The three-day University of California–wide strike led by UC’s largest union ended Thursday at 6 p.m. for UC Santa Barbara workers, with no demands met.
The October strikes saw thousands of participants statewide, according to a press release sent out by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 spokesperson, John de los Angeles.
Protestors were joined by students, faculty and members of supporting unions.
Several politicians, including California State Assembly Member Monique Limón, also came to speak in solidarity.
“We’re here today because UC has not been able to negotiate a fair contract,” Babe Gonzalez, a medical assistant at UCSB Student Health, said.
Gonzalez said workers have no protection against emergency layoffs in their contracts, which Gonzales believes is a bigger issue than wage increases.
“What good is a raise today if they’re not going to guarantee that we would have no emergency layoffs, [that] they won’t be outsourcing our jobs and our job security? You can give us a raise today, and if that’s not in our contract, you can fire us tomorrow,” Gonzalez said.
The workers who went on strike also expressed concern for their wages in relation to the high cost of living in the Santa Barbara area.
Francisco Garcias, a facilities department worker who has been with UC for 22 years, said the cost of living is a huge issue UC workers face.
“People have to drive an hour away from their jobs at the university to be able to make rent, to have a home … Our pay does not cover cost of living,” Garcias said.
University of California Office of the President (UCOP) sent a statement to the Nexus on Wednesday that countered AFSCME demands for increased pay.
“AFSCME patient care and service workers are already compensated at or above market rates, along with affordable health insurance and generous retirement benefits,” Danielle Smith, UCOP media communications specialist, said in an email.
“An 8 percent pay increase for each of four years is not possible for taxpayer-supported institutions. The union wants more money – more than any other group at the university. This is why they are striking, plain and simple. AFSCME leaders have done little to truly help their union members.”
The statement also said AFSCME leaders are hypocritical because AFSCME increased its membership fees in January, raising the monthly dues from $78 to $120.
“AFSCME leadership has no qualms pointing a finger at UC while choosing to take a larger portion of their members’ paychecks.”
A Supreme Court decision made in June of this year, Janus v. AFSCME, made membership dues for California public employee unions optional. The decision barred union collection of fair share fees, meaning that the union’s members are paying voluntarily.
Additionally, UCOP said AFSCME leaders are “spreading false information” about employee displacement.
Over the past five years, the number of patient care employees has increased by 18.9 percent and service workers by 14.4 percent, which is “consistent” with the growth of all union workers by 9.9 percent, Smith said in the UCOP statement.
“UC hopes AFSCME leaders, given their wasted efforts, will now engage in productive, sensible negotiations, rather than blindly declare victory for a demonstration that moved them no closer to a better deal.”
Students are also oftentimes confused about whether raising workers’ wages would affect tuition costs, according to Melissa Perez, an on-campus senator for Associated Students (A.S.)
“I think one of the most common misconceptions about this strike, or why students oppose it, is that they believe that if the workers’ wages go up our tuition has to go up as well,” Perez said.
“Realistically, the funding to pay for workers’ wages comes from the state’s budget, and our tuition is determined by the Board of Regents. They stand with us when we lobby and strike against tuition hikes, and so we have to stand with them when they’re trying to get a living wage.”
While the strike did not result in resolved demands, it brought attention to the issues that UC workers face, lead groundskeeper Juan Donato said.
“The purpose is to voice our concerns and that’s why we [strike],” Donato said.