The Democratic National Committee pulled its presidential debate from UCLA’s campus, and the fault lies squarely on the University of California’s shoulders.
That is to say, the UC took its characteristic approach of unwavering stubbornness.
The location change is just the latest update in the ongoing University of California labor dispute, with the DNC moving locations in acknowledgment of strikes by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents workers at multiple UCs. The University has all but ignored its demands and repeated strikes, with the dispute stretching out over two years.
Labor disputes are nothing new at UCLA and the UC. And while ignoring the demands of its own employees led to the loss of a historic event on campus in this case, UCLA’s real mistake was letting the problem fester for so long.
The University has begun to reap the consequences of continuing to disregard its workers’ needs. Years of protests and bargaining should have been enough to encourage both parties to strike a deal, yet it seems even pressure by the DNC has done little to sway the discussion.
UCLA’s official statement on the matter refers to the boycott as “renewed and unanticipated objections” – downplaying and reframing the situation as a minor inconvenience. But six new labor complaints since October and a handful of strikes suggest otherwise.
The university’s weak response to the DNC pulling its event from campus reflects a complete lack of self-awareness and an unwillingness to compromise with its own employees. Instead of responding to the incident by acknowledging the protests and opening discussions, UCLA seems to have accepted the consequences of its actions as inevitable, with no visible remorse for its role in the matter.
Instead of licking its public relations wounds with meaningless statements, the university should take this missed opportunity to incite real change.
Because AFSCME Local 3299 isn’t slowing down anytime soon, the next strike will take place Wednesday. The union has thus far shown no signs of giving up, and the UC’s lack of action only exacerbates the problem.
Serving as a platform for political engagement and democracy reads like a field day for media relations. But this series of events made the UC’s motives overwhelmingly clear: It is willing to give up good PR and deprive students of an opportunity if it means stalling the decision to compromise with workers.
Granted, federal politics should not serve as a motive for the UC as a matter of principle. But despite the DNC’s involvement, these politics’ roots are anything but national. Instead, they stem from a continuously ignored faction of UCLA’s community that has been forced to enter the political spotlight, hoping for a seat at the table.
And even then, the UC has refused to pull up a chair.
Media disasters shouldn’t be the final straw in pushing the UC to do the right thing. But at this point in the game, even change motivated by the wrong reasons is better than the University’s current plan of action.
Hot on the heels of embarrassment on a national level, maybe UCLA will finally meet the needs of its employees.
But considering its continuing track record, that seems increasingly unlikely.