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A socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people
Vol. 73/No. 47      December 7, 2009


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(lead article)
California: students,
workers protest cuts
State gov’t raises tuition by 32 percent
Militant/Betsey Stone
Students and striking campus workers demonstrate in Sproul Plaza at University of California Berkeley November 18 against tuition hikes and state government attacks on union.

BERKELEY, California—Students at University of California campuses, outraged by a tuition increase of 32 percent, rallied, marched, and occupied campus buildings during three days of protest starting November 18.

Members of Local 9119 of the University Professional and Technical Employees-Communication Workers of America also walked off the job November 18-19, picketing entrances to the campus at UC Berkeley. Laboratory technicians, research aides, and computer workers who are members of Local 9119 have been without a contract for more than a year.

The actions come just four months after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a bipartisan package imposing furloughs for state workers, closure of state parks, and massive cuts in health and welfare programs.

Pointing to a projected budget deficit of $20 billion next year, capitalist politicians in the state government—Republican and Democrat—are preparing deeper cuts in 2010.

“This fee hike makes it an impossibility for many students to attend,” said Eduardo Alvarado, a pre-med student who joined the protest at UC Davis. “They are promising financial aid, but that’s not always possible to get, especially for students who are immigrants.”

At the University of California Los Angeles, more than 500 students rallied outside the UC Board of Regents meeting November 18 as the board approved the fee increases. Some students went inside to raise their opposition. The cops declared the protest an “unlawful disruption” and barred the public from the regents’ meeting. Throughout the day, 14 demonstrators were arrested. Some students who tried to enter the building were hit with batons and Tasered by cops.

That night several dozen students barricaded themselves in Campbell Hall and occupied the building until the next evening. Others spent the night in tents on campus.

On November 19, reinforced by students from other UC campuses, the protest outside the regents’ meeting grew to some 2,000 students. “No justice! No peace!” they chanted, as inside the regents voted 20-1 to raise tuition to $10,302 for next fall.

At UC Davis more than 50 students were arrested after they sat in at the administration building November 19. Around 7:00 p.m., two hours after the building usually closes, cops brought out handcuffed protesters, who were cheered by those supporting them outside. Earlier in the day several hundred students rallied and marched through the campus, chanting, “Join our strike.”

A rally of 2,000 students, faculty, campus workers, and others kicked off the protests on November 18 at UC Berkeley. Two days later, after the regents’ vote to raise fees, students occupied a classroom building, Wheeler Hall, where they protested the fee increases and demanded the rehiring of 38 laid-off custodians.

Police, some in riot gear, set up barricades and forced students away from the building. “They were beating people with batons, trampling over them,” said protester Caitlin McCoy, who was part of a large crowd of students gathered to support those who were sitting in. One student reported being hit by a rubber bullet.

The more than 12-hour occupation ended when those sitting in were arrested and charged with trespassing.

In the wake of a $813 million cut in state funding for the university, 2,000 workers were laid off in July, classes were cut, and furloughs instituted for faculty, workers, and staff.

More cuts are threatened. California Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor said the state will face a $20.7 billion deficit next year, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. Taylor called on the governor to start work to fill that gap “as soon as possible.”

Democrat Karen Bass, speaker of the state assembly, is one of the regents who voted for the raise in tuition. She said the legislature will “immediately begin work on crafting budget solutions that will once again require both difficult spending reductions.”

Republican state senator Tom Harman said the state will have to make cuts, especially to social services, the Chronicle reported. “These are very difficult choices we get presented with, and we simply will have to do it,” he said.

Naomi Craine contributed to this article from Los Angeles.
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