As the University of California Board of Regents gathered at UCLA last week, it continued to deny more than 24,000 UC workers the right to a livable wage, guaranteed pensions, affordable health care and a number of other basic needs measures.
These are the same needs members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 went on strike for in May. One summer later, the UC has yet to change its cold tone.
Such negligence reflects the general, for-profit motives of the UC. Administrative volume and pay continue to rise at the expense of low-income, full-time workers, who are more often than not being replaced by cheaper, contracted labor and student labor.
The UC Student Association, which officially represents students across the system, recently passed a resolution vocalizing students across the state that denounces the University’s mistreatment of these workers and demand their contract asks be met. These are issues that have existed at our campuses throughout our time as students, and it is both appalling and negligent that these practices continue without any effort from the UC to address them, except when its reputation is at stake.
The Student Labor Advocacy Project of UCLA commented on this irony, affirming the needs of workers and employees at the University.
“Students understand that there would be no UC system without the front line workers who make our universities function – yet UC executives continue to deny these workers the respect, dignity and fair contracts they deserve,” SLAP wrote in a statement.
“As students within the UC system, we cannot tolerate unjust labor practices on our campuses,” the group added. “That is why we have to come together to formally endorse the bargaining demands of AFSCME 3299.”
Following the statewide labor union strike in May, a bargaining meeting was scheduled between AFSCME 3299 and UC Davis on Aug. 29. But this meeting was canceled by UC executives despite both parties agreeing to the meeting time. Actions like these, as well as the subcontracting of service jobs and the University’s refusal to address pay inequity based on race and gender, demonstrate intentional disregard for its lowest-paid members, the majority of whom are Black or brown.
Union members announced at Wednesday’s UC Regents meeting that the AFSCME 3299 membership will be voting Oct. 9 and Oct. 10 on whether they will be going on strike again in the fall. The union’s previous strike shut down regular services at UC campuses and hospitals. It also led U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and U.S. Representative from Georgia John Lewis, who had been scheduled as keynote speakers for graduation at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego, respectively, to boycott the UC system by refusing these opportunities.
It is critical that when these workers rise to address the exploitative practices of the UC, we, as students, use our capacity to support the workers and to uplift their demands.
Lolabattu is the campus action chair for UCSA.