U.C. Employees' Picket Line Blocks Out Gavin Newsom

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Will Harper
If ever you were looking to keep Gavin Newsom away, scare up a picket line

Employees of the University of California vociferously protesting proposed fee hikes and furlough days had an unforeseen consequence on the plans of one Mayor Gavin Newsom -- who may or may not have a Santa Clara University bumper sticker on the back of his hybrid SUV. The protesters this morning moved their picket line a few steps down the road to the headquarters of  FibroGen, Inc., where the mayor was scheduled to show up and talk pretty about a joint venture between the Mission Bay company and U.C. San Francisco.

That joint venture is still joint, but it didn't get Newsom's benediction today: Jelger Kalmijn, the president of the UPTE-CWA union representing the U.C. system's research, technical, and professional employees, got a call this morning from Newsom's chief of staff, Steve Kawa. Kawa told the union head that Newsom doesn't cross picket lines, and wouldn't be seen in Mission Bay today.

"We're extremely grateful to him for recognizing the gravity of the situation at U.C. and helping us to pressure the university into working out solutions," said Kalmijn. It also warrents mentioning -- but not by Kalmijn -- that crossing a picket line manned by researchers hoping to cure cancer and quash genetic diseases looks bad for a gubernatorial candidate.

While U.C. President Mark Yudof is hoping to make up for an anticipated $813 million shortfall in state funds this year by hiking fees and furloloughing workers, Kalmijn pushes for tapping into the system's rainy-day fund, some of the billions given to the schools as gifts, and a curtailing of jaw-dropping executive salaries. Kalmijn notes that Yudoff earns a hefty salary himself -- $828,000. That's more than many baseball players take home.

When not giving the mayor less than 12 hours notice of a picket line, Kalmijn, incidentally, is a researcher at U.C. San Diego studying the genetics of alcoholism. Since we don't meet such folks every day, we asked him what the chances were for a hypothetical person with one parent who suffered from alcoholism to develop into an alcoholic him or herself. He didn't give us a straight percentage, but did note it would be three to four times more likely than for a person with no alcoholism in the family.

So we can't say we didn't learn something today.  

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