April 20, 2010 -- On Thursday April 8, students, workers, and instructors welcomed an unfamiliar face to a publicly advertised meeting for a campus-wide strike May 3rd. A woman who identified herself simply as “Tani" described herself as an "alum" of UW who was passionate about the cuts. She also said that her father worked with Waste Management and she was in the meeting to find out what the May 3rd strike committee was involved in with regards to the Teamsters' recent call for a strike. "Tani" actively participated in the planning meeting for a large-scale action demanding immigrant and worker justice, student access to UW, and smaller class sizes and writing center to improve education. The following week, however, student activists accidently bumped into “Tani” again—this time, though, as Officer Tanesha van Leuven of the UWPD. We have reason to believe that Tani was sent by the University of Washington to spy on the meeting.
The University of Washington has made police infiltration and intimidation its primary tactic for retaliation tactics in the ongoing battle against privatization at UW. In the Fall and Winter of 2009, immigrant workers faced continuous harassment from the UWPD for talking with other workers about their working conditions, clearly violating labor law. That September, two women of color journalists and activists—a childcare worker and a pre-nursing student—were arrested after interviewing immigrant women workers during their break time about the challenges they face in the workplace. With layoffs and arbitrary shift changes being enforced by custodial services, many workers have experienced inhumane amounts of extra work and speed up.
UWPD officers also often harass students who choose to organize within on-campus registered student organizations while they are handing out flyers, or even just walking on campus going to class. For example, last Tuesday, while passing out flyers and talking with students, two women graduate students were approached by a bike officer of the UWPD who told them “I wish I could arrest people for no reason.” These attacks, the violence perpetrated against activists in Seattle, Portland, and Olympia, the increase in police killing of unarmed people of color, and now the covert infiltration of a student group by UWPD raise serious and alarming questions about possible violence and surveillance against students and workers at the hands of the University and its police force.
Since June of 2009, workers, students, and community members have been fighting against lay-offs of immigrant workers, increases in tuition that exclude working students and students of color, cuts to quality education, and an ongoing process of privatization that favors revenue for some at the top of the university, while taking funds away from students and workers. While the university’s state budget continues to be cut, the reality is this cut is less than 3% of the total UW budget. In fact, most of the budget shortfall—$469 million—came from the university's risky investments, NOT from the cuts from the state. Since 2004, the UW Treasury has been investing in hedge funds, and hiking tuition, from $4968 in 2003 to $8800 in 2010, to back up these investments should they default. Rather than cutting from the top, and changing its spending focuses, the university continues to perpetuate the myth that tuition hikes go toward ameliorating the state cuts.
On March 4th, while over 700 students and workers were protesting budget cuts on and off campus, and many more were protesting across the country, the UW met with the UAW 4121, Academic Student Employees (ASE’s), bargaining team to start contract negotiations. At this meeting, the UW told UAW negotiators that because they opposed a tuition increase bill in the legislature in February, the University would retaliate against all ASE’s by taking away lay-off protections, increasing healthcare premiums, and firing all tutors and writing center instructors, among other take-aways.
Many UAW members are pushing their elected representatives to call a strike, which was already authorized by membership, to begin the first day after contract negotiations if the University continues to bargain in bad faith. The May 3rd student strike was planned to correspond with this day, and to support custodians and other state workers facing cuts.
Through its actions, the University PD has shown itself to be unaccountable to students and the UW community. It does, however, do the work of controlling student movements on behalf of the UW administration. The UWPD and the UW administration seek to curtail organizing by workers and students, but they will not succeed.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Undercover Pigs Infiltrate Student Group at Uni Washington