UC Workers Stand With Students in Fight for Public Education

The message from workers on UC campuses during Thursday’s statewide day of action was clear: The state’s lack of investment in public education affects workers as well as students. Not only are fee hikes making it impossible for California’s youth to afford a quality higher education, but budget cuts are also forcing thousands of workers to forego heath insurance and take mandatory days off – if they’re lucky enough to keep their jobs at all.

That’s why, during the March 4th actions to defend public education, UC workers from campuses across California walked out alongside students to protest the state’s unwillingness to fund K-12 and higher education.

UPTE-CWA 9119 President Tanya Smith:

The privatization of public education is impacting both workers and students, and everybody’s losing. Workers are losing their livelihoods and students their quality education.

The lack of state support for public education, while damaging and shortsighted, is matched by UC’s questionable allocation of the funds it does receive. UC is balancing their budget on the backs of workers while upper management gets lavish compensation, benefits and perks.

Kimberly Rojas, a union rep for National Postal Mail Handlers’ Union Local 302:

Our union made a resolution to support the strike today. It’s hard to get people to take a day off work, because they’re afraid. But you take the day off so you have a future. Where are we going to be if this keeps going? I don’t see the future, I really don’t.

The connections between education and jobs are too great and too many to ignore. For the individual, more education opens doors to better jobs; for families, better jobs mean a higher quality of life, which keeps people off the streets and out of jail. Even more simply, educational institutions create jobs within themselves.

AFSCME bus driver Jojo addressed the rally at UC Berkeley:

If we are here working today, we are here because of you students. You are fighting not only for yourself, but for all the poor people, all the poor families. We’re all in this together, we are one, we are with you.

And of course, solidarity with students also means solidarity from students. When workers join the fight for education, students will not forget them.

On the UC Berkeley campus, thousands of strikers chanted:

They say ‘fee hike,’ we say ‘on strike!
They say ‘furlough,’ we say ‘hell no!’

No one understands the importance of this worker-student partnership better than members of UAW, the graduate student union.

Rafael Velazquez:

As grad students, many of us are both workers and students, so we get both ends of this crisis. We are being used as disposable forms of academic labor, and our fees are being raised. We must ensure that the university respects all students and workers. The university is nothing without us. We are the university!

The message on Thursday from union leaders and members across the state was that we all must join together with UC workers in the struggle for a robust system of public education in California. Public education, along with the jobs and opportunities it creates, will only be saved if the legislature and the UC really feel the pressure from all Californians.