Across all UC campuses and medical facilities, 9,000 UC service workers of the AFSCME Local 3299 union will cease work from May 7-9. This means for three days the UC will be without custodians, dining hall workers, bus and truck drivers, mailroom workers and laborers, among others included in the service workers bargaining unit.
Unions are required to give the UC a 10-day notice before striking and on Thursday, a group of about 60 workers and students delivered this message en masse at UC Santa Cruz.
Union members and advocates gathered outside Kerr Hall at noon on April 26. It was there that AFSCME bargainer and loop bus driver Kevin Parks presented a formal, written notice to the administration.
After a year of unsuccessful contract negotiations, 97 percent of AFSCME 3299 members voted in favor of the strike. Last Friday, a day after the consensus was reached, the UC decided to implement contract terms the union did not agree to.
“It’s UC that’s imposing these terms on workers,” said AFSCME 3299 communications director John de los Angeles, “and it’s UC that has the power to avoid a strike if they want to invite us back to the table and give us meaningful proposals on our issues.”
On campus, the crowd then proceeded from Kerr Hall to the area outside the College Nine and Ten Dining Hall to make a verbal announcement to Chancellor George Blumenthal, who was in a meeting upstairs at Terra Fresca. After a student requested he come down, Blumenthal briefly joined the workers and students.
Senior custodian of College Nine and AFSCME 3299 member Nicolas Gutierrez, wearing an “I AM ready” pin and holding a megaphone, led chants and announced the union’s message.
“After this, we just want to let you know that we are going on strike,” a video showed Gutierrez telling Blumenthal. “It’s set, it’s done, it’s the 7th, the 8th and the 9th and if we don’t get our contract and UC doesn’t do the right thing, then we’re going to strike — workers and students in solidarity together.”
Blumenthal announced he heard the crowd’s concerns but only had one minute of time. This was met with frustrations and assertions that he was not doing enough.
“He’s always said in the past […] that he’s advocating and doing the best he can for us and I know that’s not true,” said Gutierrez, who’s held the position of senior custodian for 23 years. “We never hear anything, we never see a signed letter or statement that he’s really advocating.”
Blumenthal left amid shouts of “Blumenthal, Blumenthal you can’t hide. We can see your greedy side.” UCSC administration declined to comment on the interaction.
Student Union Assembly President Max Jimenez was among the students in solidarity with the workers and expressed her frustration with the UC’s refusal to meet union demands.
“[UC administrators] just don’t understand why workers are doing this. […] Workers don’t want to do this, they don’t get paid for this,” Jimenez said. “This is a lot of labor for them. They’re doing this because they’re tired and they’re fed up with the way that the university is treating them.”
Many members of the student body are also particularly upset by the university’s requirement for residential assistants to assist with dining hall and custodial work during the strike.
“It’s such a disrespect to the strike and to the workers and what they’re trying to fight for,” said Jimenez, who is also a former Kresge College residential assistant. “And it’s also a disrespect to the RAs who are also students.”
Despite the orders, many residential assistants and other students still plan on supporting and participating in the action. Over 15,000 AFSCME 3299 patient technical care workers also approved a solidarity strike.
“We’re ready to go on strike and we’ll do whatever it takes,” Nicolas Gutierrez said.