Last May, I wrote my name on a piece of paper and participated in a walk-out with over one hundred UC workers to support income equality.
Last Friday, I received a phone call informing me of an oncoming union strike where I could once again do my part.
On Tuesday, I woke up at 6:30 a.m. to the excited shouts of strikers flooding through my open window from the edge of campus.
To protest the injustice of wage gaps and racial inequality running rampant amidst the University of California system, the workers’ union AFSCME Local 3299 held a strike from October 23rd to 25th, this time with a spotlight on patient care workers. These are the good people who work at our hospitals and attend to medical needs across UC campuses, but for their services they remain remarkably, and horrendously, under compensated.
Image via Facebook
Traditionally marginalized groups face the same discriminatory treatment from the University of California that we have been trying to end for decades. Behavior towards women, Blacks, Latinos and Latinas in the UC labor workforce reveals an ingrained system of inequality perpetuating wage gaps, income discrepancies, unequal employment opportunities, and outsourcing. Following the walk-out events of last spring, the UC administration continues to shirk the responsibility of improving conditions for its patient care workers, sparking this full fledged strike on campuses across California to call attention to the need for real negotiations.
Released in a white-paper report entitled “Pioneering Inequality” the union displays alarming statistics about discrepancies between the highest and lowest paid workers among UC employees. Starting wages for anyone other than white males take cuts from 10% to 23%, depending on gender or race. On top of this, Black workers are functionally disappearing from the UC patient care demographic, with UCSB in the top three perpetrating campuses. Meanwhile, the problem of outsourcing work to contractors instead of employees still continues to grow, and UC boasts a $15 minimum wage policy that is not being enforced.
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On the last day of this week’s strike, I encountered the protestors gathered around Storke Tower while gathering information about the movement, and had the privilege of speaking to student striker Ana Fabian Giron. A fourth-year sociology and Chicano studies double major, Fabian Giron told me about what this movement means to her, and why our solidarity is so important.
“We were heading up to Cheadle Hall to give a letter to Chancellor Yang about a specific demand,” says Fabian Giron about the beginning of her involvement, “and then I found myself in the middle of campus, in the arbor, marching along….” Together with friend Michael Kyle, she has been learning about and supporting the workers’ under UC since her second year of college, and proudly says she wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. “Sitting here at Storke Tower in the grass, listening to music, eating together… it’s just really empowering to see how workers don’t give up, and they give us so much hope.”
Comparing the troubles of student life to those of a patient care or service worker is no contest to Fabian Giron, and she encourages all fellow students to do their part and stand in solidarity. The gentrification of Isla Vista has been pointed to as yet another hurdle for employees trying to find housing, even more reason for UCSB to get involved. After three full days of protest, beginning at 4:30 a.m., Ana Fabian Giron still tells me that she feels fulfilled and loves what she’s been doing, that “if anything happens, we will always be here alongside them.”
Image via Facebook
The workers’ union AFSCME Local 3299 represents the lowest income employees for the University of California, and the most diverse population in the UC workforce. Statistics provided in “Pioneering Inequality” state that 79% of workers under this branch are non-white, facing racial-based wage gaps, and 56% are women who must endure unequal pay based on their gender. As UCSB students, it’s our responsibility to do our part and fight against an employment hierarchy that perpetuates discrimination right under our noses. We owe it to our campus, and every patient care and service worker who helps make it a home for us.
You can read the white paper “Pioneering Inequality” at the link below, full of even more information that the union worked hard to compile. Support your local UC employees by liking and sharing the AFSCME 3299 Facebook page, and stay tuned for more opportunities to get involved!