Summary: Report on the University of California, Santa Barbara segment of the University of California campus workers strike and the text and video of a speech by a member of the Campus Marxist-Humanists at a strike rally at UCSB — Editors
Report on the Strike — by Dylan K
Santa Barbara, CA — On May 7th, thousands of students across the ten-campus University of California system were awakened to the blaring sounds of air horns, megaphones, and chants conducted by the striking workers and their student allies as the workers began a three-day strike. At this point, fifty-thousand workers across the entire university system had gone on strike to protest the UC’s substandard and humiliating contract offer, following reports of inequality, police violence, and food/housing insecurity.
The strike call predominantly came from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 representing the campus service workers, with a sympathy strikes from the University Professional and Technical Employee’s (UPTE) and the California Nurses Association (CNA). Predominantly people of color, AFSCME workers faced extreme food insecurity (an Occidental college study found around 70% of members to be food insecure), unequal wages (studies conducted by the Union show the average hourly starting wage of Black women to be $2 less than the average starting wage of white men), and the growing cost of living in California. Despite these facts, the University system tried to undercut the workers with a measly two-percent wage increase while raising healthcare contributions and the retirement age. The University also refused proposals to stop collaboration with ICE, privatization of retirement benefits, and contracting out unionized jobs.
However, in the face of the University system, workers remained confident in their collective power by walking out for three days. On the ground, there was a hopeful atmosphere as the workers took this time as a bonding experience within a shared class struggle. In the early afternoon, union members and hundreds of their student supporters participated in the “funtivities” — dancing, eating cultural and local food, relaxing to cultural music, and at a point some members even sung some karaoke. Afterwards at lunchtime rallies, participants listened to passionate speakers from various backgrounds supporting their cause. Then, workers and students would go on long marches throughout the campus, causing disruptions to essential operations.
Throughout the strike, the atmosphere remained quite radical, with one of the main strike leaders yelling the famous Che Guevara quote, “to victory”, with a cheerful echo from the crowd. The workers realized the disparity of their condition within the broader capitalist world, joking amongst themselves about their struggling supervisors and dismayed university administrators. In fact, one member joked, “Call me crazy, but I am becoming a radical from all this fighting.” By the end of the strike, some union members were calling for longer strike until the University met their demands.
At this moment, as bargaining between the University and the Union resumes, the administrators are still trying to ignore the largest strike in University of California history. AFSCME, on the other hand, took the strike as an outstanding victory that showcased its organizational power and student support. The outcome at the bargaining table, however, remains unclear as the University has yet to listen to the Union’s demands. However, workers hope to obtain a fairer contract saying that if the University continues to ignore their just demands, a strike of greater proportions looms.
Speech at Strike Rally on May 11 by Mariah Brennan Clegg
My name is Mariah Brennan Clegg, my pronouns are they/them, and I’m a sociologist. I’m part of Campus Marxist-Humanists, the UAW, and Bonfire Collective, a local media collective that sells radical books and Zapatista coffee.
When you look around campus, who do UC? I see the people who make this campus work facing economic insecurity, rising health costs, and shrinking retirements.
Who do UC the UC work for? I see unelected regents and administrators stuffing their pockets with stolen funds from stolen labor on stolen lands.
When you look around campus, who do UC? I see undocumented students with uncertain futures, working to achieve their dreams.
Who do UC the UC work for? Timid by-the-book administrators who fear federal action against sanctuary campuses.
When you look around campus, who do UC? I see my students sitting on floors in crowded classrooms trying to crash classes with overworked TAs so they can graduate on time.
Who do UC the UC work for? I see the UC Office of the President creating a crisis of over enrollment to increase their revenues while resisting calls for more faculty, staff, classrooms, dormitories, and public funding.
When you look around campus, who do UC? I see my colleagues in sociology teaching social justice and research ethics and how to work together to make a world worth saving.
Who do UC the UC work for? I see Raytheon buying our engineering curriculum, the Department of Defense and CIA hijacking our funding, ROTC training in our fields, Marines recruiting by our library – siphoning our resources so it can practice destroying people abroad before pointing their weapons toward us.
As an anarchist and a Marxist-Humanist, it does not surprise me when an institution of the state acts like a corporation. And as a sociologist and worker, I know that this place won’t work for us until we force it to.
Now, you know what’s funny? All those people who the UC works for? They’re not around. They’re pretty scarce. I saw a couple cops around, trying to corral us. The regents? They’re not in my classroom. They’re not in my office hours. Do you see them in the hall?
You know what else is funny? All those people who make the UC work? I can see those folks. They’re in the crowd right now. They’re here and they’re mounting this struggle. You have the power to grind this place to a halt. You have the power – all you need to do is take it. And if you have the power to grind this place to a halt, by god you have the power to make it better. Not through reform. But by taking what’s yours.