!

Our efforts will be even more effective if in addition to signing the petition, you personally contact EVCP Steele (csteele@berkeley.edu510-642-1961) and Dean Szeri (aszeri@berkeley.edu510-642-5472) immediately to voice directly your opposition to the closure of the Lounge.

Finally, please direct comments, questions, or interest in organizing to David Marcus (dmarcus3388@berkeley.edu) or Alex Roehrkasse

(roehrkasse@berkeley.edu).

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Historic Contract Wins

San Diego Free Press just published a fabulous article on our recent contract wins: http://sandiegofreepress.org/2014/04/historic-win-for-labor-and-a-new-direction-in-the-university-of-california-system/#.U1aLdMdEDwi

“That the student-worker union was able to secure both all-gendered bathrooms and lactation stations for their workers (and hence for all other workers at the workplace) is a historic achievement. This procurement has helped refine the role of the union in american labor history.”

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Devastating Rent Increase at University Village

UC Berkeley doubles down: Student families hit with rent increase amid poverty crisis

This message comes from friends of UAW 2865–the Village Resident’s Association, an advocacy group for University Village residents. 

UC Berkeley’s Residential Services has announced a 3% rent increase in its dedicated family housing for students and staff, University Village Albany. This announcement comes as campus groups are scrambling to address a food poverty crisis among student families. University Village residents already faced a 1.5% rent increase last year.

A survey conducted by the Village Residents’ Association (VRA) last year found that around 70% of families are surviving on less than a living wage, and 45% are reliant on food assistance to survive. This survey was cited by the Graduate Student Workers’ Union (UAW 2865) in its campaign for fairer compensation for students. Based on mounting evidence about food poverty in the academic community, there are now plans to create a $90k food pantry at the Cesar Chavez Student centre, as well as an emergency food assistance program for UC Berkeley students. The report from the VRA’s survey is attached, along with a summary of the data.

Despite this awareness of the extent of the poverty that student families at University Village already face, RSSP has doubled down on its policy of rent increases. Two months ago, liaisons at RSSP told the VRA that they did not yet have enough information about their plans for rent increases to meet. This is despite a longstanding agreement to discuss such plans with the VRA in advance so that they could be informed of the impact on residents. After two months of stalling on arranging a meeting, RSSP is now declaring a rent increase that they have already been told will put families under untenable financial strain.

Rent increases are a universal problem of course, but this is housing created with student families in mind. The decision to raise rents is ultimately being made by the same people who decide not to raise salaries above poverty level. University Village is a microcosm of the University of California’s catastrophic policies, and student families are among the worst hit.

A public meeting in University Village will be held to address the rent increase on May 15th . We hope to include not just residents and management, but also press and allies from campus groups. Contact vra@berkeley.edu for details.

To view the VRA survey report click here, to view the Village Affordability Survey click here.

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Strike Press

berkeleystrike

It’s been a great day of picketing, teach-outs, a performance by Danza Azteca, an entire Sociology class that joined our protest! More strike updates will follow later, but for now here’s some press about our strike:

Excellent article from In these Times http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/16509/more_than_20_striking_students_arrested_belying_university_of_californias_e

Coverage of the Berkeley strike on KRON http://news.kron4.com/news/video-striking-u-c-graduate-students-demand-apology/

 

 

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“I have a number for everyone–480″

“A lot of numbers get thrown around in this university…numbers like about salaries, about us being number one public university in this country. But I have a number for everyone–480. In my eight semesters as a GSI at this university, with thirty students per section, two sections per sections per semester I have had 480 students! And I have loved every single one of those students and I am pretty damn sure that they have loved me. So then here’s my question, why strike? “–from Becky’s amazing speech at the rally yesterday

Watch Becky answer this question, and more events from the strike yesterday:

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Assorted Strike News

Tgradschoolofedstrikehanks for a great day on the picket line!

Our comrades at UC Santa Cruz faced police violence this morning as they attempted to lawfully and peacefully picket. Police in riot gear arrested 20 picketers including UCSC graduate student and union leader Josh. In this video you can see Josh being arrested and pushed to the ground as he cries out in pain:

UCSC would not be deterred, and the picket continued! More information about the arrests is here at KSBW and here at the LA Times.

STrikeRallyAt UC Berkeley police filmed and pushed picketers at the West Entrance early in the morning. We continued on, and had a full day of picketing at Bancroft and Telegraph. The noon rally was stirring, despite the fact that the administration turned off the sound system during free speech hour, when our rally was scheduled.

PicketersLunch

 

Afterwards we munched burritos for lunch generously provided by our buddies at AFSCME, who we supported in a solidarity strike against their intimidation back in November.

Daily Cal coverage of the strike at Berkeley: http://www.dailycal.org/2014/04/02/gsis-undergraduates-gather-two-day-strike/

amherstunionToday our strike received statements of solidarity from other graduate student unions, including the Teaching Assistant’s Association at University of Wisconsin-Madison, UAW 2322 at the University of Massachusetts (pictured at left) and organized graduate students at NYU.

 

JOIN US ON THE PICKET LINES TOMORROW, BANCROFT AND TELEGRAPH 8AM TO 6PM!

GoTstrikememe

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Strike Update from Wednesday Morning

Another great video from Nick with an update from the picket lines early Wednesday morning! Picket lines going on until 6pm tonight, then all day tomorrow (Thursday) 8am to 6pm, when student workers across the UCs will be striking. Join us (and eat free bagels)!

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