Police Arrest Activists

Police arrested several protesters Friday during a rally held by Students for Economic Justice.

Lyon Liew
Guardian

Organizers of the rally said it was in response to UC officials’ failure to meet the demands of Local 2028, a representative of the Service Employees International Union. The union has filed five different charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging unlawful conduct by Bergenson’s Property Services, the company contracted to provide janitorial services to UCSD.

University officials said that they are not to blame in the dispute because the janitors are hired through the contractor.

SEJ organized the rally on behalf of the janitors. Members asked university officials to intervene and set a policy would not only guarantee janitors living wages and benefit standards, but that would also father a “”responsible contractor policy”” that would ensure that only corporations respectful of workers’ rights would be eligible to conduct business with the university.

SEJ’s demands were made over a month ago. Twenty SEJ members entered a Chancellor’s Associates meeting on May 22, citing the administration’s failure to respond as the reason for their appearance.

“”We demanded to make a five-minute presentation at the meeting,”” said SEJ member Chris Krauskopf.

Chancellor Robert C. Dynes informed members of SEJ at the Chancellor’s Associates meeting that he could not guarantee them a chance to speak by the end of the school year.

SEJ decided to take action.

“”We marched into the meeting with our arms linked, chanting, ‘No justice, no peace’ and were physically ejected from the meeting,”” Krauskopf said. “”I believe one student was elbowed in the face.””

The SEIU and SEJ, whose original “”justice demands”” included policy adjustments and the rehiring of Alejandra Rodriguez with full back pay, have demanded that the university make a formal apology for the alleged assault on students at the Chancellor’s Associates meeting. Rodriguez was fired for trying to organize nonunion janitors, according to the SEIU.

University officials said they are investigating the complaints with help from the Immigration and Naturalization Service and the university’s own audit department.

Vice Chancellor Rogers Davis said that if the investigation finds proof that Bergenson’s has violated state or federal labor laws, its contract will be terminated, reported local news station NBC Channel 7/39.

Hundreds of students, faculty and janitor supporters attended the rally on Friday. Alejandra Rodriguez made opening remarks at the rally.

“”It is a pleasure to be here with all these students today — the unity is empowering,”” Rodriguez said. “”It is also empowering to be working together with the students and the union to which I now belong to try and rid of injustice this prestigious university.””

Other SEJ members, including faculty member Tony Valladolid, spoke before the march.

“”This struggle goes beyond this university,”” Valladolid said. “”It has been waged historically and it will continue to rage until victory. A great university is a center of learning where people develop medicines and other ways to improve the quality of life. If that’s what a great university is, then we are failing because of the treatment and the abuse that we have permitted our janitors to be subjected to.””

SEJ said that the university had decided to meet with students on Wednesday, but that this action was not enough. SEJ gave the administration until 10 a.m. Friday to meet its demands.

At 12:45 p.m., protesters carrying signs, yelling chants and banging drums marched over to the Chancellor’s Complex, where other SEJ members spoke briefly.

The group marched to the intersection of Villa La Jolla Drive and La Jolla Village Drive. Police supervised the event.

Many of the television networks in San Diego covered the march.

Upon arriving at the intersection, the hundreds of protesters circled the intersection, linked arms and blocked traffic in all four directions.

The chanting demonstrators were dispersed by police officers — all except a few, who remained in the middle of the intersection. As an officer read the protesters their rights, they continued to chant and refused to move.

Fifteen protesters were eventually arrested.

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