Occupy the Capitol: Labor, Students
Unite to Rebalance Education Funding Deficit

Written by Niesha Lofing. Posted in News, Politics

Tagged: , ,

Published on March 07, 2012 with 1 Comment

Occupy the Capitol: Thousands of union members, students and Occupy protesters joined forces Monday for a march on the state Capitol in Sacramento, sharing a common goal of rebalancing California's budget and funding deficits. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Niesha Lofing

March 6, 2012

Union leaders and members joined forces with college students and higher education advocates on Monday during a rally held near the end of the daylong Occupy the Capitol protest.

The rally, an effort of solidarity for students and others protesting skyrocketing higher education costs, drew hundreds of people to the north steps of the Capitol as the workday drew to a close and protestors inside the rotunda prepared to be arrested.

Capitol police (CHP) maintained a heavy presence throughout the rotunda occupation, blocking entrances and access to public bathrooms.

Dozens of people were arrested during Monday’s protest, the culmination of a multi-day march to draw attention to the soaring cost of attending California’s public colleges and universities.

Thousands of students, labor union members and occupy protesters marched from Southside Park to the Capitol.

Occupy the Capitol.

Lillian Taiz, president of the California Faculty Association – the union that includes some 23,000 California State University professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches – told the crowd at the rally that student fees in the CSU system alone have increased by more than 200 percent over the last 10 years.

Yet while students are paying more, they are getting less, she said. On many campuses, students can’t even get on a waiting list for classes.

“Like Wall Street and the Bank of America, the 1% is treating all of us like one way ATMs, taking from us while refusing to pay their fair share,” said Taiz, a history professor at CSU Los Angeles. “Enough really is enough. Today we’re sending a message that we’re not going to stand idly and watch the greatest system of public higher education in the world go down. We will not allow the 1% to steal our future.”

Monday’s rally saw an outpouring of support for the Millionaires Tax of 2012, the statewide ballot measure that would mandate that Californians who earn $1 million or more to pay an extra 3 percent in state income taxes, while those earning $2 million or more would pay an extra 5 percent.

Funds generated, estimated between $6 billion and $9.5 billion, would be used to rehire laid-off teachers, roll back college tuition hikes, restore money to support programs and services helping children, seniors and disabled people, rehire laid-off emergency responders and create jobs through repairing roads and bridges, according to the tax initiative’s website.

“We need to stop the cuts, stop the insane way of doing business,” said Robert Dawa, staff at UC Davis and political director for CUE-Teamsters Local 2010. “Just doing cuts will not solve our problems. We need to pass this Millionaires Tax. We need to re-fund California. We need to invest in our future.”

Petra Duke Maxey knows all too well the rising cost of higher education and how it can impact students’ lives.

Duke Maxey is $50,000 in debt from student loans she took out to attend a university part-time. She had to stop going and find a job in an effort to repay her loans. After she had her son, she wanted to return to school, but had to opt for community college. It was all she could afford.

“When did families and the education of our children become the last priority to our lawmakers?” Duke Maxey asked. “My fellow students can’t afford this. We cannot afford it. California cannot afford it. We have sacrificed and paid enough. Take the money from somewhere else, but we will not tolerate the state of California taking more money from us.”

Kathryn Lybarger, a gardener at UC Berkeley, said staffers there care deeply about the students and the state of higher education. And not just because it affects their jobs, said Lybarger, president of AFSCME Local 3299. It also can impact their own families.

“My son thinks he’s going to Cal – I have a job to make sure that happens,” she said.

More Photos

Demonstrators held signs that read, "A strike is brewing," "WTF: Where's the funding," and "We are wake."

A midday rally on the steps of the Capitol building included speeches from several politicians including Senator Darrell Steinberg (pictured), UC Regent and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez.

Following the rally, protesters filed into the Capitol rotunda to hold a sit-in and General Assembly.

The General Assembly meeting produced a consensus list of five top priorities and demands including the passage in November of the Millionaires Tax of 2012 proposal; the cancellation of all student debt; full funding of education; amendments to Proposition 13 - and a requirement that all UC and CSU regents are elected at large.

Prevented from gaining access to the Capitol rotunda by armed police, a protester made a poignant statement holding an America flag.

Lt. Governor and UC Regent Gavin Newsom got an earful from a protester demanding access to the public bathrooms.

Meanwhile, riot-clad police armed with riot-control devices amassed outside the Capitol building.

A young boy held a sign that simply read, "Public education = educated public."

"Refund Education: Make the 1% Pay."

"We have 2 fight 4 our right to education."

Niesha Lofing, president of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, is managing editor of the Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin, a nonprofit monthly publication of the Sacramento Central Labor Council and Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council.

Niesha Lofing

Niesha Lofing

Niesha Lofing, president of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, is managing editor of the Sacramento Valley Union Labor Bulletin, a nonprofit monthly publication of the Sacramento Central Labor Council and Sacramento-Sierra’s Building & Construction Trades Council.

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