Frustrated Faculty Take to Direct Democracy
Exasperated, University of California employees took to the polls to express their frustration with UC President Mark Yudof.
The informal, democratic process began Thursday when concerned union employees gathered in a tent at the Bay Tree Plaza. Organizers asked interested and passing faculty members if they would like to cast a vote.
The ballot took voters only a couple of minutes and asked faculty if they had “Confidence” or “No Confidence” in Yudof’s performance so far. The polling took place on UC campuses statewide.
Ernesto Encinas, a cook for the College 9/10 Dining Hall and active union member, helped organize the event and recruit voters. He expressed distaste for upcoming furloughs, hour reductions and layoffs targeting a large number of university workers, in addition to fee increases for students.
“These guys have no compassion,” he said. “They have no heart and no soul, no heart and soul. And it greatly impacts our lives. That’s why we’re doing this. This is a democratic way of voicing our concerns and bringing them to light.”
The vote was planned by UC workers and union members in response to the furlough plan which will go into effect this fall for professors and non-union workers. The plans have yet to be accepted by the unions that work with the University of California.
The proposed plan would result in an increase of both voluntary and involuntary vacation days and effective pay cuts of 4% and up for many employees.
The vote was a coalition effort between several unions on campus. These unions included AFT, which represents librarians and non-senate faculty, CUE, which represents clerical workers, UPTE, which represents technical employees and AFSCME, which represents custodial and food staff, as well as bus drivers.
UCSC Reference librarian Ken Lyons is concerned about how layoffs both in the classroom and in the library will affect students. Lyons, also an AFT contact, stepped out of his office on a slow summer afternoon at McHenry Library to show his support in the Bay Tree Plaza.
“With the layoffs that have been put into effect, what that’s going to mean is that there are going to be fewer classes,” Lyons said. “What classes there are will have more people in them. There will be more competition for classes, which means its going to be harder to get your required classes, which means it’s going to take you longer to graduate… which means you’re going to pay even more for your education.”
Peter King, Director of Media Relations for the University of Califonia Office of the President, called the vote “just a political stunt” that “has no meaning.” He believes it is only a distraction from the union’s negotiation process, which ends Wednesday, Sept. 2nd He insists the cuts have been across the board and as fair as possible.
“We want to get through this,” he said. “We want long term solutions, but it doesn’t help that these unions don’t want to negotiate and don’t want to take their portion of the pain.”
Many workers say they have taken all of the pain they can. Yrene Marquez, a food service worker worried about her own job security, came to cast her vote. Marquez is frustrated that she not been getting the hours she believed she would get when she started in February. She saw her workweek go down to 30-35 hours a week in July, and it has been decreasing ever since.
“I was under the impression that there would be curtailment during the summer, but not to this extent,” she said. “To go from 40-45 hours a week during the school year to 6 hours a week during the summer is pretty ridiculous. I’m not going to be able to pay my mortgage. I’m not going to be able to work here anymore.”
Voting can be done online by interested faculty at upte.org and will continue through Wednesday, Sept. 2nd.