Approximately 40 UCSD students and service workers marched in protest to the Chancellor’s complex on Tuesday, October 18 against the recently announced layoffs at the UC Irvine Medical Center. UC Irvine will be laying off 175 workers, 68 of whom are members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Esteban Salcedo, service representative and organizer from the local 3299 branch of AFSCME and 2012 UCSD alumnus, stated to the UCSD Guardian said they held the protest at 9:00 a.m. because this was when most workers would be available to protest. UC Irvine held a whole-day event from 11:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Salcedo also said that the UC Irvine Medical Center made approximately $40 million in profits last year but that, in spite of this, workers are still being laid off. In addition to protesting the layoffs at UC Irvine, the students marched to speak out against the layoffs taking place at UCSD. In regard to why the UCSD workers were laid off, Salcedo said administrators told AFSCME it was because of budget issues.
“Today was a statewide day of action; all UC campuses and medical centers attempted delegation to speak with the chancellor or CEO,” Salcedo said. “Workers and students came together to deliver the message that we’re sticking with our fellow co-workers at UC Irvine who were recently laid off, and also to say we’re not going take layoffs here at UCSD, because they just announced that four workers are going to be laid off from the bookstore. Their final day will be December 9th. It’s just letting them know that students and workers are together against layoffs.”
Protesters, however, were not allowed to enter and speak with administrators. Students who attended the protest, including the Executive Director of the Student Organized Voter Access Committee Liam Barrett, described the reaction of administrators as being reflective of a systemwide attitude.
“The fact that they locked the door when we showed up is the epitome of the UC’s treatment of students and the workers that work for them,” Barrett told the UCSD Guardian. “I think [protesting] is more effective than doing nothing and I think that taking issues to the people who are responsible for them is very important for getting things done. I think that reacting in the way that they did is not necessarily conducive to getting problems solved … locking doors and things like that does not create conversation; it exacerbates the problem, and by the administration doing that, they’re showing very little interest in getting problems solved.”
Associated Vice President of External Affairs Lauren Roberts described how her office will work with AFSCME to ensure workers’ needs are met.
“For the first time ever in San Diego’s history, students were standing in solidarity with workers rather than the other way around,” Roberts said. “Traditionally, workers help us when a tuition hike is proposed and they’re always down for our causes, but we always leave them high and dry when layoffs happen…all we can do is organize students around [AFSCME] because ultimately they know what the union needs and what demands they’re going to make.”
Additionally, Salcedo described how the University’s contract with service workers expires in June 2017, so AFSCME and students will be focusing on negotiating a new contract in the upcoming months.
“Now we’re gearing up to bargain a new contract with the UC and we’re seeing they want to cut cost where they can,” Salcedo said. “This is a firm instance of what UC’s priorities are. We’re already seeing it … we haven’t even started bargaining yet and they want to get rid of workers.”
Barrett said legislative measures could be an effective means of resolving labor disputes across the University.
“Holding the UC accountable to stronger labor standards and providing more funding for the UCs in general would work to solve these problems, and also keeping the UCs more accountable for the money that they do have,” Barrett said. “The strongest [action] would be an amendment to the California constitution that puts the Regents more under the scope of the state, but anything, even just pressuring the Regents at a political level, is an effective way of getting things done.”
Morales also described to the UCSD Guardian how she is hoping to organize more workers’ events on campus and establish a worker-student base. Furthermore, she discussed how prior to Tuesday’s protest, a student labor conference was held on campus, but that the turnout for UCSD students was low.