Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Notes From the Strike

Hi. I'm new. You'll get used to me, I promise.

I wanted to give you my notes from the strike:

9:17am - Finally here. Seventeen minutes late, but that's ok, justice always waits. Other four protestors outside of Sproul Hall seem happy to see me. They're all students. Where are the workers we're saving? Where is the support?

9:23am - Coffee run. A little depressing as I'm forced to think about the workers in Guatemala who I'm in solidarity with over unfair work practices they're forced to endure while harvesting coffee. It's good coffee, though.

9:27am - One student walks through. We don't heckle. We politely ask, "Aren't you in solidarity with the workers?" She says yes and walks right in. Scab.

9:35am - WORKERS ARRIVE. We thank them for their sacrifice. There are two of them. They look like the salt of the earth.

9:38am - Workers leave. They said they had to "go check on how the strike was going over....there somewhere." Now it's just students, holding the torch of freedom.

9:39am - Vigorous debate ensues over whether or not we should heckle students. Miss the opportunity to heckle several students because we're involved in debate.

9:42am - WE TURNED AWAY THE ELECTRICAL WORKERS. VICTORY! Although, I'm faced with the nagging thought that maybe the electrical workers were going to finally fix Airbears. WHAT HAVE I DONE?

9:50am - Two more students cross the picket line. Scabs. They're both dressed preppy. Figures. We try to emotionally blackmail them into picketing with us instead of addressing the issues. We fail and they cross the line because they are corporate BigLaw scabs, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE IN CLASS TODAY.

10am - My shift is over. What a success this strike has been. I leave my four compatriots and BLOW OFF CLASS FOR THE REST OF THE DAY! (Of course, this is not why some of my fellow students have not shown up for class or for the pickets. They're choosing to show their valid solidarity from their couches UNLIKE PEOPLE IN CLASS).

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

i lost my shit laughing at this several times... IN CLASS LIKE THE SCAB I AM.

11/18/2009 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't strike. I don't work.
I can't boycott: I've already paid for the service, and no amount of staying home with hot cocoa working on outlines will make more money fall into the UC system.

But I am taking notes for you :)

11/18/2009 10:49 AM  
Anonymous Scab said...

Scab here.

Heard from a professor in one of the classes I attended: "By the way, students, let me give you some advice. If you are planning to engage in political activity - let's call it a "strike" - and you will not be in class, please do NOT email the professor and ask him to accommodate your activism by changing the day you are on call in class. Of course all of you chose to come to class, so none of you who are here did that, but all I'm saying is 'don't try to shift the cost to me.' That's all."

11/18/2009 11:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Supervisor,

As you may know, I plan to strike tomorrow. This means that I will not be at my desk. I am doing this to demonstrate how indispensable I am to this company. When you realize how business as usual cannot continue without me, I will be able to negotiate favorable terms.

However, I do have important calls with clients that I do not want to miss. Consequently, I am writing to request that you arrange for someone to forward the call to my mobile phone throughout the day.

Boalt Striker

11/18/2009 11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This (post) is totally a dick move.

11/18/2009 11:41 AM  
Blogger tj said...

Here's what you guys don't seem to be thinking about: this whole thing isn't meant to make sense in a traditional "strike" sort of way. These events are not thrown so much for the purpose of harming the university, or even targeting the university administrators in most cases. Rather, it's done because media only responds to stupid shit like this - and a successful campaign that gets the attention of people in Sacramento is one that can work the media in its favor.

Visit any number of local newspaper websites today and you'll see what they're doing. They've got 2-3 articles that talk about fee increases and in many cases have supporting paper editorials. The articles and editorials don't spend more than 2-3 sentences actually talking about the strike or any methods taken by the protesters - and spend the next 6-7 paragraphs talking about personal stories of people impacted by fee increases and discussing the value of a public higher education. NONE of this coverage would be top-of-the-fold worthy if it were not for the student organizers of this "pointless strike".

And spare me the "sacto is bankrupt and you're just bleeding a turnip" argument. Yes, I understand that there's not enough money to avoid fee increases. But budget allocations are zero-sum and it's the squeaky wheel that gets [a greater share of] the [diminishing supply of] grease.

