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On the picket line

May 10, 2002 | Page 11

Columbia University
San Francisco day laborers

Celebrate May Day

ACROSS THE country, activists celebrated this May Day as it was meant to be: a holiday to commemorate the struggles of working people.

In Portland, Ore., approximately 1,200 people participated in the city's third annual May Day march. Chanting "The workers united will never be defeated," protesters expressed support for immigrant rights and the fight for Palestinian liberation.

Along the route, marchers stopped at a local department store to show solidarity with a struggle by janitorial workers, and at Taco Bell to support workers boycotting Taco Bell because of unfair wages. The march stopped at the offices of the INS, where protesters heard speeches in defense of immigrants' rights, and chanted "Sí se puede" ("Yes we can").

In Madison, Wis., 250 students and workers marched and rallied on the steps of the capitol building, demanding that state legislators find ways to solve a $1.1 billion budget deficit without cutting jobs and social services or increasing state college tuition. "Tax the rich and make them pay!" was the day's popular chant.

In Olympia, Wash., 400 demonstrators marched through the streets, blockading the intersection across from city hall and the police station. There, marchers were lead in cheers and fight songs by the "radical jeerleaders."

Other events held during the day included a vigil to demand that the city buy uniforms from manufacturers that do not employ sweatshop labor and a tent city to show solidarity with the city's homeless.

And in Austin, Texas, 80 members of the Texas State Employees Union and their supporters rallied at the University of Texas at Austin to demand fair pay, better working conditions and benefits for university workers. Workers at the rally demanded that the state make good on the promised raise as well as an across-the-board raise rather than unfair "merit pay."

The rally was also supported by many students who are themselves facing increased fees. As one speaker told the crowd, "The people that do the work are the people that keep the university going. If we didn't show up, this university would shut down."

Jon Bougie, Paul Dean, Christopher Dols and Brian Huseby contributed to this report.

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Columbia University

By Gideon Shapiro

NEW YORK CITY--Graduate student employees at Columbia University took another step forward in their fight for a union. During a one-day strike on April 29, almost 200 graduate and undergraduate students picketed for eight hours outside Columbia's main gates.

Their simple demand: "Count the Votes!"

Exit polls of a March 19 election indicated majority support for joining United Auto Workers Local 2110. Now the administration has turned to desperate legal tricks to fight off the organizing drive.

In open contempt for the rights of student employees to organize, Columbia has impeded the tallying of the ballots by appealing to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Columbia hopes to persuade the NLRB--newly loaded with George Bush's "interim appointees"--to overturn multiple previous decisions recognizing teaching and research assistants as employees.

The one-day strike was a show of strength for the Graduate Student Employees Union, the group heading up the union drive.

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San Francisco day laborers

By Brian Belknap

SAN FRANCISCO--More than 100 people crammed into a community meeting April 30 at a police station to protest the crackdown on day laborers by local cops. Two weeks earlier, 50 day laborers and organizers rallied in front of the Hall of Justice to protest police "terror tactics" against the day laborer program.

On any given day, more than 500 mostly immigrant workers can be found around Caesar Chavez St. looking for work. "We've been hearing consistent reports of police officers telling day laborers to move off the streets or else the INS will be called," Renee Saucedo told the crowd. Saucedo is the director of the San Francisco Day Laborer Program, which offers services for undocumented immigrants.

Day laborers have been organizing against harassment and for better conditions for 12 years. The city has refused to even provide public restrooms, which gives the cops an excuse to harass workers for public urination and pit neighborhood residents against them.

This is all a part of the attempt to criminalize the day laborers instead of meeting their demands. We'll have to keep up the fight so day laborers win the respect they deserve.

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