Workers on strike, graduate students and bystanders joined in the K7 rally, many carrying signs by AFSCME Local 3299 reading “Secure Future For All.” Photo by Brandon Saglam

After two years of working, bargaining and most recently striking under an expired contract, members from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 Skilled Crafts Unit (K7) and the UC Santa Cruz administration reached a new contract on Jan. 21.

Prior to the announcements of the new contract, the K7 unit held an open-ended strike that lasted 16 days. Members unanimously voted to strike against substandard pay and low staffing levels.

“The K7 unit is a unit that, under AFSCME 3299, exists only at UC Santa Cruz,” said AFSCME 3299 spokesperson John de los Angeles on the first day of the strike. “What is important for students to note is that what is happening to these workers here in this unit is indicative of what’s happening at a larger scale around the UC system.”

In the past three years, UCSC has served as the location for other AFSCME Local 3299 unit strikes. The K7 unit was the first to hold an open-ended strike, resulting in a complete stoppage of typical work schedules for the skilled craft workers and campus functionality for students, staff and faculty.

As of Jan. 21, the UCSC K7 unit was the first AFSCME Local 3299 represented unit to ratify an agreeable contract with the UCSC administration since the contracts’ expirations. The AFSCME Local 3299 Service Unit (SX) followed, attaining their new contract on Jan. 22 after bargaining and striking since 2017.

The notice of a new contract came from a press release from UCSC’s Sarah Latham, the vice chancellor of business and administrative services.

“The campus values the hard work of its skilled tradespeople and the managers and supervisors who help to maintain our infrastructure and keep the campus safe,” said Latham in the press release.

Latham detailed the updates to the skilled craft workers’ contract, which includes a 21 percent “across-the-board” salary adjustment that will be implemented between December 2019 and October 2023. The salary adjustment includes an additional 3 percent increase at time of ratification and another 3 percent every October. The complete list of contract agreements has since been shared with the entirety of the UCSC directory.

The new contract states that the K7 unit is prohibited from striking during the life of the contract, which expires on Oct. 31, 2023.

“K7 has shown us strikes work,” said Carlos Cruz, a history department graduate student, at the skilled workers rally on Jan. 17.

With the announcement of the contract, skilled craft workers returned to work on Jan. 21.

Additional reporting by Brandon Saglam