Former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader joined Santa Barbara’s second annual People’s March for Economic Justice on Saturday and gave a lecture about corporate abuses later that night at Isla Vista Theater.
Hundreds of community members from over 50 different organizations, including many groups from UCSB, gathered at noon in Ortega Park where the march began. Marchers moved down Ortega Street to State Street and then to the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, where they listened to several public speakers, including Nader and civil rights attorney Gilbert Gaynor.
Although the march was meant to focus on economic injustice and labor problems, other causes, such as the United States’ abuses in the Middle East – which were protested by the Student Action Forum on the Middle East – were also presented.
“This march is a vital expression of protest at the way things are, a refusal to accept the status quo of inequality in one of the most affluent communities in the world,” Gaynor said.
Organizers said the march attracted community members who are concerned with a lack of economic equality “locally and globally,” focusing on the promotion of fair wages and labor rights. Marchers carried signs and a mother-to-be bore the words “I will not be born to serve the market” on her belly.
Jesus Catalan, a member of the Coalition for a Living Wage, said the struggle for a living wage is both a local and national problem.
“We want the working class to have a fair shake in what happens here in Santa Barbara. This is a wealthy area … and we should give the people who maintain the area a living wage, to allow them to live in the city,” Catalan said.
The United Farm Workers of America, which is presently working to get better pension and medical plans as well as increased wages, also attended the march. The union is boycotting PictSweet Mushrooms for its refusal to negotiate with farmers, union member Jose Luis said. The union is asking the community to also support its boycott of Pizza Hut, which is one of PictSweet’s largest buyers.
The day’s events concluded with Nader’s speech in I.V. Theater to a predominately student audience. In his speech, Nader focused on corporate abuses, emphasizing on corporate neglect of the environment. Nader also discussed how corporations are driven by short-range commercial interest, which causes them to cut corners in order to make a profit at any cost. Nader stressed the importance of students’ involvement in environmental issues as well.
“It’s your turn now to put your arm to the wheel of environmental justice and realize that this is a struggle that’s all over the world,” Nader said.
Nader said students should use their time at the university to take an active role in politics.
“Don’t spend your 20s perplexed by personal problems and hang-ups that you should have gotten over in your adolescence,” he said. “You must have time for civic responsibilities or else the world your children grow up in will not be very good.”