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UC workers rally for better contract

By Shaun Bishop and Shane Nelson

Feb. 26, 2003 9:00 p.m.

From San Diego to Sacramento, hundreds of University of
California workers took to the streets Wednesday to voice their
dissatisfaction with the UC’s labor contract
negotiations.

Six unions representing a range of workers from food service to
researchers participated in noontime rallies at seven UC campuses:
San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Riverside, Berkeley, Davis
and Los Angeles.

Despite the threat of rain, about 100 picketers, beating drums,
blowing whistles and chanting labor mantras, turned out for the
rally at UCLA,

“What do we want? Contracts! When do we want them?
Now!” was the repeated exchange between the crowd and rally
leader Clift Fried, vice president of the local chapter of
University Professional and Technical Employees.

After a series of short inspirational speeches, the protesters
marched from outside Murphy Hall to Chancellor Albert
Carnesale’s office upstairs. Assistant Chancellor Antoinette
Mongelli received the crowd and spoke on his behalf, explaining the
chancellor had a previous appointment.

The chancellor is in support of the employees and the collective
bargaining process, Mongelli said, adding that she thought the
rally was a positive way to express workers’ concern about
wages and job security.

Rally organizers wanted to draw attention to the length of time
they have spent negotiating; for the lecturers’ union it has
been more than two years.

Union leaders attribute the time factor to the UC’s
bargaining in “bad faith,” with no intention to resolve
disputes, a position the university regularly contests.

Coalition of University Employees protesters held signs with
messages like “UC ““ they pay us like they hate
us” and “Nothing works without the clerks,”
showing anger at the alleged lack of respect the university has
shown them at the bargaining table.

“How much can we get out of them this time?” asked
Bert Thomas, local president of CUE, imitating what he calls the
“Wal-Mart thinking” of negotiating officials that has
both infuriated and scared him.

Union members also voiced dissatisfaction with the UC’s
current efforts to deal with the state budget crisis. They
expressed anger about a Los Angeles Times article that reported the
cash-strapped UCLA hospitals spent $1.9 million to hire consultants
who could recommend up to 450 full-time job cuts.

“It’s Enron in reverse: Enron uses fancy bookkeeping
to demonstrate faulty wealth, the UC uses fancy bookkeeping to
demonstrate faulty poverty,” said Thomas.

But UC press aide Paul Schwartz said the university is offering
the best wage packages it can, given the current state budget
crisis.

Local Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood, wrote a letter
to UC President Richard Atkinson expressing concern regarding
workers’ below-market salaries.

Koretz, a UCLA alumnus, is chairman of the state
Assembly’s Labor and Employment Committee and had a field
representative present at the rally.

Though food service workers ratified their contract last summer,
many members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal
Employees showed up to express solidarity with other workers still
negotiating for a contract.

Speaking through a translator, Lorena Arrieta, a food service
worker, said union workers want the administration to cut jobs
above with management and not below with workers.

“It reduces our checks, which will hurt our families, and
prevents our attempt to try and live a better life,” Arrieta
said.

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