From the Trenches: UC Berkeley, #Occupied–Again

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“From the Trenches” is a battle cry. In a globalized world that criminalizes the rebellious in spirit, it’s easy to forget that change-minded activists and organizers are tallying up tiny victories against sociocultural and economic oppression on the regular. The column will serve as a weekly reminder that we not only can win, but we do, often. So hasta la victoria siempre and all that.

Students at the prestigious University of California Berkeley have occupied a campus building in solidarity with unionized UCB employees gradually being replaced by contract–that is, precarious–labor. The action is being reported as the largest occupation of the school’s California Hall, one of the core buildings on a campus once renowned for its radical student activism.  AFSCME-represented workers being threatened by outsourcing, along with other supporters, are rallying outside.

The occupiers say they’ll remain in the space until UCB chancellor Nicholas Dirks agrees to amend the university’s policies around outsourcing, or until they’re removed by police. The cops have already threatened to tear gas the students if they don’t abandon their occupation voluntarily:

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Though union politics and their internal hierarchies are usually pretty repulsive (which can complicate the dynamics of worker solidarity), the case of the AFSCME workers is doubly problematic. The UCB workers’ union represents over 60,000 corrections officers and was allegedly antagonistic to some @OccupyCal actions.

Despite this tension, it’s damn encouraging to see students on the campus of a prestigious university protesting about something that does not directly impact them. (Middle-class kids capable of empathy? Who woulda thunk.)

Follow @OccupyOakland and @Justice4UCWorkers for updates, and watch the livestream of the occupation here.

Videos courtesy @OccupyOakland.

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