UC San Diego Workers Demonstrate Throughout Campus on First Day of Strike

 A three-day strike organized by the UC workers union the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees 3299 began today at UC San Diego and the other UC campuses. The main cause for the strike is contract disagreements between workers and the UC system that have lasted for almost a year, bringing the tensions between the administration and the negotiators to a boiling point.

At around 11 a.m., strikers began marching from the Gilman Parking Structure near Geisel Library and made their way around the campus. First, the group circled around the Campus Services Complex, then marched up toward Geisel via the snake path from Earl Warren College.

The marchers stopped for a brief rally in front of the library by Silent Tree before continuing on toward Thurgood Marshall College, passing by the Chavez Legacy mural at Peterson Hall. Their final destination was the administration offices, where the group stopped in Matthews Quad at the center of the offices.

Here, a few speakers made a few rallying calls to their fellow strikers and union members. They made statements including, “The people are the power,” and “We are not to be ignored. We are the backbone of this university.”

The group cited the significant impact workers have on the campus, stating that the cleanliness and safety of the school are largely thanks to the work of union laborers.

AFSCME Local 3299 workers marched through Warren College on the first of a three-day strike. Photo by Tyler Faurot//UCSD Guardian

One speaker noted that “our dear Chancellor [Khosla] has the power to bring this all to a happy end. If not, we’ll be back.”

Angela Velasquez, a union member and laborer at UCSD told the UCSD Guardian, “Mostly, we’re here just for respect. We are protesting the inequality that’s grown here at the university, with respect to economic gender and racial issues they are seeing through their contract. They are fighting to try and address these inequalities, but the UC [system] has refused to.”

Elaborating on gender issues, she said that much of her work is dictated by her being a woman.

“There’s an uneven balance of workload between the men and the women,” Velasquez said. “Women are more concentrated in some job titles that are considered to be more woman-oriented, as opposed to more ‘manly’ work. The starting pay is different based on job titles, and generally, the generically women’s jobs pay less.”

One of the main objectives in the union’s contract negotiations is a wage increase for laborers. The union demanded a 6-percent raise, but the UC only offered as much as 3 percent over four years.

“There is a growing gap between workers at the bottom to administrators,” Velasquez told the Guardian. “What we’re asking for is not a lot compared to the rates of [the University of California] using taxpayer dollars to pay a Chancellor’s salary.”

“I hope we can come together so I can go back to my work and serve the students, which I enjoy doing here. Just like the people in the hospitals being able to go back and help their patients,” Velasquez said.

The strike is set to continue into Wednesday. It is expected that more marches involving larger groups of union members will take part in the coming days.

“If the university really wants what is best for students, they should come to the table,” Velasquez concluded. “What we’re asking for is not unreasonable.”

Main image by Tyler Faurot // UCSD Guardian

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