A crowd of University of California employees, students and community members congregated yesterday at Storke Plaza to protest unfair labor practices.The demonstration was among hundreds of rallies organized across the nation by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. The student leaders and union organizers discussed student and worker rights.
Mayor Helene Schneider and First District Supervisor Salud Carbajal also delivered speeches at the event.
Associated Students community labor organizer Jaret Ornelas, a fourth-year Spanish and Chicano@ studies major, was one of several speakers at yesterday’s day of action who stressed the importance of collaborative action between students and workers.
“Every action on this campus, the workers have been there, they’ve had our back,” Ornelas said. “Now is the time to have theirs!”
University Center accountant Elizabeth Wilks, local president and system-wide treasurer for the University Professional and Technical Employees union, said UC employees are adopting more duties yet receiving the same pay.
“The University’s priority is not with their employees,” Wilks said. “For example, I haven’t had a raise in five years, which is unmentionable. They ask for more and we can do more but they need to rethink their priorities.”
Speakers energized the crowd throughout the presentation with chants of “Holla back, we got yo’ back,” “We are one” and “Si se puede!” The rally concluded with comments from audience members and a one-minute excerpt from a speech originally delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 while defending public sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn.
Furthermore, Dyne Suh, a third-year sociology and history major and the president of Campus Left — a student organization that promotes radical consciousness — said the UC Board of Regents’ budget policies harm both workers and students.
“As much as students are being attacked by the Regents, the workers are being hit even harder,” Suh said. “We need to fight alongside them in the struggle for just wages, health care and a promising future for their families.”
Julian Posadas, vice president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and UC Santa Cruz food service worker, said UCSB demonstrates strong student-worker solidarity.
“This campus has the potential to be one of the louder campuses [in the UC system] and be able to not only express student and workers’ voices, but most importantly our community’s [voice],” Posadas said. “We’re very enthusiastic about the turnout [at yesterday’s rally]. We have a lot of action to take, but we’re going to do it as a coalition.”
Still, UCSB alumna and AFSCME student intern Mari Saade said students need to be more vocal about their concerns with the UC system.
“As far as I have seen, student and worker issues are very closely tied,” Saade said. “I would love to see more student activism.”
Ornelas said he encourages students to support the workers who constitute the university’s backbone.
“Workers, we are your allies,” Ornelas said during his speech. “Just as students have, workers have strived for success through their hard work.”
Students interested in joining the effort can attend the Student-Worker Coalition’s bimonthly meetings Thursdays at 12:30 p.m. in the MultiCultural Center. For more information, e-mail UCSBCoalition@gmail.com.