11/18/2009 11:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


if budget allocations are in fact zero-sum as you say, then this proves that the students can't be harmonious with the workers. if we don't pay more in fees, then the university can't afford to pay the workers. it's that simple. the original post nails it because it shows how unaware the student strikers are.

11/18/2009 11:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eh, I think it's a big stretch to say that the strikers are responsible for local coverage. The chronicle, for example, already had a front page story on this. I think other local sources were already going to cover the fee increase story and its various facets. Mention of the "strike" seems to be "in the course" of coverage, not the first cause of the coverage.

Also, much of the criticism on this blog has to do with the confused aims and jumbled nomenclature of the "strikers" (e.g., using the term "strike" to describe a "protest"). Also, notice that today's SFGate covers protests at a much more logical location than Boalt Hall: the UC Regents meeting.

11/18/2009 11:53 AM  
Blogger tj said...

No arguing that students at the front line are likely clueless. I once helped lead a "protest on the capital steps" that was covered in a number of newspapers that was made up of 20 people. I just made sure the cameras were close behind them to mask the numbers. NONE of them really had a clue what was going on - we just needed bodies to make it work.

Also, no arguing that it will eventually come down to zero-sum with the workers as well. But I'm guessing that the organizers (and I'd like to note that I'm out of the picture here so I'm just guessing) are more focused on what's going on in Sacramento and likely more concerned with general public will/value placed upon the UC system.

Over the many years of budget shortfalls there have been a number of times that the public unions have been used as a crutch by student organizers in efforts to help the UC budget in Sacramento. Unions provide professional full-time staffs and [relative] organization to the efforts - things that students don't necessarily have. To the extent that interests can be found to be in alignment, it makes sense to push for greater media attention together whenever possible.

I'm not saying that this is the most effective way to get things done - I'm just saying that y'all should lay off bitching about student organizers and how they do their jobs. First, they're on your side. Second, they likely know more about what's going on than you do. Third, if you don't like the way it's being done, get off your ass and do something about it.

11/18/2009 11:59 AM  
Blogger tj said...

11:53 - coverage may have occurred without student involvement, but you're wrong that it'd be anything close to what you're seeing.

When these things are going on, usually the top tiers of the student lobby groups never even make it to the front lines of the protests - they're in their offices doing the cold-calls to the reporter rolls to make sure that they have the press announcements and fact sheets and know about what's going on (and when it's happening - for any photos desired).

Read a couple different newspapers and you'll see that many facts or accounts have very similar language across articles from different authors. Newspaper authors are very busy people and tend to borrow liberally from the language and facts supplied to them - the real effort is controlling what they are using by packaging it in a way that easy for them so they use your shit. I haven't done this for this most recent strike, but I'm guessing it'll ring true here (especially given there's rarely an organized opposition to students who are protesting fee increases).

11/18/2009 12:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Third, if you don't like the way it's being done, get off your ass and do something about it."

Well, what if I think the UC should increase fees and that the workforce should take a pay cut or be thinned out?

Sure, the UC should trim administrative fat, but as long as there's no money from Sacto, it should also cut undergrad enrollment, cut salaries across the board, and raise professional school fees.

I'm quite comfortable on my ass.

11/18/2009 12:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:53 here.

I don't doubt that cold-calling local news increases coverage and helps align the narrative. But it's clear that the story is not the "strike." It's the fee increase and the layoffs. I guess we're both speculating, but I just think student leaders could have cold-called local news and helped to shape said narrative with or without the three or four people standing outside of Boalt Hall.

11/18/2009 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:53 again.

Let me be clear that by "strike", I'm referring the Boalt "strike". I definitely don't doubt that protests outside the UC Regents meeting are generating real coverage.

11/18/2009 12:18 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Wow, just when I was stressing out over whether I could find time to liveblog the strike today, James comes and BLOWS THIS SHIT OUTTA THE WATER. Excellent post.

11/18/2009 12:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but this liveblog is too satirical. I want the real news, fair and balanced.

11/18/2009 12:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sympathize with James, but wouldn't mind a liveblog from the other side of the aisle.

11/18/2009 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Scab said...

"I leave my four compatriots and BLOW OFF CLASS FOR THE REST OF THE DAY!"

This enthusiasm is exactly why this strike is a farce.


