SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Six activists with Local 1000 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents state government workers, were arrested Aug. 24 for distributing union leaflets to fellow unionists at the California Transportation Department’s headquarters here.

Outside the department’s entrance, about 100 picketers chanted nonstop, “What do we want? Access! When do we want it? Now!” as the union volunteers entered the building and were arrested, one by one.

Although state law and the current union contract give Local 1000 the right to communicate with the workers they represent, in recent weeks union representatives have been banned from buildings where their members work and arrested for leafleting in state building lobbies. Local 1000 posters have disappeared from union bulletin boards and state officials have declared break rooms off-limits for union activities.

As each arrest was announced, the picketers chanted “Shame on you, shame on you!” The arrestees were released about five hours later. Local 1000 has been in negotiations with the state of California for the last three months, and the leaflets were updates on the bargaining process.

“This is about Gov. Schwarzenegger’s attempt to silence our voices at every level,” said Danny Beagle, Local 1000 communications director. “It’s the same fight as Propositions 75 and 76, and the same fight as our contract negotiations.

“We’ll be back next Wednesday,” he told the People’s Weekly World.