Clad in bright green, protesters took to UC campuses across California this week to stand with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299.
In late April, the UC system settled on a contract that unfairly went against many of the requests of the employee union — such as a 3 percent wage increase annually for four years, when the union called for a 6 percent increase each year for three years. Additionally, it would also delay retirement for five years and continue to outsource jobs to low-wage contractors.
Instead of trying to address workers’ rights, the UC has routinely shown disdain for these peaceful protests. In a press release from the UC Office of the President, the administration called it “highly inappropriate that AFSCME is now using a strike as a negotiating tactic.” But after a year of fruitless discussions, what could be more appropriate than this?
The past three days have shown that with UC workers on strike, medical services, dining halls and classes are all significantly impacted. These are the workers who are making the lowest wages in the UC system, but they make up our foundation. The UC system’s penny-pinching doesn’t just disrupt the university — it disregards the importance of some of its hardest workers.
And if, despite these protests, the UC system goes through with denying workers the financial benefits they are requesting, can students and faculty trust that it will put its resources to good use? In a 2017 state audit, the UC Office of the President was found to have hidden $175 million in budget reserve funds. In the face of looming tuition hikes and underpaid workers, the university’s top administrators have found their pockets bulging with salary increases and lavish benefits.
The UC’s failure to act has led to U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, backing out of speaking at UC Berkeley’s 2018 commencement ceremony. Although this news disappointed many graduating seniors, it has rightly elevated the urgency of this issue.
By reducing its workers to numbers on a pay stub, the UC is dehumanizing the people who play an integral role in the university. What this strike has reinforced is that our campuses aren’t just made of lecture halls, offices and residence halls — they’re made of the real people who are struggling to make living wages and be heard.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.