The growing 99 percent - Page 2

Student and faculty groups take to the streets, adding to the Occupy movement

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Meanwhile, the next day (Nov. 17), Occupy Wall Street plans to march the 11-mile length of Manhattan in a day of action that will be supported by solidarity marches by Occupy encampments across the country. That is also the day that a two-campus strike is being threatened by the California Faculty Association.

"I think that day is going to be a busy day all around the nation," Kim Geron, a political science professor at CSU East Bay and vice president of the CFA, told us.

On Nov. 7, the CFA Board of Directors authorized one-day strikes for Nov. 17 at the CSU East Bay and CSU Dominguez Hills campuses to protest CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed's decision to withhold negotiated faculty pay raises. It would be the first faculty strike in the system since 1983, although a strike was authorized in 2007 but called off after a negotiated settlement.

After the vote, according to a statement put out to members, CFA President Lillian Taiz told her board, "We hope this carefully targeted strike, which symbolizes both our anger and our commitment to fairness, will lead to changes in his priorities and his positions. If it does not, the CFA leadership—and the CSU faculty we represent—are prepared to escalate the fight."

 

DUCKING THE TAX ISSUE

CSU spokesperson Mike Uhlenkamp said the campuses will remain open despite the strikes. "We expect it to be business as usual," he said. As for the pledge that ReFund California is seeking, "We don't get into advocating between taxing and not taxing," he said, saying that's a state decision and "we're not going to push them to make that determination."

Guardian calls to the UC President's Office were not returned by press time. A spokesperson for Gov. Jerry Brown, who is the subject of a student letter-writing campaign urging him to tax the rich and stop cutting public services, continued to blame Republicans.

"We too are deeply concerned about cuts to the state's universities and colleges, which is why the Governor pushed for a solution to our budget deficit that included extending revenues. Unfortunately, Republicans in the Legislature refused to even allow the people of California to vote on the measure, which could have helped prevent future cuts," Brown spokesperson Evan Westrup responded via email.

When we asked whether Brown was simply giving up, how he planned to deal with the problem, and why Brown has not followed up his campaign pledge to tax the rich with any proposals to do so, he wrote simply, "There are a number of ways to pursue additional revenue moving forward and these options are being considered."

Geron said there is a clear connection between problems in the CSU system and the hoarding of resources by the richest one percent of Americans, the main critique of Occupy Wall Street, a movement driven largely by current and recent college students.

"We are part of it. One of our slogans is we are the 99 percent and we teach the 99 percent," Geron told us.

While the CFU is focused on decisions by the Chancellor's Office — indeed, the strike is legally allowed only because the chancellor broke the contract by withholding negotiated pay increases — Geron said those decisions were made in a climate of deep funding cuts prompted by the state budget crisis.

"Obviously, the economic crisis is a lot of the reason why all this happened. It's part of a larger crisis that is going on about how to fund the public good, including higher education," Geron said. "Students are paying a lot more and getting a lot less. That's the heart of what's going on."

The UC Student Association is taking part in the ReFund California week of action, but has not yet voted to participate in direct action against corporations on Nov. 16, Executive Director Matt Haney told us. But he said that many UC students will still take part in that action, just as they've been taking part in the Occupy movement.