Seven students marched into Cheadle Hall yesterday to argue for university workers’ rights and to present university officials with an Associated Students resolution supporting a planned employee protest.
The students said they made the special delivery to try and halt any reprisals the university might make against workers who participate in a planned May 1 protest. The resolution called for Donna Carpenter, vice chancellor for Administrative Services, to recognize May 1 as a day to promote workers’ and immigrants’ rights, and asked for workers who participate in any ceremonies to be able to do so “without fear of dismissal, retaliation or rebuke.”
Jeronimo Saldana, the author of the resolution passed last week and an A.S. Off-Campus Rep, said he helped deliver the message to Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas because he believed workers were afraid to protest last year due to threats made to employees at other schools.
“Workers were scared and were fearing for their jobs,” Saldana said.
However, Lucas said there were no threats of reprisal against protesting employees at UCSB last year. He also said that the provisions outlined in the resolution were already consistent with university policy.
“The administration has no problems with workers participating in rallies,” Lucas said.
But Julian Posadas, a union organizer for UCSB custodial workers, said UC Santa Cruz did not honor the UC policy last year as members of its administration allegedly threatened participating employees with reprimands. Although the issues were resolved at the last minute, there was confusion among workers, he said.
“There’s always a lack of communication between universities and workers,” Posadas said.
When the workers do protest on May 1, wages will be a major issue, Saldana said. He said the workers, mostly custodial staff, are asking for a living wage – the salary higher than minimum wage, designed to help have a higher standard of living.
“We’ve been fighting for a living wage for six or seven years now,” Saldana said.
Currently, the living wage for the Santa Barbara area is $13.40 an hour with health insurance, according to the Santa Barbara Living Wage Campaign website.
Further convoluting the issue, some UC workers recently received wage increases, but Saldana alleges that these raises are not enough. The starting wage for UCSB custodial workers is about $10.75.
“The UC says it stands behind the workers, but it only increases the minimum wage, and doesn’t establish a living wage, which is patronizing,” Saldana said.
Saldana said the May 1 rally would likely begin with a number of speakers appearing at the Pardall Road tunnel, and then proceeding on to Storke Tower
Fourth-year global studies major Elisa Dolowich said the May 1 events will be open to all members of the university.
“We want to invite people to come out and celebrate national labor,” Dolowich said.