That sort of excitement doesn't exactly sound like you really care about the issues you are striking about.

11/18/2009 12:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I showed my support for the strike by partying really hard last night and being too hungover to make it to class today.

Strike success!!

11/18/2009 12:47 PM  
Blogger tyler said...

I really liked this post, and tj I'm convinced by some of your points.

But I agree with 12:07 on the getting off your ass problem. If your cause is being part of this glorious union movement to "get a greater share of the diminishing supply of grease," then, yeah, striking is getting off your ass. But if you're like me instead, and your cause is sticking a wrench in the spokes of this school's dominant liberal knee-jerk orthodoxy and social conformity--i.e. the group that prefers to ignore and ostracize dissenters rather than substantively engage with them--then maybe crossing those picket lines and counter-heckling the hecklers is getting of your ass. Not much I'll admit, and kind of whiny in general, but maybe it counts as getting off your ass at least a little tiny little bit?

And as for the organizers of this strike "being on my side": if they represent me, why haven't they ever asked for my support or even revealed their identity, let alone taken an interest, as my "representative," in my thoughts. To continue my bitching, it was more like: "We are the organizers. You have been assimilated. Do not attempt to cross our picket line. If you are a child of the bourgeoisie a capitalist roader, your right to a political opinion has been revoked." Pretty creepy way to represent someone if you ask me.

11/18/2009 12:48 PM  
Blogger tj said...

understandable, tyler, but here's a secret: those organizers don't really care what you do (cross, don't cross, stick your finger up your butt, etc). the goal isn't to make you feel comfortable or even change your mind. it's not directed at you - the organizers assume you already don't want higher student fees. the whole thing is a sham to get media coverage (and it appears it's working).

11/18/2009 1:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i disagree. i think the workers care whether you cross or not. in fact, they've told us so. they've asked us to strike, and whether or not i think it's an effective move is not the most important thing to me. workers really feel it when you cross the picket line so i'm inclined to honor their request. what's important to me is that it's important to the people performing services for the facilities i use. and if missing a class or two (which most aren't anyway because many profs are offering make-ups or canceling) has a severe effect on my performance, then i think i'm doing something seriously wrong in my studies. it just doesn't seem like a horrible trade-off--to risk missing material in order to avoid openly flying in the face of what the workers and organizers have asked us to do. this doesn't seem like a huge blow to our fellow students, but i can see how it would be for those whose families and livelihoods are being affected by the lay-offs and furlough days. if it's true these things could be avoided, then i think it's worth it to hear them out. and the truth is, there wouldn't be the problem of getting notes from the people attending class if everyone worked in solidarity and no one had attended.

11/18/2009 1:46 PM  
Anonymous Hersh said...

I don't have class today, but I feel like I should come to school just to cross the picket line.

This strike is so lazy. The right thing to do would have been to organize, get buses, and strike in Sacramento.

This is some easy-breezy bullshit that doesn't help anyone, and makes the cause look silly. Its ultimately counterproductive.

11/18/2009 2:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

now folks, i know you're playing devil's advocate on the strike, which is funny and all, but i'm worried its counterproductive for the strike.
Now I understand some "posters" are upset over a perceived lack of transparency and outreach by those organizing the Boalt student solidarity. And its totally reasonable to be annoyed if the first you hear of a strike is someone accusing you of crossing a picket line or supporting the wrong side.
But don't allow those factors to influence your support of Boalt's workers or your feelings on the efficacy or eventuality of fee increases. Certainly some of the posts here have been more derogatory to the "strikers" then any accusations they themselves may have made. None of that matters to the issues at stake. None.
Now dont get me wrong: I HATE unions, student activism (outside of that done anonymously on the internet), and megaphones as much as any other person.
But it's not too much to express a little indignation about fees rising and to show a little support, after being asked, for those staffing our offices and cleaning our building. Because when you say "i feel like i should come to school just to cross the picket line," you sacrifice the legitimacy and sincerity to speak to what is "ultimately counterproductive."

