Arturo Samaniego and Minh Hua
National Beat Reporter and Staff Writer
AFSCME Local 3299 began their three-day-long strike for equal pay and representation for the UC workforce on Monday. The first day’s strike began at 4 a.m. in front of Storke Tower, and ended at 5 p.m.
“This is mainly about visibility, ensuring that we point out the flaws within the UC system,” said Michael Kile, the press lead for AFSCME.
Kile confirmed that the three-day strike will consist of rallies, marches, and guest speakers. The marches will target specific areas around campus and will consist of chants such as “UC! UC! You’re no good! Treat your workers like you should!”
A tent was set up where volunteers handed out shirts, water, snacks, pins and picket signs for strikers.
Babe Gonzales, a medical assistant at Student Health and member of the AFSCME 3299 executive board at UCSB, estimated that around 300 UC workers were present and striking Monday. The staff on strike consists of people in custodial, dining services, grounds and medical, according to Gonzales. There are also students coming out to march in solidarity with UC workers.
“There are a lot of student volunteers coming out to walk in solidarity with us because it is important for them to know we take care of them,” said Gonzales.
Several students who came out to Monday’s action said that they were walking out in solidarity with UCSB workers in recognition of their unequal wages. Students who come from a minority background cited seeing their family’s own struggles reflected in the UC workers’ struggles.
“These workers are the backbone of the UC institution and they deserve better representation, pay and equal treatment,” said Jasmine Palmerin, a second year double major in sociology and English.
Palmerin, when interviewed, said she planned on walking the whole day with the UC workers.
AFSCME 3299 heavily stressed the issue of equal representation and pay for minorities. “It’s about respect because minorities are making a lot less money,” stated Gonzales.
Kile cites the UC contracting practices as the cause for the inequality that is spread out among the UC system. According to Kile, in order to combat wage demands, the UC system has started to contract out to private companies to get people from outside the union who are willing to work with much lower wages and benefits.
“Our workers, even with what we fought for, are already working two full time jobs and have no time for their children,” stated Kile. The union says that the UC failed to address workers’ concerns and its offered terms don’t fit workers’ needs.
The UC issued a statement Monday morning on the strike.
“A strike is only hurting the union’s own members who will lose pay for joining this ill-advised three-day walkout, while negatively affecting services to patients and students,” the statement read. “A disruptive demonstration will change neither UC’s economic situation nor the university’s position on AFSCME’s unreasonable demands.”
At noon, crowds gathered in front of Storke Tower to hear speakers talk about the importance of the strike and why they should stand in solidarity with AFSCME workers. Student worker Dulce Gonzalez told the crowd that students should pay greater attention to the struggles and hardships of UC workers and that there is a need to stand up the greed of the UC system.
History professor Nelson Lichtenstein expressed dismay over what he saw as low wage increases for UC workers. Lichtenstein directs the Center of Work, Labor, and Democracy on campus.
“The faculty got a notice that they are going to get a four percent wage increase,” Lichtenstein said, adding that it was an “insult” that UC workers are only getting a three percent increase in wages. “I think your wages should be doubled.”
Candice Perez, a staff member at the Chicano Studies Institute of UCSB speaking on behalf of People Organized for the Defense & Equal Rights (PODER), spoke on the importance of UC workers.
“Being a custodian, being a cook, being a cleaner, all the work that you do, it is some of the most humanistic and dignified work,” Perez said. “You are caring for the people around you.”
The strike is UC-wide. In addition, the California Nurses Association union and the University Professional and Technical Employees union will also be joining AFSCME Local 3299 in sympathy strikes from May 8 to May 9.
Students looking to stand in solidarity with AFSCME Local 3299 can sign their petition at afscme3299.org/fight-inequality or come out to Storke Tower from on Tuesday and Wednesday.