A lot of anger and a little silliness dominated a spirited rally held by on-campus unions Wednesday at Storke Plaza.
The rally was part of a statewide demonstration at all UC campuses in demand of fair treatment and higher wages. The steps of Storke Plaza were filled with demonstrators who saw skits and speeches performed by members of the Coalition of University Employees, the union representing on-campus clerical workers, and the University Council-American Federation of Teachers, which represents lecturers. Both unions have been in contract negotiations with UC since 2000.
A mock tug of war between labor and management began the rally. Actors playing the union representatives flexed their muscles and pumped their fists while a woman held up a giant “CLAP/CHEER” sign. She reversed the sign to read “BOO/HISS” when introducing the UC people, who were depicted wearing suits and gabbing on cell phones.
A twelve-foot-tall devil puppet danced while wearing a sign reading “Mr. ULP,” which stands for “unfair labor practice.” The unions have filed 69 unfair labor practice charges against the UC. The California Public Employee Relations Board found the University guilty in December of a ULP regarding the use of temporary employees in permanent positions.
History Professor Nelson Lichtenstein gave the first speech of the day and gave a brief description of Hoovervilles, the basis for the event’s “Regentsville” theme. Hoovervilles were squatters’ camps built during the Great Depression. Lichtenstein said the regents are similar to Hoover in that they have mixed-up priorities.
During the second round of tug of war, the UC reps tied their end of the rope to a tree. “It looks like UC is firmly rooted in their position,” local campus representative Allegra Heidelinde said over the loudspeaker.
Bob Samuels of UC-AFT then spoke and referred to the over $4 billion in unrestricted funds possessed by the University.
Samuels shouted, “Do you think the University is broke?” The crowd responded with a resounding “NO!”
“You have to wonder why they are not spending that money on education,” Samuels said. “There are lecturers who have Ph.D.s and have been here 15 years that make less than $40,000 a year.”
Dozens passed through the “Regentsville” soup line and signed postcards supporting the workers that will be sent to Chancellor Henry Yang, UC President Richard Atkinson, Governor Gray Davis and State Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson.
Most in the crowd were members of the unions, but Catherine Salzgeber of C.U.E. said she was satisfied with the turnout.
“I don’t think I ever see much more than this at one of these things,” she said.
In the last round of tug of war, the UC reps were thrown out of the game, tied up and led off with dunce caps on their heads.