United Student Against Sweatshops Local 94 at UC San Diego demonstrated against the unfair treatment of UC workers on Triton Day, April 13. The students marched along Library Walk, past Center Hall, and into the Town Square where prospective students and their families were concentrated.
On Triton Day, admitted students and their families congregated on campus to familiarize themselves with the campus. Almera says USAS decided to demonstrate on this day because it wanted to reveal the reality of labor issues on campus, not to deter students from UCSD.
“We are asking the school to listen to us, and we are telling them that we refuse to give in,” Almera told the Guardian.“We want to bring more awareness to the campus and show the school that we are not afraid to expose what they are doing,” Almera told the Guardian.
The student demonstrators began their demonstrations at around 10:30 a.m. in a Housing Dining Hospitality panel held in Center Hall. The venue of this info session, Center Hall 101 was occupied by around 200 admitted students and their parents. During the Q&A section, USAS member, Prajay Lolabattu asked the HDH official leading the discussion why they treat student workers at HDH facilities unfairly and cover it up.
The HDH official giving the presentation refused to answer this question and denied the relevance of this question to the ongoing panel. Lolabattu was then directed to another staff present.
Meanwhile, there were murmurs in the crowd, and someone shouted, “Shut up! You are wasting our time!”
After the session was over, more volunteers were requested to guard the venue. Azriel Almera, a member of USAS, said she was pulled aside by incoming students who were attending the conference, asking what they could do to help.
The student demonstrators then marched around the center area of the campus where they handed out fliers and chanted when they passed by the crowds.
According to Almera, while many students seemed interested in the demonstration and were open to conversations, some parents did not let their children take the fliers handed out by the student demonstrators.
Humberto Rojo, an incoming student interested in a history major who witnessed the demonstration told the Guardian, “I think it’s good that they are saying their opinion. I think it’s good that they are fighting for it.”
Rojo also expressed appreciation for the political atmosphere,and that the demonstration did not negatively affect his experience on campus.
“I really like the campus and I still want to come here. I think it’s also interesting that UC San Diego is allowing them to do that.”
The USAS demonstration on Triton Day is one of the most recent demonstrations for workers’ issues on campus. Only three days before the Triton Day demonstration, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFSCME local 3299, organized a demonstration against Unfair Labour Practice. The Unfair Labor Practice charge was filed over incidents of retaliation and bribery against workers who went on strike.
Almera said tensions between labor unions and the UC system has escalated. After two years of negotiating with the university for workers’ fair treatment and contracts, the labor union did not get a satisfying result from the university. The University of California administration has offered a final settlement with a 3 percent wage increase and a one-time lump sum payment of 750$ in 2018. However, this settlement was rejected by AFSCME leaders and there has not been another settlement since then.
Members from USAS said they will continue to push pressure against the university and AFSCME will organize boycotts against University of California’s events.
Photo courtesy of UC San Diego News Center.