Student Protestors Demand Chancellor’s Solidarity with UC Laborers

Photo by Arlene Banuelos // The Triton

The UCSD Labor Commission, alongside several student-run organizations, rallied down Library Walk Tuesday morning to bring attention to UC workers’ rights and deliver a solidarity letter to the Chancellor’s Complex.

Students from campus organizations such as the Groundworks Collective, Black Student Union, and Asian & Pacific Islander Student Alliance gathered in front of the Silent Tree sculpture to protest the UC administration’s mistreatment of workers and financial ties to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agencies.

The demonstration was organized by commission members, including Prajay Lollabattu, who said he had planned it over the past week. During the rally, about two dozen students chanted and marched down Library Walk before attempting to enter the Chancellor’s Complex to present their demands to Chancellor Pradeep Khosla.

According to Lolabattu, the students were “shut out of the chancellor’s office.” A student within the complex tried to let protestors in but also was shut out.  “We delivered the demands to a staff member of one of the vice chancellors,” said Lolabattu. “They promised to deliver the demands to the chancellor.”

First-year student Ivy Martinez was waiting inside the Chancellor’s Complex and was planning on joining the protesters when they came in to deliver the demands. She recalled her experience inside the building: “I was in there for a while and the secretary was getting suspicious. When we could start to hear the protest coming towards us, she came with a person of higher authority to lock the doors.” After Ivy agreed to leave, she said the secretary “told me that I had to exit [through] the side door. She then walked me around to said door and made sure to close it immediately behind me.”

The protest centered on a letter detailing “UC Student Demands in Solidarity with UC Workers”  from each UC campus and urging the requests to be implemented within the UC system. The letter demands widespread reform in the UC system, specifically regarding wage inequality, underpaid workers, the lack of labor diversity, and unfavorable investment of tuition funds. Much like the demands of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employee (AFSCME) Local 3299, the largest labor union in the UC system, the student demands called for an end to labor outsourcing, understaffed dining halls and on-campus police deployment. Furthermore, the letter also calls upon the UC system to divest funds from corporations which are directly or indirectly contributing to violence at the U.S.-Mexico Border and human rights violations in Palestine.   

Azriel Almera, a member of the commission, told The Triton, “[The rally] is to bring attention to how our tuition money is going towards funding ICE and violence in Palestine…I personally don’t want to contribute to that.”  

The rally follows a series of on-campus worker strikes led by AFSCME Local 3299. After an October stalemate in negotiations led the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to cancel a bargaining meeting with AFSCME Local 3299 representatives at the UC Davis Medical Center, they have not been invited back for any negotiations.

As the protestors prepared to leave the Chancellor’s Complex, they chanted, “We will be back,” reminding UCSD administration that this would not be their last demonstration.

Regarding the UC Labor Commission’s plans for the future, Lolabattu said that “the most tangible next step is that we will be bringing students to the Regents meeting in January [16–17] at UCSF.”

The details of future strike plans are unknown, since they are decided by AFSCME Local 3299 members, most of whom are current employees under the UC system.

As of today, the university has not responded to requests for comment.

UPDATE: The police arrived at the site of the protest when the protestors came to the Chancellor’s Complex. It is unknown who notified them.

Correction: This article was updated on December 6, 2018 at 2:41 p.m. A previous version claimed that the protest was organized by commission member Prajay Lollabattu and was corrected to say that it was organized by multiple commission members. We apologize for the error.

Rishabh Singhal is a Staff Writer for The Triton and Ella Chen is the News Editor of The Triton.