Although finals have already been rescheduled for UCSB students, the lights are still on in many buildings as workers continue to maintain minimum services.
The western edges of the Thomas Fire are still miles away from the ocean-side campus, but the air quality in Goleta continues to be “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” according to the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District. Despite the air quality, approximately 30 UCSB workers wearing masks and holding a Teamsters Local 2010 banner protested in front of Cheadle Hall around noon on Wednesday, demanding that Chancellor Henry Yang send workers home with paid leave.
Teamsters Local 2010 is a union representing 600 UCSB workers, primarily in administrative and clerical roles. About 70 people work on campus maintenance.
“Some of our members are skilled trade workers, doing maintenance on buildings, on the yards, so this really hits them close to home. They’re spending most of their day outdoors,” Christian Castro, the communications coordinator for Teamsters Local 2010, told the Independent.
In a press release, the union noted that some workers have been unable to come to campus due to Thomas Fire. Just before the protest, Chancellor Henry Yang announced in a memo that workers could take two paid administrative leave days, applied retroactively between the dates of December 5 and 15. While it’s a start, UCSB library assistant Laurence Young said, it’s not enough.
“We were grateful for that, but we don’t think that’s sufficient because a lot of our members spent a whole week unable to come here,” said Young, who also serves as the campus representative for clerical workers. Some workers need more than two days off due to health problems from air quality, road closures, and family care. After using paid administrative leave, staff must use paid vacation days, sick time, or go unpaid.
Santa Barbara City College has canceled class and closed its campuses until Monday, urging faculty, staff, and students to go home. Santa Barbara Unified School District schools are also closed through winter break, reopening January 2.
At UCSB last week, thousands of students signed petitions urging the administration to cancel classes and finals. Campus administration finally caved to pressure to cancel exams from student leaders a day into finals week.
“UCSB remains adamant that there is no problem, that it’s business as usual. It took ‘em a very long time to finally cancel exams,” Young said. “Even though they’ve canceled exams and the majority of the student body has gone home, the staff were told that it’s business as usual.”
Yang has not yet responded to a request for comment.
“The most valuable resource we have at UC Santa Barbara is our people — our staff, our faculty, and our students,” Yang wrote in the memo. “We will continue to work to support those who have been impacted by the fire, and I want to extend my sincere thanks to those who continue to serve with dedication here on campus or from remote locations despite the challenges
presented by the fire.”