|Office of the Chancellor / Public Affairs||
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Santa Cruz Sentinel 11-11-04
Students at UC Santa Cruz marched into labor talks Wednesday and threatened to shut down the UC system unless workers get a fair contract.
"Students are (angry)," said Eric Blanc, one of more than 100 students jammed into a conference room above the Bay Tree Bookstore, where contract talks were under way. "Tuition here is going up and services are going down."
Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, representing the Graduate Student Association, warned that teaching assistants would not cross picket lines.
"There will be no peace and quiet from us until there is justice," she said.
UC’s contract with the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees expired June 30. The union represents nearly 8,000 workers — bus drivers, custodians, groundskeepers and food-service employees — at nine campuses, including 550 at UCSC.
Workers want higher pay and a chance to advance, said Larry Cheek, a UCSC shuttle bus driver on the union negotiating team.
Cheek, 57, the father of four sons, said he hasn’t had a pay raise in two years. Before he became a bus driver, he was a professional drummer, a carpenter and an iron worker.
"Just because someone is a dishwasher or custodian, that isn’t the only thing they can do," he said. "A lot of people (on campus) work in dead-end jobs. You achieve a certain proficiency and you’re stuck. There’s no mechanism for advancement or cross-training."
Ernesto Encinas, a cook at Colleges 9 and 10, held up his pay stub for $955 and a photo of his young daughter.
"It’s hard when you work seven days a week and two or three jobs when rents in Santa Cruz County are over $1,000 a month," he said.
The talks nearly broke up when Freya Foley, UC’s chief negotiator, warned that anyone in the meeting room with a camera or tape recorder was violating state law. At the urging of union negotiator Paul Worthman, the cameras and tape recorders disappeared.
More than 250 people showed up at Wednesday’s rally, which was organized by AFSCME in front of the bookstore.
Among them were Javier Armas, a junior history major who helped organize support for the Safeway strike in Los Angeles, and sophomore Sofia Bell, who held up a sign reading, "I love my janitor."
Union organizer Tony Madrigal, who graduated from UCSC in 1998 and won a seat on the Santa Cruz City Council last week, led the marchers in a chant: "They say cut back. We say fight back."
History professor Dana Frank added, "Solidarity forever."
County Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt suggested UC negotiators toss out their bottom line and "go back and ask for a different set of numbers."
Foley, speaking for UC, thanked the students for their comment.
"We feel confident we can work on these issues," she said.
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