Yesterday students, policymakers, faculty and university staff gathered in front of the Arbor at noon to protest ballot initiative Proposition 32 and rally support for Proposition 30.
While some protestors carried signs labeled ‘Yes on Prop 30’ and “No on 32,’ others formed circles around speakers including Democratic state senate candidate Hannah-Beth Jackson, Assemblymember Das Williams and UCSB history professor Nelson Lichtenstein.
Prop 30, which would deflect a $375 million blow to the UC system budget and save UC students from a mid-year tuition hike of 20 percent, raises the sales tax from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent, places higher income taxes on annual incomes exceeding $300,000 and uses a sliding scale to implement increasingly higher taxes on higher incomes.
Prop 32 would ban unions and corporations’ use of “payroll-deducted funds” on political campaigns as well as union, corporation and government automatic deductions awarded for political purposes.
At the rally, Williams — an I.V. native and UCSB alumnus — said students have an obligation to vote for Prop 30 as it will provide university funding that cannot otherwise be attained.
He said it will allow public higher education to be as accessible to California residents as it was when he attended UCSB, adding that the entire state will benefit from investment into “human infrastructure” provided by a well-funded education system.
“I went through the UC [system] and I can’t imagine how many jobs I’d have to do if I were you, because I didn’t have the parental support that many of you have,” Williams said. “The economic future of the state hinges on our ability to pass Prop 30 and save the university system … and it’s not just stopping the cuts. Prop 30 will finally turn the corner; it will roll back some of the cuts … and add to the budget.”
Sophia Armen, who serves as the Associated Students President but said she attended the rally as an advocate for Prop 30, addressed policymakers and university officials alike. According to Armen, the California budget fails to adequately fund education even while better supporting other services.
“State of California, UC Regents and loyal administrators — we’re tired of your rhetoric games,” Armen, a fourth-year global studies and feminist studies double major, said. “There’s money around, right? It’s about priorities.”
According to Armen, the state’s criticized prioritization of education is not unintentional, as it makes up a larger effort to privatize California’s higher education system.
“It’s part of a move to [take] corporate control of this university — to stop making it a right and to start making it a privilege,” Armen said.
UC staff member and AFSME union member Juan Donato, who works in UCSB Grounds and Custodial Services, said Prop 32 would silence the voice of union members by restricting their ability to unite workers’ funds and support for common political interests.
“Basically what Prop 32 will do for us is it will eliminate our voice. The union is the best tool we have; it’s a power tool,” Donato said. “It helps us to speak up because … we are all really vulnerable. … [Prop 32] will [be] disastrous for the working people.”
However, supporters of the ballot initiative, such as College Republicans President Chris Babadjanian, say it could keep union funds from being misdirected. According to Babadjanian, voting down Prop 32 would allow union members’ wages to be used for interests that may not represent their political perspectives.
“When it comes to Prop 32, I am very disappointed in protests in that I believe that individuals should donate to whatever political interests they believe in,” Babadjanian said. “Higher than 30 percent of [union members] are Republicans and 90 percent of their funds go to Democrats and I believe that’s against individual freedom.”
According to Nelson, whose areas of interest focus largely on American labor history, the pooling of union funds is both reflective of majority interests and necessary to maintain “working-class power.”
At yesterday’s protest, Nelson recalled the recent teachers’ strikes in Chicago, which included efforts from teachers at 98 percent of the area’s schools, as a prime example of unions binding themselves democratically to voice their collective political needs.
“The only weapon that unions have is solidarity,” Nelson said. “That’s what unions do — they’re Democratic organizations and they ask everyone to contribute, just like the government asks [its citizens] to contribute.”
Prop 30’s sliding scale would place a 10.3 percent income tax rate on annual incomes between $250,000 and $300,000, an 11.3 percent tax rate on incomes from $300,000 to $500,000, a 12.3 percent tax rate on incomes from $500,000 to $1,000,000 and a 13.3 percent tax on annual incomes exceeding $1,000,000.