Berkeley hunger strikers oppose SB 1070
STUDENTS, WORKERS and community members are engaged in an ongoing hunger strike at the University of California-Berkeley in opposition to Arizona's new anti-immigrant law.
The strikers have been positioned outside the administration building, California Hall, since May 3 and are refusing to leave or end their strike until the following demands are met:
-- A public denunciation by the University of California (UC) leadership of Arizona's recently passed SB 1070;
-- Establishment of the UC-Berkeley campus as a sanctuary campus, providing extensive protection for undocumented students and workers;
-- Dismissal of all student conduct charges for the 2009-2010 school year;
-- An end to wage cuts to low-wage workers and attacks on union activists; rehiring all AFSCME service workers, University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union activists, and Cal Performances employees;
-- Suspension of the student code of conduct and initiation of a democratic, student-led process to review the code, possibly resulting in the abolition of the code and creation of a new one;
--Acceptance of responsibility for the violence and escalation of the confrontation surrounding Wheeler Hall on November 20 and December 11, 2009 that resulted in injuries to many students and jeopardized the safety and security of undocumented students. Commitment to using non-violent means to ensure safety at student demonstrations in the future.
While the administration has announced its desire to meet in negotiations on this issue, they have made minimal efforts at establishing anything resembling a negotiation between equal partners.
Despite the fact that there are currently two AFSCME workers among the ranks of the hunger strikers, the administration refused to sit in negotiations with any non-students, resulting in UPTE President Tanya Smith being removed from the building.
When student Isaac Castro attempted to leave the building to stand outside in solidarity with Smith, he was thrown to the ground by the police guarding the entrance. Only after several minutes of convincing was he allowed to leave.
Presently, the students are refusing to engage in any negotiations with the administration that does not include worker representation.
UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau issued a statement on May 5 in response to the hunger strike and its demands. While he stated that he personally denounces the legislation in Arizona, he does not call on any other UC administrators to do so as well.
In addition, Birgeneau refuses to budge on any of the other demands, stating that establishing the UC as sanctuary campus would have the adverse effect of somehow endangering more students.
Birgeneau also argues that the student conduct code is being reviewed by a taskforce, the members of which will be appointed by Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer, but that no further student conduct charges will be dropped. He points to California's divestment of higher education as the reason for the ongoing layoffs and thus the administration's inability to reverse the layoffs or wage cuts, despite the fact that it continues to grant itself sizable bonuses.
Rallies are currently being held on a daily basis outside California Hall to support the hunger strikers with mass being held at 11 a.m. every morning and rallies being held at 7 p.m. every evening.