Workers and students protested Thursday against the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center to demand a contract that would allow union employees to work at the new center.
About 80 people participated in two protests organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299 union. The actions were held on the Hill and outside university police headquarters.
Protest leader Davina Woods said AFSCME 3299 is protesting UCLA’s failure to secure a formal agreement that would employ union members at the Luskin Center. Woods added the union is demanding UCLA provide Luskin workers above minimum wage pay with benefits and retirement funds.
AFSCME 3299 represents about 20,000 workers across the University of California, according to its website. Protesters held signs that said “quality union jobs at Luskin,” “equal pay for equal work” and “no poverty jobs at Luskin.”
The Luskin Center, currently under construction, will be a conference center on Westwood Plaza that will feature 254 guest rooms, a restaurant, lounges and a fitness center.
Senior custodian Pattern Gondo said AFSCME 3299 workers protested to stop UCLA from outsourcing jobs at the center. Gondo said he thinks UCLA is outsourcing jobs to increase profit margins, by avoiding paying retirement benefits and what he called fair wages.
He added the protest is a way to show the administration the workers are united and ready to fight for their rights.
“We’re doing these jobs for our families,” Gondo said. “We want to fight to support our families.”
AFSCME 3299 organizers also rallied protesters into the assistant vice chancellor of UCLA General Services’ office on Charles E. Young Drive. Gondo presented members of the office with a poster of worker demands, including fair pay, benefits and retirement funds.
Fourth-year history student Juan Torres, who was present at the protest, said he thinks it is important for UC administrators to listen to workers and show compassion. He added he thinks it’s important for students to be involved with workers’ issues.
“In order to fight for what (students) need, we need to create coalitions with workers,” Torres said. “This is both a strategic method and the right thing to do. We’re asking for justice – for workers, students and for people of color – and overall quality education for everyone.”
Frank Lombardi, an AFSCME 3299 leader and assistant cook at Covel Dining Hall, said new jobs at the Luskin Center should be union jobs. He added he thinks organizations often subcontract jobs to undermine their contracts with unions.
Lombardi said union members expect the UCLA administration to follow through on its promise to unionize the jobs.
“We take our futures seriously,” Lombardi said. “ We want to be able to keep UCLA a place that we’re proud to say that we work at.”
Woods added union members will continue to protest until UCLA agrees to their demands. The UCLA Luskin Center is scheduled to open in June.