Monday Memo: news & views about working at UC
For the Week of April 30, 2012

UC Berkeley officials have proposed restructuring the UC system to give UC campuses more autonomy over their own governance. This would include setting tuition and enrollment targets. The report, “Modernizing Governance at the University of California,” proposes a scheme akin to states in a federal system, according to the Los Angeles Times. The proposal follows the January 2012 proposal by UCSF’s chancellor to cut that campus loose from the UC system.

Graduate students at Montana State University won an historic election to organize a union, the first graduate student union in state history. The vote was 195 to 67 and capped a two-year organizing drive. The university immediately challenged the election in court.

Tomorrow, May 1, is celebrated around the world as International Workers Day. US unions are planning a range of activities, some of them in coalition with the Occupy movement (see for instance, these actions planned in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area). Golden Gate Bridge workers are planning to stage a strike tomorrow to protest attempts by the bridge district to increase their health care costs. Fourteen unions representing 380 workers comprise the Golden Gate Labor Coalition.

Art by Eric Drooker
May Day
Throughout the world last week, culminating Saturday, April 28 on Workers Memorial Day, families, co-workers, unions, and occupational safety and health advocates held vigils and other events to commemorate workers who were killed, injured or made ill on their jobs.

During observances on Friday, US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess both mentioned UCLA lab worker Sheri Sangji in pledging "to continue fighting tirelessly to make sure that no worker trades a life for a livelihood." The case against the UC regents, UCLA, and chemistry professor Patrick Harran, who ran the lab in which Sangji was injured, is still pending: please take a moment to send a message to the Los Angeles District Attorney who is prosecuting the case. 

At Friday's Worksafe commemoration in Oakland, Widess called attention to some of the troubling statistics covered in Dying at Work in California, such as the greater number of Latinos who die at work than white/non-Hispanics, despite their smaller proportion of the workforce. Widess and other speakers at Workers Memorial Day events emphasized a critical element in preventing injuries: Because there will never be enough safety inspectors or standards to cover every hazard, it is critically important to expand the rights of workers to act on their own behalf.

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