A coalition of student workers and American Federation of State, County and Municipal 3299 representatives sent nearly 30 delegates to the University of California Regents meeting in San Francisco to reiterate their previous demands and protest a variety of the UC system’s practices. Students from almost every UC campus were in attendance, seven of whom came from UC San Diego.
Back in December, a statewide effort of student advocacy groups delivered letters of demands to all UC chancellors, requiring a response by Jan. 15. These demands included expanding livable wages and stable benefits to all UC workers, ending the practice of subcontracting labor, divesting from companies that they cite as having supported anti-Palestinian efforts, and ending compliance between campus police and federal immigration authorities.
“We got lots of really b——- responses from a lot of [our chancellors],” one speaker at San Francisco’s action said. “They need to stand with students. But we’re here to tell the Regents that they need to do better.”
Prajay Lolabattu, a student intern with AFSCME 3299 at UCSD and member of the UCSD Labor Commission, told the UCSD Guardian that the action at the Regents meeting was a response to this inaction from the chancellors.
“There hasn’t really been a good response to [the demands] or any action on that front at all,” Lolabattu said. “Today’s action was to let them know that we’re not backing down and we’re not going to just forget about it.”
In a Dec. 17 letter from Dwaine Duckett, vice president of Systemwide Human Resources, the UC administration contested a number of the student workers’ demands.
“As a matter of course, [the University of California] pays its service workers wages that are equal to, or are higher than wages paid by other employers for similar work in the communities surrounding our campuses and medical centers,” the letter reads.
On the issue of understaffing AFSCME workers, Duckett’s letter says, “We work hard to fill a number of vacant full-time AFSCME service positions as quickly as possible, but today’s ultra-competitive job market is a challenging factor.”
Responding to the calls for the UC system to divest from anti-Palestinian companies, Chief Investment Officer and Vice President of Investments Jagdeep Bachher wrote in a Jan. 11 letter, “[the University of California] does not make blanket divestments. Instead, we evaluate our investment opportunities from a risk perspective.”
One of the listed demands is for the UC system to establish and “enforce policies that will prohibit immigration enforcement and deportation activities on grounds and premises under UC jurisdiction.”
In November of 2016, the University of California released a statement, declaring that “Campus police officers will not detain an individual in response to an immigration hold request from [Immigrations and Customs Enforcement], or any other law enforcement agency enforcing federal immigration law, unless doing so is required by law or unless an individual has been convicted of a serious or violent felony.”
The list of demands delivered to the UC chancellors cites this statement to critique the UC system for instances of ICE agents appearing on UC campuses. The list demands that the UC system enforce its own policy.
In response to this demand, a letter dated Jan 11. was sent from Alexander Bustamante, the Senior Vice President of the UC’s Office of Ethics and Compliance.
“The Task Force for Universitywide Policing submitted [its] final draft report with recommendations to the President in the end of December 2018,” Bustamante’s letter reads. “The President will consider the recommendations and provide feedback.”
At the Regents meeting, the UC Student Labor Coalition listed their demands to a public comment panel of Regents, including UC President Janet Napolitano, during the time allotted for public comment at the Regent’s meeting.
As UC Santa Cruz student protester Viviana Salinas told the Guardian, “Napolitano was just staring at us, but wasn’t really reacting in any way. As soon as we started to chant, they all left.”
“They don’t actually want to hear what we have to say,” said protester Karter Lowell.
Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME 3299, addressed the crowd.
“These fights are bigger than each individual, and they also come down to each individual: every parent like me who wants to send his or her their kid to college, or every parent, like my predominantly black and brown co-workers, who need to send their kids to college, every kid here whose parents or guardians struggle to send you here,” Lybarger said. “Every parent like me who wants to send his or her kid to college, or every parent, like my predominantly black and brown co-workers, who need to send their kids to college, every kid here whose parents or guardians struggle to send you here. Our ability to win this comes down to us never quitting.”
“We will continue to put pressure on the Regents to hold them accountable,” Lolabattu said. “They’re in those positions because they’re supposed to be representing the students and the workers. The fact that they’re not responding is an issue.”
Lolabattu also said that it was important for students to recognize how much of an impact the issues have for them.
“Students don’t get fed or housed or have their dorms cleaned without these workers,” Lolabattu told the Guardian. “Even though it might seem like these are strictly worker-related issues, our issues are really tied. The only way we resist the University of California is by creating solidarity between workers and students.”
“We will be standing here one day, celebrating the victory that we’ve won,” Lybarger told the crowd.
The chair of the task force examining policing policies in the UC system will hold two remaining town hall meetings with students and student leadership at UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara to address questions and concerns.
photo by Tyler Faurot