Several labor unions representatives and dozens of spectators gathered at UCSB yesterday afternoon to commemorate May Day, long an international celebration of workers, and to inform students about the ongoing labor disputes on campus.
The event was organized by members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE) union, along with various student groups. History professor Nelson Lichtenstein began the event by giving the historical origins of May Day in Europe and its significance to the labor movement in the United States. Daraka Larimore-Hall, vice-president of United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865, denounced the neglect of workers at UCSB, saying, “I guarantee everyone at this campus benefits from someone who is forced to work more than eight hours a day.” The UAW represents teaching associates, readers, and tutors in contract bargaining. Bob Pinto, a laborer and bargaining agent, emphasized the importance of these workers. “What we do is what keeps this place going,” he said.
Several of UCSB’s groundskeeping staff were on hand for the rally. They spoke to students and reporters about unfair hours, parking fees, and long commutes that the university does not take into account when negotiating wages. One man, who has worked at UCSB for two years operating machinery on the grounds, including those used in trimming and planting trees, said his salary is lower than the equivalent position for city employees. While the employees are not on strike, there has been a nine-month delay in finding a contract agreement with the University and tensions about prospective settlements are mounting according to the rally’s organizers.