14 Arrested in Protest Over Privatization of UC Bus Service

By Raymond Barglow, Special to the Planet
Thursday January 21, 2010 - 09:15:00 AM
Protesters rallied at noon Wednesday at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue.
Raymond Barglow
Protesters rallied at noon Wednesday at Bancroft Way and Telegraph Avenue.

Several hundred UC Berkeley staff, students, and faculty held a noon rally on Wednesday to protest UC administration plans to privatize bus service at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Fourteen protesters, including Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin, sat down in front of one of the buses in an act of civil disobedience and were arrested. 

Campus union representatives said that out-sourcing the bus service is inefficient as well as inhumane. Inefficient, they say, because privatization will not improve bus service, yet will mean profits for the private company at the expense of the university. Inhumane, because many of the bus drivers who will lose their jobs have personal connections to the university community that have been built over years and sometimes decades. “Those who ride the buses,” said Claudette Bégin, of the Coalition of University Employees, “have gotten to know these drivers.”  

Bégin noted as well that the UC Regents have just voted to grant $3 million dollars in bonuses to its top employees. Lakesha Harrison, president of AFSCME 3299, said that “UC executives are selling off taxpayer resources to the highest bidder, cutting the hours and pay for low-wage workers, and at the same time paying out millions in executive perks. Is this the new face of UC?” 

In a letter to UC President Yudof, state Sen. Leland Yee of San Francisco requested that the the University of California immediately put its privatization plan on hold. Lee believes that the plan may violate federal law and federal stimulus spending rules.