By John Williams
Last Monday, campus workers and UC Santa Cruz students rallied for wage increases during UC President Robert Dynes’ second visit to the UCSC campus.
About 50 students from the Student Worker Coalition for Justice (SWCJ) protested in front of the College Nine/Ten dining hall and demanded that Dynes release funds earmarked for campus workers. The protestors held signs and shouted slogans in an effort to gain the attention of Dynes and other UC leaders, who were meeting to evaluate the acting chancellor and consider options for the future. The students protested for over four hours with varying tactics and, after the meeting, two students were able to discuss their positions with administrators.
During the Student Town Hall on Feb. 28, Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal supported the release of the funds to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union. However, since the UC Office of the President holds the money, workers have yet to see any of it.
“The chancellor has said he was in support of releasing the funds, but no action has happened yet,” said Lilia Reynoso, a student organizer with SWCJ. Robert Dynes wants to use the money as a further bargaining chip.”
In February, AFSCME, SWJC, and unaffiliated campus students rallied at the chancellor’s office. A similar event occurred last year, when Denice Denton was chancellor. Blumenthal’s support is a major step forward, but the battle for students and workers on campus is far from easy. Campus worker leaders, in particular, face difficulties.
Julian Posadas, the chief local organizer at AFSCME for over 10 years, is leaving UC Santa Cruz to organize at UC Santa Barbara. Seth Newton, a top union organizer from Berkeley, will be stepping in to help UCSC workers until they can find a new leader.
“Ernie Encinas, a longtime union worker, will be helping Seth here at Santa Cruz until a new head organizer can be found,” Posadas told City on a Hill Press (CHP).
Encinas faces problems aside from the withheld salary funds. He and other union workers feel the College Nine/Ten dining hall target him for letting workers into the dining hall for free. This is against campus regulations, but workers and students from the SWCJ feel that dining hall staff keep a closer eye on Ernie because he is more outspoken than others.
“The union is going through an important struggle right now,” Reynoso told CHP. “To have trouble with leaders is hard, it breaks up our energy, and some of it feels to be deliberately imposed.”
Although they are going through a tough period, campus workers are expanding their struggle. SWCJ plans to work with area unions in an ongoing boycott of McDonald’s as part of a movement for justice for workers growing tomatoes in bad working conditions, and they have plans for expanded protest of the UC Office of the President to demand higher worker’s wages.