Editorial: Student Workers Should Strike on May 7-9

Connor Gorry/The Triton

In a recent email to campus-wide staff, Senior Director of Labor Relations & Employee Relations Terri Winbush told students:

“If you feel you are being threatened, harassed, intimidated about crossing the picket line, or are prevented from working by picketers or striking employees, please immediately notify your supervisor or another UC administrator, or the campus labor relations office.”

If you are a student and someone is asking you not to cross the picket line on May 7, 8, and 9, the reason is much more pressing than Winbush suggests. In the midst of housing and food insecurity for students, many custodial, maintenance, and service workers on UC campuses are facing the exact same problems.

AFSCME 3299 is the UC system’s largest labor union, representing over 24,000 people at all 10 UC campuses. They have been bargaining for increasing wages, strengthening sexual harassment protections, and maintaining healthcare costs. They voted to strike on April 18, after contract negotiations fell through.  

A study by Occidental College’s Urban & Environmental Policy Institute shows that 70 percent of UC workers struggle with food insecurity. A recent AFSCME study also reports that the UC system pays women of color significantly smaller starting salaries.

“Women of color earn 21 percent less than men for starting wages,” AFSCME 3299 Communications Director John de los Angeles said in a recent interview with The Triton. “[Shrinking of the workforce] is driven by the UC’s desire to outsource jobs to low wage contractors that don’t receive benefits. Actually, what we’re finding is that displaced workers pop up as contractors, which puts a downward pressure on workers.”

Not only is it morally just to not cross the picket line, it is in your best interest. AFSCME 3299 is also advocating for student worker wages to be equal to full-time staff wages. The UC administration currently advocates for a zero-percent pay increase for five years and maintaining student worker pay below the UC full-time employee minimum of $15 an hour.

Associated Students of UC San Diego has voiced their support of the strike, as have the nurses’ union, who will be striking in solidarity.

If you care about fair wages, don’t cross the strike line. If you care about basic human dignity, don’t cross the strike line. Furthermore, The Triton urges student workers to strike from May 7-9.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Triton Editorial Board. If you’d like to submit a response, or comment on a different issue affecting the UC community, please submit here.