On 1 June, UCSD Students for Economic Justice and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) held a Rally/March in support of Janitor's rights at UCSD.
The rally began with an energetic performance by the Aztec dancers. Multi-lingual signs/banners (e.g., "Justicia," "Dignidad," "Rehire Alejandra") and rhythm instruments were passed among the crowd. It was truly a powerful sensory experience, with so many colorful signs, the bright colors of the SEJ and SEIU t-shirts, the beautiful SEJ mascot Justicia, the drumming of the Aztec dancers, and the cheering of the enlivened crowd. The audience was large and diverse- all races and ages. (Absolutely an amazing turnout for this community! UCSD hasn't seen anything like this in eons!!)
After this, a representative from SEIU spoke about the situation facing subcontracted janitors (hired by Bergenson's). He noted that their work is demanding, that the pay they receive makes it difficult for them to make ends meet (.25/hour, NO health benefits or sick/vacation days), and that they are not permitted to organize (one janitor was fired on 26 April because she had discussed unionization among other janitors!). He then stated that the community at UCSD and the larger region must rectify these issues because they represent basic concepts of human rights and we are all responsible for insuring that all are treated with dignity.
Next, Josh, one of the SEJ members, recounted the history of the movement, He highlighted the May Day rally/concert, successful campaigns such as petitioning (900 signatures) and Fax-the-chancellor (250+), the manhandling that occurred when SEJ students attempted to address the Chancellor's Associates meeting on 22 May, and the administration's recent agreement to meet with SEJ representatives. He closed by reminding the audience that the pressure must continue until SEJs demands are met: Rehire Alejandra; pay janitors a "living wage" of .24/hour; offer health benefits & sick/vacation days, and allow janitors to unionize if they so choose. Josh then prepared the attendees for the next phase of the event by telling them that we would be marching to the Chancellor's complex and then to the streets of La Jolla. Before the march began, Josh outlined the march procedures and reminded participants to keep close watch for the directions of the students who volunteered to serve as marshals for the event. The Aztec dancers led the march with drums and dancing, and SEJ members led th crowd in several multi-lingual chants (Spanish, Tagalog, English). The large crowd was effused with energy!
At the Chancellor's complex, Renee Maas addressed the attentive crowd. She discussed the (un)involvement of the UCSD Administration in the janitors' campaign, such as the fact that the Administration has responded minimally to the massive input offered by students, staff, and faculty across the span of one month; and the fact that SEJ members were physically rangled when they peacefully attempted to enter the Chancellor's Associates meeting (e.g., pushed into a table, pulled off of a stage, shoved into a tent pole, wrapped in a tent flap).
For the final part of the march, the group headed down Via La Jolla to the point where it intersects with La Jolla Village Drive- a major traffic route. Chanting and waving signs all along the way, the marchers took over the street. As the crowd approached the main intersection, the marshals organized everyone into rows of four and guided them across the street and up 1 block from the intersection. At this point, the marchers turned around and headed back to the intersection. When the crowd reached the curb, they split into two groups, one headed left and one to the right, and formed a box around the intersection. A group of 12 students and 3 union members formed a circle of unity inside the box.
When this formation was complete, Mike Wilzoch, Deputy Director of SEIU, restated the campaign demands and updated the crowd on UCSD's actions. Briefly, UCSD official did meet with SEJ members and seem more amenable to the group's input. However, UCSD has also- UNLAWFULLY- engaged the services
of the INS to look into the legal status of the janitors (i.e.,
immigration/working papers). Given this, and the fact that the demands have yet to be realized, the campaign is clearly NOT over.
After Mike's message, students with bullhorns again led the crowd in a few chants. The police indicated that it was time to disperse so the marshals silenced the crowd (with raised fists) and Mike asked all participants to move to the nearest curb. The crowd followed suit beautifully, aided by the guidance of the student marshals. However, the group of 12 students and 3 union members who were in the inner ring stood fast, choosing to defy police orders as a means of indicating the urgency of the cause. The police warned
these individuals that they would be arrested if they did not move. They held their ground and thus were soon met with the words "you are now under arrest." (This occurred around 1:45pm.) The SDPD pulled out their plastic handcuffs, slipped them on each of the arrestees, and guided them to a transport van. During this whole process, the chanting never died down. The magnitude of support for the cause was undeniably huge.
The arrestees were first taken to a downtown station for preliminary
processing (just blocks from the SD IMC!). Here, the police wrote up dossiers and bagged up personal possessions. When this was completed (~3:30pm), the males were transferred the downtown jail and the women were taken to the Santee Detention Center. At Santee, the women were patted down, asked to remove their shoes, and placed in a holding cell with a few other women. The SEJ women were fed, fingerprinted, photographed, and vital
signs were taken. Being Friday, and a "sweep" night, booking took a bit ofv time. Four of the 5 women got through the whole booking process by 6pm, another wasn't fingerprinted until 8:30. Due to some changes in the expected charges, bail costs were higher than anticipated. As such, three of the women were not released until 10pm and the other two were not released until 12:30am. In interacting with the other women on the holding cell SEJ arrestees became acquainted with some of the realities of a world very different from the UCSD, and one student came to the impression that many of the women in the Santee jail seem to be charged mistakenly. (This issue would be a REALLY provoking piece of media in itself...) All of the SEJ women arrestees stayed at the jail until the last arrestee walked through the doors, and they were greeted by a few SEJ members (thanks!) and other
supporters (thanks, C!) outside. (Still waiting for details about the men- assume they fared similarly.)
In closing, this was truly an empowering and informative day. It is clear that UCSD is facing a strong force of social action- namely SEJ and the immense amount of community support it has garnered. There is still much to be done but the foundation laid by SEJ cannot be shaken, the words of the people cannot be ignored any longer.
Though some may see the event as being defined by the 12 arrestees or those who served as marshals or speakers, it is essential to realize that EVERY INDIVIDUAL who participated in the event, via general moral support, planning, and/or attendance, MADE AN EQAUL COMTRIBUTION to its IMPACT. Every single mode of support was CRITICAL and HONORABLE, and without ANY ONE OF THESE, our power would not have been as great. Only with the SUSTAINED UNITY of ALL who have helped thus far, and an INCREASE in the size of our collective vocalizations, will we realize our goals.
So...listen up UCSD- the campaign continues....!!!!!
The event was covered extensively by the San Diego IMC (thanks!!!), a few local mass-media outlets, and several unaffiliated individuals.
Photos on IMC site, from 1 June Rally: (check http://sandiegoindymedia.org for more- the SDIMC was out in full force)
For previous postings, please see:
Protest in a Ritzy part of San Diego by UCSD students in Solidarity with
NOW IS THE TIME!! UCSD JANITORS AND STUDENTS TAKE BACK THE UNIVERSITY!!
FRIDAY 1 JUNE.
UCSD Students/Janitors Vow to Escalate Action
Peaceful UCSD students met with violence at Chancellor's Associates' Meeting
Chancellors Eject SEJ, Group to champion janitors' plight (24 May 2001)
Plight of Janitors Merits Regents' Attention, Administration must raise the
low wages of deserving UCSD employees (24 May 2001)
http://www.onlinecpi.org/sej/ SEJs Photos from the 1 May Rally
Students for Economic Justice Press Release (re: 1 May Rally)
UCSD Guardian Coverage of the 1 May Rally
Photos of 1 May Rally, by Zulma Aguiar