Yesterday, AFSCME 3299 worker David Cole was assaulted by a campus police officer while peacefully demonstrating with fellow workers at UC Berkeley (a video of the assault is available here). Cole, a 51-year-old African American cook in Berkeley’s dining services, was injured when police put him in a chokehold, threw him to the ground, and arrested him. He was released on Thursday night after hundreds of fellow workers mobilized in order to demand his release.
We stand in solidarity, anger, and determination with our fellow workers in AFSCME 3299 and all workers fighting for racial and economic justice.
The assault on David Cole occurred during a statewide action spotlighting AFSCME’s contract negotiations, which have reached an impasse after the UC offered a 0% raise over 5 years and threatened cuts to vital benefits like healthcare and pensions. The action on Thursday also honored the legacy of Echol Cole and Robert Walker, two Black sanitation workers in Memphis, TN, who lost their lives exactly 50 years ago due to unsafe working conditions.
In a public statement, AFSCME notes that, as its workers “reaffirmed their commitment to the cause of racial equality, dignity, and respect for workers today, the University of California chose to honor the repressive legacy of the Jim Crow South. This incident only underscores UC’s deplorable record and continued resistance on issues of racial justice. We will not rest until UC agrees to provide its workers with adequate protections for immigrants and people of color.”
The racist violence of Berkeley campus police provides a vivid reminder of what is at stake for our union as we enter our own contract negotiations at the end of this month. In our Bargaining Demands we are calling for the demilitarization of campus police forces. As demonstrated by yesterday’s events, this goal is crucial to making the UC a place where all can work and learn free from harassment, violence, and discrimination.
So, as we stand in solidarity with AFSCME and all members of our communities targeted by racist policing, we prepare to add our collective power to the struggle for justice for UC workers. Please contact us if you’d like to learn more about our contract campaign or get involved.
UC Student-Workers Union, UAW 2865