It is with great camaraderie and solidarity that the Graduate Students de la Raza at UC Berkeley writes this letter of support for all campus workers at the UC system on the eve of what could possibly be the largest strike in UC history.
We fully support and endorse the AFSCME strike taking place this Wednesday, November 20th, 2013. Not only is this strike historic as it brings our own union, the UAW, and AFSCME together through a solidarity strike, but we also see it as an opportunity to address the quality of education we are receiving in what now is a formerly public institution.
As graduate students, and academic workers, it is alarming to see the decline of graduate students of color and overall student of color population across the UC system. As one of the most diverse states in our country, we are one of our nation’s leading institutions to be able to prioritize diversity and the strengths it brings to the learning environment. Yet, the costs of our education has doubled in the last five years. We see the window of opportunity shutting itself to already historically underrepresented groups, while also seeing executive and administrative pay maintain and rise.
As instructors and instructors of color who teach the future leaders of our nation, we find it discouraging when there is little to no students of color in our classrooms. The lack of investment in the quality and equity of education by UC leaves us to defend why issues of race, gender, sexual orientation and other marginalized identities must be respected and critically analyzed. It is no coincidence that the demographics of historically marginalized groups in the student body also make up that of the AFSCME workers at UC. Sometimes it is only in the faces and languages of the AFSCME workers that we are able to find someone familiar to us. This is because they are our family. When we see these workers we see our aunts, our fathers, our sisters, our grandmothers working to provide for their families–just as ours have done for us.
Using intimidation tactics and repressive measures to discourage workers from defending their rights qualifies as an unfair labor practice by the University of California. It is a shame that we attend and work for an institution that uses intimidation tactics against some of the most vulnerable working populations at UC. Most importantly, this intimidation approach that, if allowed to be left unrecognized and without response, can also be used against us as academic employees of UC.
The way an institution serves and treats the people that make it run exemplifies where it’s priorities lie. There is no question that AFSCME workers are the lowest paid workers at the UC level. Yet, they are the largest union at this institution.These workers, our people, have been continuously marginalized and intimidated and now reach a point when they must rise and use their collective power to protect themselves and what they deserve. We find that collective action by people facing repression is crucial for transformative change and necessary for a more equitable public educational system for us all.
Not only do we recognize the importance of this strike in the present moment, we also recognize that there were individuals before us who also took risks and spoke to power when facing adversity and discrimination. We recognize that there were strikers that came before us to ensure that those that came after had better working conditions than they once did. We recognize that we now benefit from their sacrifice. We recognize that we must do the same.
These acts of collective power are not just for our own rights but those who will come after us. We hope that UC can continue to be the kind of institution that values diversity and equality by investing in its current workers and students.
En Lucha and Solidarity,
Graduate Students de la Raza
Graduate Students de la Raza is a collective of Latin@/Chican@ students at Berkeley that work towards equity and issues that concern the Raza community at Cal and beyond.
You can sign in support of this statement here.