Although the number of protesters marching at UCSB has increased since yesterday, negotiations have not yet begun between the University of California and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)-which represents both service workers and healthcare workers across the UC system. This morning, in anticipation of the arrival of the UC Regents for a meeting at UCSB’s Corwin Pavillion, AFSCME bussed in striking workers from all over the state to join UCSB’s workers to protest what they said has been a failure of the UC to bring a reasonable offer to the negotiations. At least 200 protesters were presents, wielding signs and chanting slogans in English and Spanish. There was a high concentration of law enforcement personnel in the area as well, with the meeting place cordoned off from the public.
In a press release, the UC stated a commitment to increasing the wages of its healthcare workers by up to 26 percent over the next six years, and the service workers from $10.82 to as much as $12 per hour, depending upon location. However, service workers have expressed a desire for at least $15 per hour to keep up with the rising costs of living. “Eight years ago, it was fun to work here-not anymore,” said Tony Ortiz, who has worked at UCSB for 15 years. “We were one of the top paid jobs in Santa Barbara County then. Now we’re one of the lowest paid.” Richard Haug, who has been a grounds worker at UCSB for three years, said that he initially began working for the University because of the decent pay and solid benefits. “I’ve had an increase in pay of less than $100 over the last three years,” he said. “They’re spending more on the Long Range Development Plan and new construction than on their workers.”
The UC Regents are scheduled to discuss the topic of a service worker contracts and continued negotiations as their meeting continues tomorrow. In a press release today, UC officials stated that they still view the strike as illegal, and expressed disappointment at what they said has been an unwillingness by union officials to meet for negotiations. As initiated, the strike is scheduled to last for five days.