As the campus prepares to play host to the UC Board of Regents this week, almost 90 union service workers walked out on the job Monday to protest low wages.
The workers, members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, spent much of the day picketing UCSB’s East Gate, despite a court injunction ordering them not to strike. Workers chanted, waved signs and solicited honks from passing cars — including many UCSB service vehicles.
The injunction, brought to court by the University of California, says a union-wide strike — one that includes patient care employees at UC hospitals — would cause irreparable damage. However, of the nearly 90 employees striking this week, all but six work in the service area, and thus AFSCME representatives said the injunction does not apply.
“This strike is only about service workers,” local union organizer Ulysses Gonzalez said. “They’re essential in many ways, but they have the absolute right to strike.”
However, within a few hours of the protest, the University of California sent out a press release regarding the “illegal” strike.
“The University of California is disappointed that AFSCME has chosen to strike, despite the court’s ruling prohibiting such activity,” Howard Pripas, executive director for systemwide labor relations at the University of California, said. “More importantly, we regret that we have not been able to reach an agreement with the union, and hope its leadership will return to the bargaining table so we can continue our discussions.”
The AFSCME workers here at UCSB plan to strike for the rest of the week — particularly while the UC Regents meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Edward Woolfolk, a service worker at UCSB for the past 35 and a half years, said the Regents meeting is an opportunity to shine some light on the months of failed bargaining between the two parties.
“We need to be heard,” Woolfolk said. “We want to be [at the UC Regents meeting] to let our chancellor know, and the other regents, and the president, that we can’t tolerate their lies.”
The dispute between the UC and the AFSCME service and patient care employees has been going on for nearly a year. Over the course of negotiations, each side has accused the other of bad faith, and AFCSME has threatened to strike numerous times.
At one point in the rally, Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Donna Carpenter spoke to the crowd. Surrounded by chanting strikers — many of whom loudly calling for her to carry a picket in solidarity — Carpenter said the strike was out of place since negotiations take place at the University of California Office of the President headquarters in Oakland.
“We want a fair and reasonable contract,” Carpenter said. “But negotiations are in Oakland, not on campus.”