[sixties-l] FSM strike

From: Jo Freeman (JFRBC@cunyvm.cuny.edu)
Date: 10/22/00

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    The Berkeley student strike in 1964 was started and organized by the Graduate
    Coordinating Committee.
    Excerpts from my forthcoming book which concern the FSM strike that
    began on December 3.
    [Graduate students set up tables in illegal space on November
         "With representation from fifty departments, the GCC was
    already talking about a possible strike.  Although the FSM was
    started and run by undergraduates, grad students were becoming a
    larger and more influential constituency.  They had their own
    grievances, for which the FSM was a way to fight a proxy battle.
    Once the pretense of prestige was brushed aside, grad students were
    just an exploited low wage labor force.  TAs did work similar to
    that of high school teachers -- teaching small classes, grading
    papers and exams, supervising students -- but without the pay or
    perquisites.  RAs did grub work for faculty.  Being a TA or RA was
    a way to finance graduate education, but only at a poverty level
    life style."
    [On November 29]
    "Art and Mario were in Southern California speaking at other
    campuses and visiting their parents so the Steering Committee met
    at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday without them.  It voted to hold a sit-in on
    Wednesday, followed by a general strike of students and TAs on
    Friday.  This decision was not publicly announced.  Officially the
    FSM demanded that the new charges be dropped, but it knew they
    would not be.
         At the Monday noon rally students were told of the new charges
    and the FSM demands.  Plans for the strike were announced, but not
    the sit-in.  We were also told that disciplinary actions had begun
    against Friends of SNCC, campus CORE, YSA, Women for Peace and the
    DuBois Club.  The Dean's office had asked the presidents of
    "recognized student organizations" that were violating the rules to
    come in for a talk."
    [December 1]
         "The ASUC Senate condemned the impending sit-in which it
    wrongly thought would be in Chancellor Strong's office in Dwinelle
    Hall.  The real plan was to invade Sproul Hall, and if it was
    closed and locked, to occupy the Student Union.  To prevent a
    "lock-out" several students stuffed the locks in the doors of both
    buildings with toothpicks.  Central became battle ready,
    requisitioning an apartment at Bancroft right across from Sproul
    Hall as Command Central.  Hall monitors were identified, armbands,
    microphones, and numerous supplies were stored in readiness for the
    occupation.  Four hundred grad students put the GCC on record in
    support of a sit-in and subsequent strike.  Joan Baez was alerted
    that she was needed again.  Students were told to come to a noon
    rally on Wednesday, and to bring books, food and sleeping bags."
    [December 3]
    "By 6:00 a.m. picket lines were at all entrances into the South
    side of the campus.
         As students came on campus, many demanded to be let inside so
    they too could be arrested.  These requests were refused.  Several
    climbed up the ropes to join us.  The Steering Committee decided
    that the strike planned for Friday should begin immediately and
    assigned Weissman the task of co-ordinating it.  He left by the
    As the GCC implemented strike plans, the Daily Cal reported that at
    least half of the T.A.s would not hold class.  GCC surveys
    estimated that half were on strike and another quarter honored
    their picket lines.  Strike Central organized a phone bank to all
    Berkeley students to ask them not to go to class.  The T.A.s took
    over some departmental offices (with permission of their chairmen),
    commandeering the phones and running STRIKE leaflets off on
    departmental mimeos.  The rally tree became Picket Central, with a
    blackboard listing assignments, instructions for picketers, plus
    posterboard and marking pins for students to make their own signs.
    Every campus entrance and every building where undergraduates took
    most of their classes had a picket line."
    POLITICS (Rowman and Littlefield 2000)

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