On Tuesday, one of the University of California’s largest unions called for a boycott of all UC speaking engagements, specifically referencing upcoming May commencement events.
The union, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299, is calling for several speakers – including former First Lady Michelle Obama, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom and Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis – to boycott their speaking engagements at the upcoming commencement events, according to a press release sent out on Tuesday.
UC Santa Barbara’s commencement ceremonies will take place on June 9, 14, 15 and 16. A speaker has not yet been announced.
This is the second time in recent years that the union has called for a boycott of commencement speakers. During Spring Quarter 2018, United States Senator and current presidential candidate Kamala Harris and Congressman John Lewis withdrew from speaking at UC Berkeley and UC San Diego respectively after AFSCME called for a boycott amidst contract negotiations, the press release states.
The union and the university have been negotiating over contracts for over two years. The main disputes between the two are over pay raises, outsourcing and retirement benefits.
The union has gone on strike several times during this period.
In a previous statement to the Nexus, UC Office of the President Director of Media Relations Claire Doan called the AFSCME’s demands “unreasonable.”
“They want raises that are nearly triple those given to other UC employees,” Doan said in the email. “We hope AFSCME leaders will channel more time and effort into actual bargaining.”
Recently, the union filed an unfair labor practice charge against the UC system, alleging harassment and intimidation during strikes over the past six months. The union subsequently went on strike following the filing of the charge.
“The University of California has used intimidation tactics to keep workers from protesting over outsourcing and income inequality instead of negotiating in good faith,” AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said in the press release.
“We do not tolerate bullying. If invited speakers feel the same way, then they’ll honor this boycott of UC events.”