By Sujung Hahn, Katie Murar & Monste Reyes
“We have learned here [at] the university that we need to be united,” said 10-year AFSCME dining hall worker Maria Padilla. She spoke to a crowd of students in Spanish during the April 2 rally at the East entrance.
Standing in solidarity with the Union Auto Workers 2865, AFSCME workers, faculty and undergraduate students rallied at noon to discuss the importance of staying united in light of earlier arrests.
“I’m striking here to show solidarity for the TAs who work tirelessly to support this institution and offer us a great education and whose unfair labor practices are just unacceptable,” said undergraduate student Jennifer Gerosa. “I’m also here to stand against the oppressive tactics that were used today — the arrests of the 20 strikers. Those tactics are against the rights of student activists and against the rights of labor unions.”
Undergraduate student Joshua Scuteri stressed the importance of camaraderie within the protest, expressing his hope that more protesters show up tomorrow.
“I lament that not more people showed up, it’s a beautiful day and I don’t see why they don’t come and have some pizza with us. I don’t know if I can spread the word anymore, I am on two hours of sleep. I want to get the word out, but how do I do that? I’ve tried. I’m the weirdo on the bus. But I’m trying.”
While some were hoping for a larger turnout at the strike, other protesters were impressed by the number of undergraduates who came out to support graduate TAs. Multiple graduate student sources said more than half of the protestors present were undergraduates.
Third-year art major Brandon Pritzkat encouraged students to share why they are protesting by any means necessary. One suggestion was riding loop buses and conversing with fellow students and colleagues.
“I think tomorrow will be an even bigger turnout — I’m anticipating most people who came today will be here tomorrow,” Pritzkat said. “Today, we were able to shut off both entrances before people got arrested, so if everyone comes again and brings one more person, both entrances will be able to be shut down.”
At noon a rally was called to communicate sentiments of solidarity. Graduate student Evan Grupsmith said the rally’s goal was to “figure out how we can make tomorrow even more kickass and radical, and show the people who got arrested that we support them.”
The first speaker was Casey Carlson, a Soquel High School teacher who commended students for their presence and desire to be politically engaged. Despite the accounts of police intimidation earlier that morning, Carlson urged strikers to keep standing up for their rights without fear. She encouraged students leaving the strike to talk to people in order to increase attendance of the continued protest tomorrow.
Similar to undergraduates supporting the graduate students at the strike, many AFSCME workers, including Maria Padilla and Enriqueta Flores, rallied for UAW workers. Flores elaborated on AFSCME’s struggle with the university and though some of these demands have been met during previous contract negotiations, the battle appears to be ongoing — just like UAW’s.
“We see that we have to keep fighting for our rights and benefits that the university keeps trying to take away from us,” Flores said. “That is why we have not stopped fighting since we started here 10 years ago. We keep fighting all the time, for our contracts and for our rights.”
Padilla, who said she considered her boss to be the students, not the university, called for solidarity.
“The university is a monster who screws us over every single day,” Padilla said during the rally. “We’re here to help you with whatever we can and hope that the fight will continue.”
Recalling the AFSCME strike that was avoided through negotiations near the end of winter quarter, Padilla recognized the importance of mutual support between students and workers.
“I think it’s because [the administration] saw students were supporting [AFSCME]. They lose much more in five days than the raise they’d give us,” Padilla said. “We banded together, that’s the biggest thing we can see today. When we are together, we can divide and conquer the university.”