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Rally/March/Direct Action Supporting Janitors at UCSD!!!

by San Diego IMC Thursday, Jun. 07, 2001 at 7:13 PM 740 16th Street, San Diego ( between f and g)

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.

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!

The first speaker was Alejandra Rodriguez, a former UCSD contracted janitor who was fired for trying to organize a union. She expressed positive feelings about working with the union and the students, and vowed to continue working for janitor's rights. 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. 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, 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.

The SEJ member 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, he outlined the 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 the crowd in several multi-lingual chants (Spanish, Tagalog, English). The large crowd was effused with energy!

At the Chancellor's complex, another SEJ member 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 an 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 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 put plastic handcuffs 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.

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. Only with the SUSTAINED UNITY of ALL who have helped thus far, and an INCREASE in the size of our collective vocalizations, will we see justice. 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.

So...listen up UCSD- the campaign continues....!!!!

For additional information, please see:

UCSDs official statement on their INS investigation

The not-so-secret underclass at UCSD

Police Arrest Activists, SEJ still trying to get living wage for janitors

UCSD calls INS in dispute with union over janitors

15 Students, Janitors Arrested in Pay Protest


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) 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

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