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Occupy movement spreads to California campuses

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By Lauren Rosenhall
MCT Campus

The wave of anger at banks that has swept the country with the recent “Occupy” movement is coming to California college campuses next week.

A union-backed group calling itself “Refund California” is organizing protests on Wednesday at more than a dozen college campuses, including Sacramento State and the University of California, Davis. The group argues that banks created the country’s economic collapse that decimated state budgets and led to massive tuition hikes in recent years. It is calling on leaders of California’s public universities to pledge support for higher taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals as a way to restore funding for jobs and education.

The groaup sent letters Friday to University of California regents and trustees of the California State University, asking them to sign a pledge to support five items: Increasing income taxes on California’s wealthiest; changing Proposition 13 so that corporate property taxes could rise; implementing a federal sales tax on large-scale financial transactions; reducing underwater mortgage debt; reversing tuition increases, layoffs, and cuts to public education and essential services.

University support for those demands is unlikely.

Claudia Keith, a CSU spokeswoman, said trustees will try to get more state funding next year but that they “don’t advocate on specific tax policies such as Prop 13 or income tax rates.” UC spokesman Steve Montiel said, “I don’t know what regents could do about Prop. 13 or increasing sales taxes or reducing underwater mortgages.”

Refund California is made up of several unions and community groups, including the California Nurses Association, the American Federation of Teachers, Service Employees International Union, and United Auto Workers. The group is planning a week of campus protests that will conclude Nov. 16 at the meetings of the UC and CSU governing boards.

The California Faculty Association is not a formal member of the group, but Refund California’s actions will coincide with protests the faculty union is planning to bring attention to its contract negotiations with university management.

CFA, which represents CSU professors, will be picketing on Cal State campuses on Tuesday and Wednesday. Professors at CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU East Bay may strike on Nov. 17; the union will announce Monday if the strike is on.

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