The statewide labor strike on all ten UC campuses came to an end last Wednesday.
AFSCME 3299, the official UC labor union, organized a statewide strike from May 7 to May 9 due to contract disagreements between workers and the UC system that have lasted since June of last year.
AFSCME demands include fair wages, stable health and retirement benefits, removal of contracting jobs, and a stop to making cuts at the expense of the UC system’s lowest-paid employees. The UC has reportedly continuously rejected AFSCME’s proposals.
The last major UC labor union strike took place in May 2013 and resulted in strong benefit protections, wage increases, and new staffing protections for the AFSCME union.
Last week, the California Nurses Association (CNA) and the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) also organized to strike in solidarity with AFSCME on May 8 and 9.
“We are insulted by UCOP’s [the UC Office of the President] contract proposals and its attempt to blame the length of contract negotiations on our brothers and sisters on the bargaining team,” said a statement posted on the UPTE website. “We also stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in AFSCME and CNA, who are fighting for similar goals. If one of those unions needs to call a strike to make UC realize how far off course it has veered in negotiations, we commit to a solidarity strike in support.”
On the UC San Diego campus, AFSCME members and students met in front of the Gilman Parking Structure at the intersection of Gilman Dr. and Villa La Jolla Dr. on all three days. Those in attendance sported AFSCME 3299 shirts or wore a shade of green in honor of the union. Due to the strike, several dining halls on campus, including Roots and Foodworx, were closed. According to AFSCME Communications Director John de los Angeles, UCSD also outsourced custodial labor to temporarily replace the workers who attended the strike.
“We are doing this for our brothers, our sisters, our kids, and our grandkids,” said AFSCME member Jorge during a rally on the first day of the strike. “Let’s make the UC Office of the President understand that we are willing to do whatever it takes, and we are going to get a contract.”
Each day of the strike consisted of three marches around campus, making union presence known in the Chancellor’s Complex located in the UCSD Town Square, the Silent Tree in front of Geisel Library, and the Campus Services Complex. The strikers held signs that read “Equality. Fairness. Respect.” and “Secure Future For All,” while at least four AFSCME members with megaphones would lead chants, both in English and in Spanish, such as, “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, UC Greed has got to go!” and “Sin Justicia, No Hay Paz. Sin Contratos, No Hay Paz,” or “Without Justice, There is no peace. Without contracts, there is no peace.”
In response to requests from the union, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris withdrew from speaking at the UC Berkeley 2018 commencement last Saturday and Congressman Ted Lieu withdrew from the upcoming UCLA School of Law 2018 commencement in support of AFSCME. However, UC San Diego’s 2018 commencement speaker, Civil Rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis, has yet to make a statement.
The University of California, however, responded similarly to their 2013 AFSCME strike response and suggested that the strike was inappropriate.
“A strike only hurts the union’s members, who will lose pay for joining this ill-advised three-day walkout, while negatively affecting services to patients and students,” Claire Doan, a UC spokesperson, told The Triton on May 10th. “A disruptive demonstration changed neither UC’s economic situation nor the university’s position on AFSCME’s unreasonable demands.”
“[The contract] means a lot; I am a single mother and what I am earning right now is not enough,” Gladys Morrow told AFSCME intern and Sociology major Stephanie Flores.
Morrow, a worker at UCSD for the past twelve years at the Department of Facilities Management and an AFSCME Executive Board Member, said the strike is not just important for her, but for all of the AFSCME Union.
Like Morrow, Robert Wilson, a senior custodian who has worked for UCSD for eight-and-a-half years, expressed the importance of the contract for his family’s future.
“[The contract] means I can count on doing something for my grandchildren later on in life when I retire, be able to buy them things, just spend time with them, not be struggling and have them helping me out instead of me helping them out,” Wilson said.
Matthew Rom-Toribio is an Assistant News Editor at The Triton. You can follow him @MT2o.