1966 — 1970, AFSCME Local 1695, activist union of UC Berkeley's clerical, technical and service employees

My 8 years on the Berkeley campus

 

I was a UC Berkeley student from 1958 until 1963, when I graduated with a  Bachelor's Degree in Biochemistry.  I did not choose to go on to grad school because I was tired of studying and was not interested in pursuing additional degrees and competing for a research or teaching position.  After I left the University, I took a number of jobs related to my degree, working as a research technician at Stanford, then getting a job as an industrial chemist in Berkeley.

I got married in August, 1965, and was fortunate enough to get a job on the UC Berkeley campus as a research assistant in the biological sciences.  I felt a sense of "justice restored," because as a student iin 1962 I had been fired from a wonderful part-time job as a lab assistant in the Biochemistry Department.  That unexpected firing, coming after a couple of months on the job, was explained to me in a meeting with Chancellor Strong as the result of my refusal to sign the university's anti-communist loyalty oath.  Three years later, the university had stopped enforcing the loyalty oath requirement, and it felt good to be back on campus, using my degree, in an exciting period of campus political activity that followed the Free Speech Movement victories.

 

Forming a campus union

 

I wasn't the only recent graduate who chose to work at the University.  There were dozens of educated, radicalized lab technicians, librarians, clerical workers and administrative personnel earning a living working at UC Berkeley.  I don't remember exactly how it happened, but a group of us got interested in exercising our rights as workers.  We knew that we had recently won the ability to legally organize into a union, charge dues and have a say in our working conditions, as guaranteed to us by the National Labor Relations Act, which affirmed our right to meet and confer with the administration.  We chose the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO over the Teamsters.  As union members we could negotiate with the administration over working conditions and file grievances.  As an official on-campus organization, we could also take sides in campus political controversies.

By the time I left university employment in 1970, we had built a large union of clerical, technical and service workers, but Local 1695 still lacked the legal authority to bargain collectively over wages and benefits.  That came in 1973, at which time I was working and living in San Jose, CA, where I eventually became active in another AFSCME union, the City of San Jose Municipal Employees Federation, Local 101.  

The character of AFSCME Local 1695

 

I was comfortable and happy in Local 1695.  My dad was a long-time union member and activist, and I had been a member of the International Longshoreman's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) in a part-time job while earning my University degree. 

Most of Local 1695's members were female, vocal, self-confident people who were good at organizing, speaking to prospective union members and putting out literature, such as our newsletter, the Employee Press.  My unique role in the union was as the principal photographer for the union newspaper, the Employee Press.  I was not intimidated by being in the minority gender, having been raised by a very strong, outspoken, politically active mother, Billie Wachter.

Our AFSCME local was frequently called upon to support other unions on campus and to weigh in on the side of student causes.  We didn't respond to every call, but we did vote to strike in sympathy with the Third World Liberation Front strike in 1969 and we refused to cross the Teaching Assistant's union's picket lines when they went on strike the same year.

Unions in our lives after UC

 

When my family and I moved to San Jose in 1972, my wife Sheryl got a union job at the City of San Jose, and I got a union job at the County of Santa Clara.   Eventually I got a job at the City of San Jose, where I became a shop steward, union newsletter writer and editor and union president.  I am very proud of the fact that I was a negotiator for three union contracts that implemented the novel concept of "pay equity" among "traditionally female" job classifications.  I retired from the City in 1998 after nearly twenty years as an engineering technician, as did my wife in 2000.

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AFSCME Shop steward Margy Lima (now Wilkinson) meets with staff members in the Life Science Building.  Margy had a long and eventfull career as a leader iin AFSCME Local 1695 and its successor union at Cal Berkeley, The Coalition of Union Employees (CUE).  Margy retired in 2007, after 40 years as a union activist at UC Berkeley.

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A photograph of library employees I took for the union newsletter, dramatizing the concerns of employees over working conditions.

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UCB steam plant operator and Local 1695 member.  Photo taken for the AFSCME newsletter, the Employee Press.

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Maxine Wolpinsky, friend and Field Organizer for AFSCME, speaks to Local 1695 activists.

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Typical pre-computer office scene in a basement office at UC Berkeley.

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Arlyce Currie. supporting the TWLF strike.

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Running a meeting.  Steve Willett, second from left,  Judy Shattuck, far right.

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Local 1695 Executive Board lunch meeting.

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Membership meeting.  The vote wasn't unanimous, but the motion carried.

Steve Willett and Arlyce Currie performing in an "Alice in Wonderland" skit about employee health benefits.

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Local 1695 supports the Third World demands for ethnic studies. 

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Attempting to drum up support for on-campus day care.

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Union daddies support day care, too.

Waving the vote tally of a show of hands over support of the TWLF strike--clearly, it passed.

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I knew and respected all these union women and that's why I took this picture, honest.

The membership--we got good attendance at meetings.

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AFSCME Local 1695 members picketing to protest police on campus during the Third World Liberation Front strike.

Local 1695 contingent at the 1968 San Francisco Peace Mobilization.

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Maxine Wolpinsky, our dedicated AFSCME field rep, speaking at an anti-war rally in the Greek Theater.

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Laying out an edition of the union newsletter, the Employee Press.

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Night-time AFSCME Local 1695 committee meeting. 

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Local 1695 presence at the May 6, 1970 Greek Theater Convocation against the expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia.