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Dirty war by UCSD against protesting workers?

by Guy Berliner Sunday, Jun. 03, 2001 at 9:23 AM

A San Diego Union-Tribune article details evidence of attempted government intimidation campaign against low-wage workers attempting to organize at UCSD, instigated by university administration

errorA thorough investigation of the conduct of UCSD
officials in their treatment of low-wage service workers
attempting to exercise their legally protected rights
to organize is in order. First came allegations that
one worker, Alejandra Rodriguez, was fired without
cause for her efforts to organize her coworkers. Now
the following report indicates that the university officials
have attempted to threaten workers with INS investigations.
The INS has so far rejected the administration's attempts
to enlist its assistance in the effort to suppress the workers.

UCSD calls INS in dispute with union over janitors

By Leonel Sanchez

June 2, 2001

The latest attempt by a labor union to raise the wages of
San Diego County janitors was tested at UCSD yesterday
when the university said it had called the Immigration
and Naturalization Service about a labor dispute on campus.

The local janitorial work force, like those in many urban
cities, is made up largely of Latino immigrants, including
undocumented workers. Union organizers say the threat of
INS interference has been used in the past to discourage
workers from unionizing or striking.

Some of UCSD's janitors are unionized. The university
hires others through a subcontractor.

The university's announcement came as more than 200
students and labor activists marched and blocked traffic
near the La Jolla campus for 30 minutes to draw attention
to the dispute.

San Diego police arrested 15 of the protesters without
incident after they refused to leave a busy intersection
near La Jolla Villa Drive. They were booked into county

The union expected the arrests, because the demonstration
was part of its strategy of civil disobedience. But the
union didn't expect the INS to be brought into the mix.

The Service Employees International Union, Local 2028, has
campaigned intensely for more than a year to boost the pay
of low-earning janitors throughout the county. But union
leader Mike Wilzoch said that yesterday was the first time
immigration became part of the issue.

The union settled two labor disputes last year that raised
the pay of about 1,300 janitors, including 300 who also
received health benefits. Their wages are usually above
$7 but below $10 an hour.

At UCSD the union is demanding a "living wage" of $11.24
for about 100 non-unionized janitors. Most of them earn
about $6.40 an hour, Wilzoch said.

The union is also asking for health benefits, sick pay,
the reinstatement of a fired janitor and the opportunity
to unionize the janitors.

Wilzoch was shocked when he learned about the university's
announcement but said he didn't believe the INS would
intervene in a labor issue.

An INS spokeswoman said Wilzoch was right.

The federal agency has a long-standing policy of "remaining
neutral whenever there is a union labor dispute," said
INS spokeswoman Lauren Mack.

"We prefer to wait until a dispute is resolved and worked
out before we would take any action," she said.

She said that as of yesterday the INS hadn't been notified
about an immigration problem at UCSD.

In the statement released yesterday, UCSD said it was
investigating its janitorial subcontractor to determine
whether it was complying to state minimum wage and federal
immigration laws.

The university said it had "notified the INS" about
allegations of "immigration control violations" involving
the subcontractor, Bergenson's Property Services.

Bergenson's president, Aram Minasian, couldn't be reached
for comment last night, but university spokeswoman Dolores
Davies said the company has denied the charges.

The company's contract expires in September and the
university said it's not sure it will continue to
subcontract for janitors.

Copyright 2001 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.


15 Students, Janitors Arrested in Pay Protest

Source: Staff and Wire Reports

15 students and janitors were arrested Friday during a
protest near UC San Diego in support of the janitors'
demand for better pay and benefits.

10 men and five women were arrested without incident after
refusing to disperse from a busy intersection adjacent to
the La Jolla campus, a police spokesman said. The janitors
work for a company that cleans buildings at the university.

"I came here for justice and to make a difference," said
student Rene Gube as he was handcuffed.

Thank you Gordon Chang for forwarding this information to me.
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