The struggle to secure payment for uncompensated painters on the San Clemente Student Housing Project continued this past Wednesday evening.
Representatives of student groups, activists, and concerned community members gathered at El Centro Arnulfo Casillas to form a plan of action to ensure that the workers receive their due pay.
The university is currently in negotiations with the Painters and Allied Trades Union, which is representing ten of the painters, to reach a settlement. Another settlement is sought by three other painters, who have retained counsel and filed suit, but attendees of the meeting were concerned about other issues, some immediate and others far-reaching.
One immediate issue is the pending eviction of the family, which includes an infant, of one of the workers. Rachel Montesdeoca, an activist in attendance at the meeting, was most concerned with this family. She pointed out that two of the ten workers being represented by the union now have new jobs and have donated their portion of fundraising proceeds to the struggling family. A series of fundraisers held during the last two weeks of fall quarter collected $ 1600 to help workers make ends meet. Her emphasis during the meeting was that the primary goal should be to raise money for the workers.
Other issues loom in the bigger picture. Wintery weather conditions, as well as the economic woes currently being felt nationwide, make life for workers in the construction trades, many of whom are undocumented immigrants, precarious. â€œThe bigger problem is the trend of the UCs using an exploitable workforce on every single campus,â€ said Franky Fuentes. â€œThe university is complicating things by their use of bureaucratic rhetoric,â€ he continued, â€œbut we must hold them accountable for the simple issue at hand: that the unpaid workers get paidâ€.
Until they do, however, students will continue to support the affected families. One of the resolutions of those in attendance was to build a permanent campuswide coalition to support university workers with the eventual goal of making it UC-wide. Each attendee committed to bringing at least two people from campus organizations not represented at the meeting to the next session, which will be held next Wednesday, January 16, at El Centro. Furthermore, a fundraiser and a demonstration are being planned for the third week of this quarter, and organizers are encouraging all students who believe in justice and human rights to attend.