Submission: An Open Letter to the UC Santa Cruz Administration

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We neighborhood/residential assistants (N/RAs) for UC Santa Cruz, as leaders in our community, feel the utmost need to speak out about concerns on this campus.

There will be a UC-wide workers strike in order to bring attention to low wages, cuts to their benefits and poor working conditions. This is in response to the administration’s refusal to give AFSCME 3299 its contract and instead impose UC’s own contract onto the workers. As such, workers and students (individuals and students organizations that have endorsed the strike: Student Union Assembly (SUA), SUA Office of the President, SUA Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Students for Justice in Palestine, Empowering Latino Advancement Through Education and Development, TWANAS, Prism) will be picketing at the entrances of the campus in order to protest the injustices and demonstrate their resolute stance in support of laborers’ needs across all UC campuses.

The UC Santa Cruz administration, in order to subvert the efforts of the strike, has asked that N/RAs work in their place. We refuse to believe that this institution has the well-being of students and/or workers in mind when they refuse to properly address food insecurity throughout the whole year and refuse to support the demands of AFSCME workers, which are to address gender and racial disparities. Demands include “fair wages, affordable health care, retirement with dignity, job security with no contracting out, ban the box, targeted local hire program, strengthened sexual harassment protections, increased wages for student workers and non-collaboration with ICE.”

This action by the UCSC administration does not reflect our community values of being “caring, purposeful and just.”

We are in solidarity with AFSCME 3299, and we will not work in the dining halls. We will not undermine workers’ dignity at this institution and we will not be complicit with the mandate of the administration. With this in mind, we refer to direct correspondence with Associate Vice Chancellor of UCSC Colleges, Housing and Educational Services (CHES) Sue Matthews. To quote, “We are asking all RAs be prepared to assist in the dining halls when/if the campus becomes inaccessible due to either a protest action or a strike,” and “[RAs] will ensure that there are toilet covers and toilet paper in restrooms.” We do not agree with this mandate. In order to respect the strike, we will not perform any duties of other university workers for the administration.

There have also been instances where N/RAs have experienced coercion to go against supporting the workers and were mandated to work in the dining halls with their employment threatened. This has occurred continuously for the past two weeks with conflicting information from supervisors and administrators as to what is expected of N/RAs. This is an act of illegal intimidation. According to the California Government Code Section 3562 (e), student employees share the same legal protections as other employees under labor law.   

As senior custodian Nicolas Gutierrez said, “What affects the workers affects the students and what affects the students affects the workers.”

In solidarity with the workers,

Twenty-nine RAs