After the violent arrest of a UC Berkeley (UCB) dining hall worker during union demonstrations, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299 contract negotiators are prioritizing racial justice at the bargaining table.
During the UC-wide union demonstrations on Feb. 1, UCB Police tackled dining hall employee David Cole and took him into custody under charges of vandalism and resisting an officer.
Demonstrations across all nine campuses intended to draw attention to new contract negotiations for the UC branch of the nationwide union AFSCME 3299. Video footage of Cole’s arrest showed several officers tearing Cole’s sign away, manhandling and pinning him facedown on the ground.
Cole was released from city jail later that same day and given medical treatment for injuries sustained during his arrest, including bruising and three stitches on his head and nose.
The UCB police department could not be reached for a statement, but had previously told the Daily Californian (Daily Cal) that Cole threw a sign against a car and made an aggressive motion toward the driver who was attempting to force their way through the crowd.
Campus spokesperson Roqua Montez added in an interview with the Daily Cal that according to the police report, when officers motioned to detain Cole, he became “non- cooperative.” John de los Angeles, spokesperson for AFSCME 3299, said that incidents such as these heighten tensions between UC and the union.
“We’ve shared what happened with David Cole with our members throughoutthestate[…]andthey’re terrified,”delosAngelessaid.“We’ve seen the blatant disregard that we get from UC at the bargaining table. Our members show up at these bargaining sessions, and it’s one thing to receive the disrespect verbally, but to then go out and speak publicly about these things and then to be assaulted — our workers don’t know how to feel about that.”
UCB protest regulations establish that “free expression is encouraged, but must not interfere with the University operation, teaching and other’s rights to expression and may not damage or impede UC property.” Prohibited protest actions include blocking entrances and foot or vehicle traffic, engaging in physical abuse, disrupting teaching or administration, engaging in vandalism or theft, climbing on or rappelling from university buildings or trees and camping or lodging on university property.
UCB campus officials plan to hire an independent organization to review the UCB Police Department’s conduct. The review is primarily intended to reveal whether the officer’s actions were consistent with UC Police Department’s guidelines.
“The University requires and expects the highest level of professionalism from its police force and prohibits discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other factors,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “UC will also continue to uphold the right of our community members to lawful, peaceful assembly. We stand prepared to take all necessary steps to ensure these standards and expectations are met.”
As a result of Cole’s arrest, contract negotiations between AFSCME 3299 and the UC Office of the President (UCOP) have become tense, de los Angeles said.
“We want to do everything we can to reach a fair agreement with the UC right now, but I’m sad to say they have not been very receptive to our proposals,” de los Angeles said. “We have various provisions in there to provide protections for women, immigrants and people of color, provisions that would help prevent events like Feb. 1 and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] false alarms on campus.”
In addition to their contract demands, AFSCME is pushing to create local-hire and training programs for disadvantaged workers and to ensure that UC follows “fair- chance” hiring procedures. They are also proposing to expand their existing immigrant rights language by demanding UC make stronger commitments to not cooperate with immigration enforcement.
“This incident only underscores UC’s deplorable record and continued resistance on issues of racial justice,” the union said in a statement. “We will not rest until UC agrees to provide its workers with adequate protections for immigrants and people of color.”
AFSCME 3299 and UCOP will continue to negotiate a new contract into 2018. As of now, there is no projected deadline. Until a new contract is in place, existing work conditions remain.
“Our contracts have the effect of lifting the floor for all workers in the field. What we’re trying to accomplish is well beyond wages and benefits,” de los Angeles said. “We want to make sure these communities are strong and thriving.”