Saturday, April 13, 2024

AdvertiseDonateSubmit
NewsSportsArtsOpinionThe QuadPhotoVideoIllustrationsCartoonsGraphicsThe StackPRIMEEnterpriseInteractivesPodcastsBruinwalkClassifieds

AFSCME Local 3299, community members call on UC to divest from Blackstone

UC employees protest the UC’s investment in Blackstone on Wednesday. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 organized the event, which included marching through Murphy Hall to the chancellor’s office. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Matthew Royer

Feb. 14, 2024 4:50 p.m.

This post was updated Feb. 15 at 9:55 p.m. 

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, 75 UC employees and community members demanded the University to “break up” with and divest from Blackstone outside the chancellor’s office in Murphy Hall.

The workers – who are represented by American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 – alleged that the University’s ties to Blackstone prevent the UC from being an “ethical landlord,” and they urged the UC Regents to invest in affordable housing, divest from Blackstone and bargain a fair new contract for the union. 

AFSCME Local 3299, which represents service, patient care technical and skilled craft workers employed by the University, held simultaneous actions Wednesday on eight UC campuses. Workers at UCLA, alongside members of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, began their march to the chancellor’s office at 11:45 a.m. as the UC Board of Regents met at the Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center a short walk away.

Union members marched in unison, chanting slogans such as “Break up with Blackstone,” “No housing, no peace,” and “UCLA, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side.” 

Protesters outside the chancellor’s hold signs with slogans such as, “UCLA Divest From Blackstone.” (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Once they arrived inside Murphy Hall, union and community members delivered handwritten “breakup letters” to Chancellor Gene Block and the regents with the union’s demands. They also posted a sign on the wall that read, “University of CA, invest in the housing we need, not Blackstone’s greed.”

“We’re struggling beyond any point that we can understand,” said senior custodian Enrique Rosas in a speech. “Yet we show up every day. We show up every single day, Monday through Friday, doing our job – and do they care? No.”

Rosas, who is Local 3299’s service unit vice president, said UCLA’s investment in Blackstone is part of the reason he cannot live in the community he works in. He added that he has to commute more than two hours every day to UCLA to ensure he can work and still take care of his family.

In an interview after the protest, Rosas also said the protest’s turnout was an important show of solidarity across unions. He added that he believes it is important for students to take notice of the University’s investments because they are also impacted by real estate prices.

”​We were hoping to achieve the goal of getting the chancellor’s attention to divest from Blackstone, to return the money and to invest in the community that we represent around the UC campuses,” Rosas said.

The conditions being faced by workers are also unacceptable, given the relatively high pay University executives receive, he said.

After leaving the chancellor’s office, Local 3299 leadership, union members and students rallied outside of Murphy Hall to continue pressuring UC leadership. Speeches included calls of support for other unions, including United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents graduate student workers.

Heather Hansen, a spokesperson for the UC Office of the President, said in an emailed statement that the University appreciates AFSCME-represented members for their dedication and hard work on campus.

“We are excited to engage in good-faith negotiations with AFSCME that reflect the critical value these employees bring to the table,” Hansen said in the statement.

A “Break Up with Blackstone” card taped to the wall outside the chancellor’s office is pictured. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Divestment from Blackstone is a cross-union issue, said Ethan Friedland, a doctoral student of Near Eastern languages and cultures and a UAW Local 2865 unit steward. He added that he believes the University is in a state of decline, as funds have not been allocated to properly teach classes, pay workers and uphold the daily functions of the school. 

Friedland said workers cannot afford basic necessities such as food, housing and education because the UC has attempted to drive wages down, pitting workers and unions against each other.

“The grad students – we recently struck and we earned higher wages, and in order to pay those higher wages, the school is squeezing AFSCME workers, it’s squeezing the lecturers. It’s pitting all the lower-paid workers against each other, as if there isn’t enough money for all of us,” Friedland said.

UCPD and private security were present during the event. During the protest, UCPD denied a Daily Bruin reporter, as well as some students, access to Murphy Hall. 

UCPD did not respond in time for comment.

Pictured is a sign reading “Vivienda” outside Murphy Hall. (Nicolas Greamo/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Miracle McKinney, a student at West Los Angeles College and an organizer with ACCE, said she joined the call for action against the UC because she has seen the impact the University’s employment practices have had on her friends and fellow renters.

She added that she believes it is important that students join the movement to support low-wage workers on UCLA’s campus.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t really impress upon the students that, ‘Hey, you’re able to enjoy these facilities, but the very people who are serving you can’t even live in the town that they are working in,’” McKinney said.

Contributing reports by Catherine Hamilton and Dylan Winward, Daily Bruin staff.

Share this story:FacebookTwitterRedditEmail
Matthew Royer | National news and higher education editor
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
Royer is the 2023-2024 national news and higher education editor. He is also a Sports staff writer on the men’s soccer and softball beats. He was previously the 2022-2023 city and crime editor and a contributor on the features and student life beat. He is also a fourth-year political science student minoring in labor studies from West Hills, California.
COMMENTS
Featured Classifieds
Roommates-Private Room

WESTWOOD, Campus 5-minute walk. Own room in large quiet furnished two-bedroom. Only occupant travels. Fireplace, cat, access terrific book/movie/video collections, suit arts/sciences aficionado. $1,295 w/utilities. [email protected]

More classifieds »
Related Posts