By Will Norton-Mosher
Demonstrators gathered at the Quarry Plaza on Feb. 15 and marched to the chancellor’s office demanding an end to war and a living wage for campus workers. These protests were echoed by UC campus employees from the American Federation of State and County Municipal Employees (AFSCME) across the state.
The anti-war component of the event occured in conjunction with demonstrations in Santa Barbara, Berkeley, Sonoma, and San Francisco.
In Oakland, university staff protested on the steps of the office of UC President Robert Dynes.
At the Bay Tree Bookstore, Jaime Rodriguez, a graduate student and former food service worker, explained the connection between the anti-war movement and the need for wage increases for service workers. According to Rodriguez, economic pressures and low wages push young people toward army recruitment.
“The UC [system] is promoting poverty by paying their low-wage workers the lowest wages of any institution of higher learning,” Rodriguez said. “There’s really not much out there for some people…tuition keeps going up, but wages stay the same.”
Meanwhile, in Santa Barbara, almost 1,000 demonstrators left campus and blocked the campus entrance for an hour and a half, returning only after the California Highway Patrol arrested two demonstrators.
At UC Santa Cruz, students and staff marched together to Kerr Hall, where only two police officers were present—fewer than at previous protests. Several speakers condemned the war, the troop surge, budget cuts, and the wages that the university pays its workers.
One of the speakers, a custodial worker named Eduardo, said in Spanish, “Cabrillo College workers are better paid … all of us know if that if we were white they would have given us that raise.”
Though a handful of administrators, including Vice Chancellor David Kliger, were present, none spoke at the event.
Administrators say that the current wages are the result of the state turning down the university’s annual budget proposals, which was a result of lowered funding.
On Feb. 20, AFSCME, University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), and Coalition of University Employees (CUE) bargained with the University of California over a proposal that would increase workers’ yearly wage to at least $25,000 and provide additional increases to the lowest paid workers.