Author Archives: suplaney

Peralta custodians in struggle

[pdf version]

Custodians are an essential part of our school. Without custodians, trash would pile up, bathrooms would be unusable; our campus would completely fall apart. You may have noticed that this process has already started, but it’s not happening because custodians are lazy. Instead, it is a result of harsh cuts imposed by the administration of our school. These cuts have given custodians an impossible workload.

Some issues affecting custodians:

  • Furloughs:  Workers are forced to take 6 days off work per year–unpaid.
  • Speed-up: One worker is assigned to an area where there used to be three workers.
  • Limited workforce: Laney’s custodial staff has been cut from 28 to 12 — and four are subs!
  • Subs:  Peralta is refusing to hire subs because they “don’t have enough experience”. Subs are supposed to become full-time after half a year. The shortest time a sub has worked is 2 years.

Here’s what custodians have to say:

§     “The campus is growing–but the custodial staff is not. Instead, we are shrinking.”

§     “The district office at Laney has 3 custodians assigned to it. The entire E building has 1. That shows you their priority. The administration doesn’t care so long as it doesn’t affect them.”

§     “We aren’t given enough people to do a good job — they work us like galley slaves.”

§      “…and they wonder why we’re always tired and sick — we’re overworked.”

§     “When the administration looks at their budget, they cut part-time faculty and custodians. They think we’re dirt — that we are expendable.”

§     “The administration is trying to make us pay for their mistakes with their budget.”

Students and custodians working together against cuts at the University of Washington.

These cuts are not unique to custodians — all sections of Peralta are under attack. It is especially important that the most precarious people of the school — including custodians, students, part-timers, classified staff — stand together to fight back.

Cuts mean war. Time to fight back.

This flyer was written together by custodians & students at Laney College.

Laney College Student Unity & Power


“Closure for childcare at COA delayed. Protests keep center open.”

“Closure for childcare at COA delayed” (from today’s Laney Tower)


racist laws passed in arizona attacking immigrants and banning ethnic studies.

On April 23rd, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed into law SB 1070 which legalized racial profiling in Arizona by giving police the blind authority to stop any Latino and demand to see their papers. A few weeks later on May 11, she signed another racist bill, this time banning ethnic studies. It’s Time to Take a Stand!

Find out How to:

  • Stand in solidarity with communities of color in Arizona.
  • Build unity to fight against similar attacks in Oakland.

Come meet Thursday, May 20 @ 12p in room E207.

*Sponsored by Mecha, Student Unity and Power (SUP) and Black Student Union (BSU)

Email for more info.

“Cut them raises, not our children; give us back our half a million.”

Over the last two months, SUP at Laney College has been embroiled in a battle against the closure of the child care center at our sister school, College of Alameda. We first learned about the vote the night before the board’s next meeting. The center had been slated for closure; however the board had gone against its own policy and made this decision final without public involvement. By the night of the board meeting, a group of approximately thirty moms, two center workers, and twenty students were mobilized.

Moms got on the mic during public comments, testifying to the effect the closure would have on their lives. Students decried the board’s mis-management of funds and the problematic nature of cutting child care and classes when the board does not even know how much money is in the budget. The board must file a budget report four times a year, but they have not filed one since 2008. This semester they were the only community college in the state who failed to release a report.

Every school has been suffering from the failure of our economic system: capitalism. What is somewhat unique about Peralta is the way in which our board has failed. This economic crisis has brought a microscope upon the financial workings of our school, unearthing corruption and mis-management within our board of directors. Our chancellor, Elihu Harris, was caught giving a one million dollar business contract to a friend who was on the Peralta Foundation board. The trustees, who are responsible for overseeing the chancellor, turned a blind eye. No action was taken until a report exposing the glaring inaccuracies of the proposed budget coupled with student resistance resulted in the termination of our chancellor’s contract and the firing and escort of our financial advisor from the district office by sheriffs.

Toward the end of the board meeting that night, a trustee pled with us: “If we did not cut this center—and I’m looking at you students in the first row—you do realize we would have to cut classes,” in a concerted appeal to divide the students from the mothers seated around them. “Why don’t you take it from that half a million in raises you gave yourselves!” shouted a student. The board voted unanimously to close the center and lay off all eight of the workers.

In response to the board’s attack, our coalition voted to shut down the next board meeting.  About one hundred people mobilized to the board meeting. Again people denounced the board during the public comments. At the end of the comments people started chanting “we want a response now” to the board. The board got up from their seats and went into a back room. “Got crooks and thieves/as our trustees/so its up to the people/to save the CCs,” chanted the crowd. By the district being quick to close the center while at the same time robbing us, the board had proven irrelevant to our interests. As the board members hid in their office, we arranged the chairs in the district office into a circle and held our own meeting.

