The University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union held a one-day strike across all UC campuses Thursday, protesting what it calls unfair bargaining practices by the UC.
At UCSB, about 40 protestors from UPTE, members of other unions within the University and some students gathered in front of the Arbor at noon, carrying signs with slogans such as “UC’s Bad Faith Means Delays In Saving Lives,” and “Stop UC’s Bad Faith Contract Now.” The group also shouted slogans like “Chancellor Yang, shame on you. UC works because we do.” Although UPTE organized the strike, unions within the UC and from nearby cities joined the walkout in sympathy. UPTE represents technical workers and researchers at all nine UC campuses, including computer specialists, museum scientists and clinical lab technicians. UC spokesman Noel Van Nyhuis said about 7,000 people at the UC are represented by UPTE.
The UCSB Office of Public Affairs released preliminary numbers that stated only 10 of the 293 workers represented by UPTE on campus failed to report to work Thursday. Five UPTE sympathizers from the Coalition of University Employees did not come to work, according to the Office of Public Affairs.
Van Nyhuis said the University considers the strike unlawful under California bargaining rules.
“It’s an unlawful strike due to the fact that we are still in negotiations with the union,” he said. “Any strike that occurs during negotiations is presumptively unlawful, even including if we are at an impasse or in fact-finding.”
Earlier on Thursday, some union members stood with signs on at the campus’ East Gate by Highway 217, and at the West Gate by El Colegio Road. At the noontime rally, protesters marched from the Arbor to the courtyard in front of Cheadle Hall. UCSB Associate Vice Chancellor for Public Affairs Paul Desruisseaux said Chancellor Henry Yang was in San Francisco at a Regents meeting and could not attend the strike to speak to protestors.
The union members and their supporters marched in a circle in front of Cheadle Hall as they chanted, “This is what democracy looks like,” while pointing to themselves, and then pointed at the Administrative Services Building saying, “That is what hypocrisy looks like.”
Donna Carpenter, acting vice chancellor of administrative services, came out to meet the protesters. Carpenter addressed the entire crowd and said she supported the work of union members, but that she had no direct influence over the contract negotiations.
“I have to tell you that we support what you do and the research you do … but these are things that you have to work out at the bargaining table,” Carpenter said.
While Carpenter was answering questions from members of the crowd, one unidentified rally participant said negotiations between UPTE and the University are not moving in a positive direction.
“This incompetence, this is stupidity; this is a waste of time,” he said.
Another rally participant said union workers are growing frustrated with the lengthy negotiation process.
“People are suffering and politeness is getting old,” she said.
Bob Stevenson, president of the Santa Barbara chapter of UPTE, said after the rally that he has to commute from Camarillo to UCSB everyday because the cost of living in Santa Barbara is high and his current wages don’t cover the expense of living in the area.
Laurie Van De Werfhorst, a staff researcher at the Donald Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, said she was disappointed by the lack of progress the UC has made in meeting the union’s demands. She said she relies on the dual income that she and her partner generate.
“There’s no way I could survive on my own,” she said.
UPTE rejected a new contract proposal put forth by the UC on May 19 that would have given all union members a 3-percent wage increase each year for two years, and a 4-percent increase in the third year. Technical workers were also offered a $180 bonus and research support staff were offered a $210 bonus in the proposal.
Stevenson said the pay increases offered in the deal still would not provide an adequate living wage for union members statewide, and especially not for those living in the UCSB community.
The UC is disappointed that UPTE turned down its latest offer, Van Nyhuis said. He said the University has repeatedly tried to continue contract negotiations with the aid of a state-appointed mediator, but UPTE has refused the effort.
“Rather than trying to facilitate an agreement through mediation or even further bargaining, they’ve chosen to take this strike, which is unlawful, as a way to try to pressure the University,” he said.
Despite the relatively low turnout of UPTE members at UCSB, Stevenson said he was pleased with the strike.
“It was a great, peaceful strike, and that’s what we were hoping for,” he said.