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What Is The UCSB Campus Democrats Labor Caucus?

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCSB chapter.

Recently, I began working an on-campus job at UCSB, and it has been a wonderful experience; my coworkers are kind, my manager and supervisors are respectful of my responsibilities as a student, and my schedule is flexible. At my specific job, I get paid $15.75 per hour. For my personal financial situation, this wage is suitable — but, the truth is that I am the exception. Many UCSB employees have much larger financial burdens to take on, such as paying their own tuition or rent. Groups dedicated to advocacy for such students are few and far between at UCSB, but a new organization on campus called the UCSB Campus Democrats Labor Caucus has emerged. This organization is one of the only campus organizations advocating for higher student wages.

Some UCSB workers and students see a need for an increase in the minimum wage for UCSB Workers. As we saw with the TA strikes, UCSB — and the greater UC system — has become quite the hub for labor unionization. Additionally, the cost of living in Santa Barbara is exceedingly high, in Isla Vista it is estimated to be $2071 per month. Some quick math shows that a student making $15.75 would have to work an average of 32 hours a week just to get by, and that number does not factor in extra student costs such as tuition, books, transportation, etc. The UCSB Campus Democrats Labor Caucus is devoted to addressing this issue and others like it.

To learn more about this organization, I spoke with Zadie Waletzko, the vice president of UCSB Campus Democrats and co-chair of the labor caucus.

What Is A Labor Caucus?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, a caucus is a group of people who gather with the intent of pursuing a specific goal usually pertaining to a political issue or a candidate. The UCSB Campus Democrats Labor Caucus is a group dedicated to the issue of labor advocacy at UCSB. Zadie explained that the organization began at the beginning of the Spring 2023 quarter after the UCSB Campus Democrats executive board attended the Young Democrats Retreat and participated in a workshop put on by their labor caucus. Zadie and the other executive board members of UCSB Campus Democrats believed it was important for a similar caucus to be present at UCSB since “inflation has contributed to an incredibly high cost of living in Santa Barbara, and wages have not been increased to account for this.”

Zadie explained that many UCSB students also work for the school and “lack the resources to fight for better conditions, treatment, and payment.” Therefore, the Labor Caucus is a great resource for student workers. Zadie described the organization’s goals to “endorse pro-labor candidates in different races, lobby on bills that advocate for workers, and form unions across Santa Barbara.”

Taking Action

Currently, the minimum wage at UCSB is $15.50, but wages range from $15.50 to $40 an hour for some positions. The UCSB Campus Democrats Labor Caucus is currently working with the Student Labor Action Coalition (USLAC) at UCSB to fight for an increase in the minimum wage from $15.50 to $25 an hour for all UC workers. The caucus and USLAC held a joint rally during the Spring ‘23 quarter as a part of a campaign to raise UC minimum wages, and another rally is currently in the works.

The organization also holds open meetings every other week to discuss “different campaigns we can work on and ways to increase membership.” Zadie explained that many of the members of the caucus are student workers who are under an “immense pressure to complete their studies, get internships, and participate in extracurriculars.” She hopes that the labor caucus can help advocate for the rights of student workers, as it is critical to protect the “mental and fiscal well-being” of UC workers.

As a student worker, I think it is extremely important that organizations like this exist to help support the community of students employed by UCSB. If you are interested in labor advocacy, or if you are a student worker at UCSB too, check out the interest form located in the instagram bio of @ucsbcampusdems.

Thank you to Zadie Waletzko for her contribution to this article.

Hi! My name is Hailey, I am from Seattle and a third year political science major here at UCSB!