UC Berkeley Unions Plan Rally Against Transportation Fee Hikes

By Rio Bauce, Special to the Planet
Friday July 21, 2006

On Wednesday, UC Berkeley unions plan to rally against what they call “drastic changes” in the parking fees for disabled employees, carpool permits, and Bear passes that the university has unilaterally imposed upon their employees. 

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, the Coalition of University Employees (CUE) Local 3, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 1474, and the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) Local 1 are organizing the protest. 

The unions have set a rally for Wednesday at noon at University Hall (on the Addison Street side). 

Disabled employees previously paid $48 a month for parking permits. As of July 1, the price increased to $86 a month. 

“Essentially, they eliminated an entire category of parking permits for disabled people, “said Jon Rodney, CUE Local 3. ”The university decided that the disabled must pay what everyone else pays, but they also must use their placard or license plate.” 

The three-person carpool, which previously had cost $6, has been eliminated, along with the two-person carpool, which had cost $22. Instead, the university created a generic carpool permit which costs $30, of which you need at least two for a carpool. 

“It’s a rip-off,” said Mariciuz Manzanerez, a university custodian and a member of AFSCME. “I have worked there for seven years. They don’t care about us. We get paid barely anything. It’s impossible to pay for the new car pool permits … If you don’t bring your permit accidentally, you have to buy a new ticket for the day. This is ridiculous. They say they don’t have the money, and that they would respond to us. But they haven’t.” 

However, the university claims that the proposed changes in transportation are beneficial to the community. 

“The flexibility is increased,” said Adan Tejada, manager of Parking Administration at UC Berkeley. “You don’t need a set group of carpoolers. If you can’t find someone to carpool with, you can still buy a daily pass. It may be more expensive than last year, but not drastically.” 

Igor Tregub, member of the city’s Commission on Labor, commented, “Anytime there is a 500 percent increase in carpool costs, any flexibility is obliterated.” 

The other issue is the Bear Pass, which provides employees with unlimited rides on AC Transit. The cost has gone from $20 to $25 this year. 

“These things should be encouraged, not discouraged,” Rodney said, referring to public transportation and car pools. “Look at how successful Spare the Air Days have been. Why would the university do this?” 

Berkeley Councilmember Kriss Worthington is advocating for the university to offer freeEco Passes to employees, allowing free rides on public buses. 

“The obvious policy for the university is to provide free transportation and not making it more expensive to carpool,” Worthington said. “If you’re trying to get people out of their cars and use public transit, you need to provide them with a free Eco pass.” 

The unions sent a joint letter on June 30 to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau and have not received a response from him regarding the fee increases. 

“The chancellor said that he would get back to us,” stated Debra Grabelle, AFSCME Local 3299. “It hits the low-wage workers particularly hard. A lot of them have been in wage fights with the chancellor and the university since November. We hope that they will reverse their decision.” 

The university’s justification for the fee increase involve the previous inconsistency in their programs and the increased costs of providing the program to the students. Tejada defended the university’s decision. 

“All the costs associated with parking needs to be recovered,” he said. “There has been a need of normalization of the rates. The proposed fee increases have been reviewed by the chancellor’s oversight committee. They wanted it to be consistent.”