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

The Los Angeles Times reports that the LA County District Attorney dropped felony charges against the UC regents related to the death of 23-year-old UCLA research assistant and UPTE member Sheri Sangji in a plea deal on Friday. The regents agreed to follow comprehensive safety measures and endow a $500,000 scholarship in Sangji’s name. The settlement agreement can be seen here. Bloggers at Science write that UC “appears to have gotten off very easily, considering the punishments conviction could have carried.” Occupational safety experts say the case could mark a turning point in lab safety in the nation’s academic labs, where regulations are seldom enforced, leading to unsafe conditions.  Sheri Sangji
Courtesy of Sangji family

The case continues against UCLA chemistry professor Patrick Harran, Sangji's supervisor, who could be sentenced to 4-1/2 years in jail. The criminal case stunned chemists and safety consultants "across academia and private industry," writes Jim Morris of the Center for Public Integrity, in a piece for Mother Jones, prompting many to ask whether "some principal investigators [were] so obsessed with publishing papers, securing grants, and winning prizes that they’d lost sight of their responsibility to keep employees and students from being hurt?" Morris’ video report on the case ran in several major outlets this week. An overview of the case was published in the UPTE Update earlier this year.

Jonathan Karpf, a San Jose State University professor, offered an op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle with clear-eyed analysis and advice on state pension reform.

Another professor, Peter Navarro of the Paul Merage School of Business at UC Irvine, issued a warning on what the privatization of UC would mean. He critiques a new book, Public No More, which calls for the privatization of public universities based on what Navarro says are misguided assumptions about the nature of public education and the benefits it generates for society.

Bring Jobs Home!
Photo by Lisa Kermish
Hundreds of California labor activists–including many from UPTE-CWA–gathered in San Francisco’s Union Square last week to join US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and CWA President Larry Cohen in calling on Congress to end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas. The previous week, majority of senators voted in favor of the Bring Jobs Home Act, but the legislation failed to get the 60-vote "super majority" needed to break a Republican filibuster and move the bill to the Senate floor. State lawmakers are currently considering AB 2508, which would ensure that all call centers for public services are staffed only with workers employed in California.

California Federation of Labor endorsements for the November 2012 ballot are in. Check out the full list here. Among the most important measures on the ballot is Proposition 30, which will raise taxes on the state’s wealthy to pay for schools and public safety. Print out UPTE’s poster about this measure to raise awareness and start conversations at your workplace. (If you’d like a color version, just contact your UPTE local.)
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