Working through a packed agenda Wednesday night, Associated Student Legislative Council members listened to the A.S. annual audit presentation and discussed several pieces of new business, including what proved to be a contentious piece of legislation that would modify wording of the California Table Grapes Boycott in the A.S. legal code.
Council members consented to approve the action agendas of the UC Student Association and the United States Student Association, and the council consented to approve a resolution promoting the patronage of the A.S. Publication Services. Off-Campus Rep Raymond Meza tabled a bill he authored that supported living wages for Coalition of University Employees members because a speaker from the labor union was not able to be at the meeting.
Auditors from the Santa Barbara-based Nasif, Hicks, Harris & Co. accounting firm presented Leg Council members with the results of the annual A.S. audit, showing that A.S.’s unrestricted net assets rose from about $3.6 million in the 2002-03 fiscal year to about $4.6 million during the 2003-04 fiscal year. With the growth of its revenue, A.S.’s spending has also increased from about $3.6 million to about $4.5 million during the same respective periods. Accountant Andy Simonsen told the council that A.S. is fiscally stable from year to year and has virtually no liabilities.
“What you’re seeing is the business did well last year,” Simonsen said.
Accountant Jeff Harris said he attributes A.S.’s increased net assets to a favorable stock market, money generated from Summer Quarter student fees and better management by Executive Director Don Daves-Rougeaux.
“We just see a lot more energy in management now,” Harris said.
Student fees during the Summer Quarter of 2003 generated about $500,000, Simonsen said. Prior to 2003, students did not pay fees to A.S. when enrolling in summer classes.
Although A.S. benefited from a favorable stock market during the time period reviewed by the audit, the auditors said in their report that large fluctuations in investment earnings from year to year could mean considerable swings in the amount of money available to A.S. programs. The report suggested one way of lessening the impact of such swings was to base annual spending budgets upon a three-year average of investment returns.
After the presentation of the audit report, several students from the student organization El Congreso stood up during public forum to condemn the removal of the California Table Grapes Boycott from the A.S. legal code. Members of El Congreso said that canceling the boycott would be premature for Leg Council as the United Farm Workers (UFW) union is currently continuing an embargo against table grapes. The UFW began the boycott in 1984 to protest unfair and unsafe labor practices existing in Califorina’s grape-growing industry.
On-Campus Rep Justin Pabian – who authored the bill – said he wrote it because he believed the boycott had ended over four years ago. However, he withdrew the bill on the assumption that members of El Congreso were correct in saying the UFW boycott is currently active.
However, according to the UFW Web site, UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez ended the 16-year boycott of California table grapes Nov. 21, 2000.
“It was my understanding that the table grape boycott bad been called off back in 2000,” Pabian said. “I thought it was confusing to keep it in the legal code so I wrote the bill to take the part out saying that we are still boycotting.”
The bill would have changed the wording of Article IV, Section IV, letter H to remove A.S.’s current table grape boycott, but require its immediate reinstatement if the UFW were to restart its table grape boycott for any reason.
Fernando Ramirez, a member of El Congreso, said the group was never officially contacted in regards to the bill until the Leg council agenda was published on Monday.
“It’s my understanding the UFW is currently boycotting grapes, which is why we came out to speak against the bill,” Ramirez said.
Jessica Lozano, who is a member of El Congreso and was a proxy for Off-Campus Rep Ivan Rosales, said the boycott listed in the legal code held significant historical value. She said several years ago nine members of El Congreso held a hunger strike in front of Cheadle Hall to influence the university’s decision to boycott grapes.