By Maya Bakshani
With the potential expansion of UC Santa Cruz, the jobs and working condition of staff on this campus could change drastically. For staff who feel overworked and underpaid, the LRDP could prove to be beneficial.
Currently, workers are unhappy with their wages.
In a protest that preceded the Regents visit, UC custodial and service workers marched from the Bay Tree Bookstore to the base of campus last Wednesday demanding higher wages.
AFSCME seeks wages that reflect the high cost of livingin the Santa Cruz area, citing wages paid to workers at Cabrillo College and CSU Monterey Bay. Currently UCSC custodians start at $10.90 per hour while Cabrillo College custodians start at $13.90 per hour. UCSC also gives limited seniority payment perks.
The rally was led by the Vice President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local 3299, Julian Posadas.
Posadas is confident that workers will eventually receive higher wages.
"We struggled for over a year and we will continue to keep pushing until this issue gets solved," Posadas said. "We will continue until they give it to us. And we will continue to fight peacefully."
Posadas mentioned a custodian named Ben who has been working at UCSC for 23 years as an example of poor staff condition.
"These workers have families, they work two to three jobs just to make the bare minimum for their families," said Posadas as he lamented that Ben currently makes $14.00 per hour as compared to the more than $18.00 per hour that he would be making at Cabrillo College.
But UCSC Acting Chancellor George Blumenthal is attempting to improve the working conditions for all staff on campus now and in preparation of potential future development. He has submitted two proposals to the UC president which would improve wages for all under-paid staff.
"I’m not prepared to make a distinction between custodial staff, clerical staff and food service staff," Blumenthal said. "It seems to me if they’re low-paid they’re low-paid."
The LRDP, which calls for more buildings to account for more students and newer programs at UCSC could further impact the university staff.
According to Community Studies professor Paul Ortiz, what actually happens to workers on-campus as a result of expansion is not positive.
"The employees have said they are responsible for cleaning a much larger square footage. [The University] is not getting new hires to deal with new expansion," Ortiz said.
However, Blumenthal thinks that expansion will be good for workers. He said that some of the upcoming development will be dedicated to housing faculty and staff.
Sociology professor John Brown Childs hopes that expansion will be good for workers.
"This could be an opportunity for the University to reach out to the people who work here," Childs said. "It could be good for the custodians and therefore good for the university."