11/18/2009 3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That same professor who offered advice to his activist students had no problems rearranging the on-call list for students waiting for clerkship phone calls, or going on callback interviews.
I really like said Prof, and I appreciate that it's a big class and accommodating students might get annoying, but I'm frustrated with the animosity that some people are showing towards those who chose to support the strike. No, I don't consider this is my strike, and I don't think I'm striking by not attending a class I paid for. But I feel the need to respect the workers striking by not crossing the picket line.
What students are doing is more akin to a protest - against unfair labor practices, fee increases, and to generally voice their discontent with how decisions are being made and information is being withheld. In the end it may not be a hugely effective protest, but we could all be a little more respectful of individuals decisions' to participate. There is no need to belittle them on this blog or in front of a class.

11/18/2009 3:38 PM  
Blogger James said...

A few thoughts:

1. While the post was intended as humor, much of it was based on my observations when talking to picketers this morning (including the electrical workers anecdote and the workers leaving the site where I was).

2. I think the notion of "solidarity" is a good one when deployed appropriately. I've yet to see it done in this case.

3. The fee hikes were already in place, they're just worse than they were going to be. If you don't believe me you weren't paying attention last fall when they announced the expected 2012 in-state tuition to be something like 45k-47k.

4. Combining the strikes seems to have hurt the workers. The focus has shifted to fees (at least that was the focus when I was down at Sproul Hall during lunch) and the messaging in general is confusing.

5. The strikers or whoever is in charge have totally fucked up their messaging at Boalt. They've come off (in general) as condescending, as confused and as people who are simply striking to strike. I have no issues with you striking, just stop telling me what I should be doing.

6. Because of 5, many of us on the left have not been convinced to join the strike and therefore aren't participating.

7. This should be ok with the picketers. I don't judge you when you don't sign up for CARC or the equivalent.

11/18/2009 3:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

3:38 - despite your implication, my guess is that this professor did not change things because THIS IS THE LAST FULL WEEK OF CLASS..there are no more days in which to reschedule those on call into.

11/18/2009 4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry. I don't do things just because a worker asks me to.

I require well-thought out reasons and a well-articulated proposal.

I'm not gonna support a strike merely because I want to "fight the man!"

I should hope Boalties are think more critically than they have demonstrated these past few days.

11/18/2009 4:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This strike/protest is pretty comical. I'm not sure who I am suppose to be in "solidarity" with but the only picket line I crossed today was a bunch of idiots shouting law school eduction should be free.

Didn't see any workers out there just about 6 students shouting something that doesn't make sense. Not only should the fee hikes be eliminated but so should tuition.

11/18/2009 4:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh hi, ATL:

11/18/2009 4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad that ATL quoted Nuts & Bolt to show that not all of us at Berkeley are crazies.

What is this Berkeley Law Organizing Committee and why do they speak with so much authority? They clearly don't speak for the majority of Boalties.

BTW what percentage of your classes would you say actually stayed away from class for the strike?

11/18/2009 6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't go to my classes today, but that's because I never go to them anyway. I hope no one mistook me for a striker.

11/18/2009 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:52, I hardly ever go to my classes either but I am made sure to go today just so I wouldn't be mistaken for a "striker".

11/18/2009 8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$20 to the first person that shows me an email, flyer, or other document where Berkeley Law students called for a strike. Go...

11/18/2009 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greatful to be at U (OF) C. Good luck with your crazies Boalt.

11/19/2009 6:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:13, it all depends on your definition of "called for a strike." I was never under the impression that the students were the ones who STARTED the strike, but there have certainly been numerous emails/posts/etc. of students calling for others to JOIN the strike. Example: the BLOC email forwarded to a million listservs, earliest example in my inbox from 11/13, including "it is precisely for that reason we intend to join the strike," urging others not to cross the picket line, and providing a link to a Google Spreadsheet for signing up to picket.

You can keep your $20 -- you're gonna need it if you want the school to cut LRAP

11/19/2009 11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a few comments:

a) you made it a whole 47 minutes!! in the sunny california weather. good for you. thats dedication.

b) good luck passing the bar. labor law was a huge section. so was the rest of the public interest stuff you study all the time.

3) get a job.

d) "slam master A" has moved on and is still posting more relevant stuff than you. be funny. be interesting. . . i miss him.

11/20/2009 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lol. I think the post was fake.

11/20/2009 10:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i think they both were.

11/20/2009 11:10 AM  

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