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The Protest that Wasn’t

blog_slugStudents and workers attempt to join forces against unfair management practices
Since the words “UC Santa Cruz Protest” generally bring to mind images of enraged students chanting, marching, blocking traffic and wreaking as much havoc as possible, the student/worker “protest” for accountability that took place April 7 would more aptly be termed a “discussion.” The 15 students and workers who attended decided there were too few bodies to hold a true protest, so they used the time together to discuss some of the problems facing UCSC: budget cuts, lay-offs, the suspension of the community studies major, and the lack of a cohesive group for students and workers.

Sasha Muce, a UCSC student organizer, had originally designed the event to address worker-management relations between the night custodial staff and management at UCSC. A press kit sent to the Good Times by Muce states that, “there have been ongoing written complaints of verbal abuse on almost a constant basis, discriminating based on both race and on physical disabilities. No action has been taken against the management responsible for these abuses.” Protesters planned to demand a worker-management conduct policy agreed upon by both workers and university management.

Instead, the group tried to figure out how to make their voices heard on these issues. About 45 minutes into the discussion, a group of five night shift workers—who had re-arranged their vanpool in order to attend the protest before starting their shift at 5:30—joined the group. Both students and workers expressed a desire to work together to address some of the workers’ complaints: reduced hours without reduced workload, the availability of only part-time shifts so they’re not eligible for benefits, and being assigned to do tasks that were not supposed to be their job. Some of the workers said they’re afraid to take any action because management would retaliate by subtly switching them to harder or less desirable jobs.

The students talked of shutting down the campus (as they did on March 4 of this year) so that workers, unable to go to work, could join them on the front lines, but they did not decide on a course of action. The students decided to meet again next week, as a newly reinvigorated Student Worker Coalition for Justice (SWCJ), and invited the workers to attend. The workers invited them to attend one of their union meetings. Both sides pledged to work together in the future.

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