At the next district meeting the board capitulated, announcing it would find a way keep the center open for at least one semester. Although this is only a small victory in our fight, the moms and workers have developed an understanding of their power to fight a system that puts profit before the needs of their families. In this case, the intervention of student militants was useful because it expanded the agency of moms and workers to decide for themselves the way their child care center is run. As the struggle pushes forward, we will continue to learn from and fight alongside the mothers and workers of COA childcare.

What’s up with the COA child care center?


The Peralta board of trustees–the body responsible for the administration of Laney College, Berkeley City College, Merritt College and College of Alameda–has been engaged in an ugly attack on students, teachers, and workers on our campuses. They have cut over 500 classes, laid off teachers and slashed funding for programs which provide critical assistance to low-income students. Now, they plan to go forward with $8 million more in cuts (equivalent to 2500 students) and close the childcare center at College of Alameda.

We have pleaded and reasoned time and again with the board. In the March 23rd board meeting a group of 40 mothers served by the College of Alameda childcare center pleaded the board to keep the center open, all testifying to the fact that the closure of the childcare center would severely disrupt their education. How did the board respond? All nine board members voted unanimously to shut down the center. Despite our persistence, the board has refused to listen to our appeals.

Instead they continue unilaterally with the cuts, claiming the money isn’t there. We know this is not true. Just last semester district administrators received raises up to 16% (totaling over $500,000) while teachers were being laid off. Our corrupt chancellor, Elihu Harris, has given massive sums of district money to former business partners including a $940,000 no-bid contract awarded to Harris’ friend, Mark Lindquist, in a real estate deal. Several trustees have been caught using district money to pay for flight upgrades and expensive hotel stays, personal trips–even clothes shopping. Now, the board is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight a lawsuit so it does not have to release a report entailing financial corruption in the district. At any point these funds could have been used to preserve classes, to keep teachers, or to save the childcare center. Instead, this money was grossly mismanaged.

Though they are elected to represent us the board has proven it is incapable of performing its most essential function. The crisis we are experiencing at Laney is not just an economic crisis—it is a crisis of democracy. Decisions are made at our school by an outside governing body that does not represent us. We have made our case privately and publicly to the board and it has refused to meet our needs.

Though they might try to sign away our lives, it is not a politician or a bureaucrat who holds the greatest power over our schools. Students and workers have the most power over this system because we are what makes it run every day. We are Peralta. What if we refuse to allow this illegitimate board to dismantle our education? We do not need an administration once we take control of our college, our community, our future; our lives. Continue reading

Chop from the top; cut the cops!

A handout was released last week at the Peralta Audit and Finance Committee meeting partially detailing Peralta’s 2009-2010 $6.4 million deficit and plans to move forward. Included in the deficit is a $228,520 penalty from the IRS for failure to turn in tax returns on time, as well as a $1 million un-budgeted expense to the Sheriff’s department.

The Sheriff’s dept. went over one million more dollars than the amount agreed upon in their contract with Peralta. What has been the district’s response?

The cuts detailed in this report total $7.9 million. The largest of these is a $2 million cut to part time faculty. Instead of curbing spending on police and managing our funds correctly, the board of Peralta is asking part time faculty to pay for its mistakes. The $1.2 million wasted on cops and the IRS could have been put toward keeping part time faculty at the school.

We are all harmed by this; less teachers means less classes, which means less people in our community getting educated. When the Peralta board ensures our school is occupied by police before ensuring we have classes and teachers, it perpetuates a history of racialized police oppression in Oakland. By Peralta denying us access to education while they make it certain that police are on our campus, working class (and especially black and brown) people are criminalized and the state’s domination over us (police, the court system, and prisons) is further entrenched.

A key question to ask ourselves is: “what sort of a future is being planned, and how do we fit into it?” Is a future being planned where we are educated to decide how we live our lives, or is a future being planned for us where the “choice” we have is between prison and unskilled labor?

We demand an end to police occupation. We demand that the $1 million “unbudgeted expense” is returned and the $2.38 million Peralta spends every year on police is instead used to keep part-time faculty. Finally, we demand Laney’s student center be re-named after Oscar Grant III to demonstrate opposition towards the police oppression that is a plague upon our community.

Cut the cops. Sell their segways!

The A&F handout can be read here.