Defense becomes offense

After fighting off efforts by Sacramento City College administrators over the last year to cancel her ethnic studies class or move it to Davis, professor Yolanda Tauzer and her supporters are pushing to expand the class into a full-blown program.

“Everyone involved is completely committed,” said Susan Reece, an activist with the Coalition for an Ethnic Studies Department. “We are bound and determined to create an ethnic studies program.”

Yet according to Susie Chock-Hunt, vice-president of instruction, it is not possible right now for many reasons. The largest roadblock, she says, is that ethnic studies classes are not widely recognized at the university level.

“Only one lower division class transfers to Sac State,” she said. “So they need to remedy this problem long before they even begin to think about creating an ethnic studies department.”

But coalition members say the transfer issue is not paramount to the success of their department, arguing that people in the community should have the opportunity to learn about issues of race and ethnicity, whether they plan to pursue higher education or not. Tauzer says the class is important because many people of color do not know their history. “Our history and our voices have been invisible,” she said. “Our histories have been trivialized and marginalized. We’re asking that they become centralized.”

Scott Suneson, a part-time professor at Sac State and Sac City, called it a civil rights issue: “It’s shocking because what is happening right now should have happened 20 years ago. These kinds of struggles have been fought for the past 30 years. It’s really hard to believe that it didn’t happen here until now.”

Union wins before big vote

The National Labor Relations Board turned back an effort by the National Right to Work Foundation to undercut the union that represents workers at the downtown Sheraton Grand Hotel (see “Open or Closed,” SN&R, August 9).

The Foundation had brought charges in July on behalf of waiter Heath Langle, alleging the union unfairly coerced workers into signing “dual membership/dues deduction forms,” that would have charged workers an initiation fee of $50-$95 if they did not sign the forms. The NLRB found no wrongdoing on the union’s part. Joe McLaughlin, a union representative from Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 49 said he expected the ruling in the union’s favor and considered the affair an unfortunate waste of time.

“I think the feeling of people in general around here is that Heath Langle is a law student who waits tables at the Sheraton part-time but is basically just using this as a project for law school,” McLaughlin said. “There’s a lot of people whose livelihoods depend on their jobs at the Sheraton and the union, so I think there’s some resentment there.”

Langle said that he plans on appealing the NLRB’s decision. In the meantime, he’s backing a December 14 vote among Sheraton union employees to deauthorize the union at the Sheraton. If the workers vote to deauthorize, the Sheraton would then become an “open shop” and workers could choose not to belong to the union.

“I’m still optimistic I’ll get my point across,” Langle said.