Students and faculty members from a variety of university labor groups held a teach-in demonstration on May 1, which is also known as May Day, in front of Geisel Library in solidarity with ongoing labor battles. The teach-in was the first event organized by the UC San Diego Solidarity Coalition, a group formed last quarter which consists of faculty members, labor union representatives and students from various organizations.
Since the nineteenth century, May 1 has been recognized by labor groups as May Day, in commemoration of the violent Haymarket Affair of 1886 in which about seven police and a dozen protestors were killed at a labor demonstration. Internationally, the day is celebrated with solidarity demonstrations and protests. Following the demonstration at UCSD, members from the Solidarity Coalition participated in the May Day march in downtown San Diego.
Chanting, “Who runs UC? We run UC” to a crowd of about a dozen students and faculty in front of Silent Tree, the demonstration brought up issues such as affordable housing and fair working conditions. Speakers from UC-AFT, AFSCME 3299, the UCSD student labor commission and UPTE-CWA 9119 took turns addressing the small crowd over a megaphone.
Collective Co-Chair Lecturer Allison Black of UC-AFT, the union representing librarians and lecturers at UCSD, was one of the first to address the crowd on the fight for affordable housing.
“At UC, we spend well over a third of our income on housing,” Black told the crowd. “It’s nowhere near affordable, not even close.”
The UC-AFT’s contract with the University of California is set to expire at the end of 2019, and the union is currently locked in an ongoing bargaining battle with the UC Office of the President. Some of the issues the union is hoping to negotiate for include a living wage, job stability, and long-term appointments, in particular for university lecturers.
Lecturers, unlike professors, are untenured and often are employed part-time. At UCSD, there are 189 lecturers on faculty and a little over 1,000 professors. Part-time instructors make up about 18 percent of the university’s teaching staff.
“On this campus, [lecturers] are more likely to be female and people of color,” Black said. “In terms of average salaries, because most of us are hired to be part-time, the average salary is $19,000 yearly. That means over a third of our lecturers are not eligible for health insurance. Many of the people teaching your classes are not eligible for health insurance [and are] not earning a living wage. ”
Black also highlighted the importance of having fair conditions for campus lecturers, arguing that “teaching conditions are learning conditions. When lecturers thrive, students succeed.”
Gladys Morrow from the executive board of AFSCME 3299, the largest union representing UC workers, argued that the UC Regents and the Office of the President had not been meeting their demands. The UCOP and AFSCME have been engaged in contract negotiations for about two years.
“We have been fighting with the UC [system] for a fair contract for two years,” Morrow said. “The executives gave themselves another 3 percent raise, but say that [workers] make too much money.”
Each speaker took the time to stress the necessity for solidarity in the ongoing labor disputes.
Prajay Lolabattu of the United Students Against Sweatshops told the crowd, “The UC [system] is scared. There’s a reason cops keep showing up to our actions. All united, we would have the power to bring down the entire UC system.”
Black and Morrow also implored the crowd to join the fight in their speeches, arguing that the issues affected not just laborers and faculty, but students as well.
Azriel Almera of the UCSD Labor Commission expressed to the UCSD Guardian that she felt the university demonstrations were a success.
“It went really well,” Almera said. “We had amazing speakers and a good crowd that grew as the teach-in continued. We got a lot of students interested about how they can help with the labor union struggles.”
AFSCME 3299 is set to strike against the UC system’s labor practices again on Thursday, May 16, which will be the union’s fourth protest in a year.
Photo courtesy of AFSCME.