With a crowd of more than 100 congregated in front of Conlan Hall, City College faculty, staff, students and labor allies came out in a show of solidarity for the AFT 2121 Day of Action rally to protest layoff notices issued to 58 full-time faculty on March 15.
The in-person rally, followed by a virtual press-conference attended by more than 400 people, featured lively call-and-response chants and testimonials from faculty, staff and students who addressed the importance of retaining class offerings for the most underserved students in the Bay Area.
Débora Radaic, an English as a Second Language (ESL) student, described her experiences at City College. “I still remember my first day,” she said. “My husband went with me because at that time I didn’t even know how to say hi in English.
“Many of us ESL students, we still get nervous with our English,” she said. “Sometimes we don’t know how to say things we want to say. City College gave my voice back.”
Union leaders rejected the administration’s economic rationale for downsizing the college and said there was a state, city, and college budget surplus this year. They described the cuts as a downward spiral that would lead only to more cuts and the further disenfranchisement of students.
English instructor Xochiquetzal Candelaria emphasized this point when she described the effects of the layoffs at the college. “Education is what we do,” she said. “Education is the baby. All of the attendant administrative work is the bath water. We’re being told that in order to get off of the ACCJC (accrediting agency) watch list, we must throw out the baby to save the bath water.
“It makes no sense,” Candelaria added.
Labor organizers from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021, California Federation of Teachers, and United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) also attended the rally and provided updates about the respective labor struggles of faculty and staff.
UESF President Cassondra Curiel, who spent the previous night at a sit-in to protest the non-payment of San Francisco Unified School District teachers, addressed these shared concerns and the collective fight to prioritize student needs and oppose budget cuts.
“I’m here to support you guys,” she said to applause. “I want to make sure you know that our students are your students. And your students were once our students.”
AFT 2121 President Malaika Finkelstein said the union plans to hold a public budget forum on April 13 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. AFT 2121 invited City College administrators, but it was unclear if they would attend the forum.