A group of students from the Executive Vice President branch of ASUCI, including EVP Melissa Gamble herself, protested outside of Aldrich Hall for the rights of the university’s domestic service workers last Tuesday around 4 p.m.
With a megaphone in hand, Gamble emphasized that while top University of California executives have annual salaries that include bonuses of $500,000 to $1 million, the average service worker only earns $24,000 to $32,000 a year.
“A lot of them are rendered invisible,” Gamble said, emphasizing that it is important for students to remember that the workers work long hours to support the students — both through their manual labor and their history of solidarity with student movements, including last year’s campaign to pass Proposition 30 in order to prevent budget cuts to the university.
The spontaneous protest was unannounced and, according to Gamble, the result of a meeting that occurred only minutes before during which the students were discussing the struggles of domestic workers both on and off campus.
Sanaa Khan, a fourth-year political science major involved with the EVP office, reminded passersby that one of the most egregious examples of the enormous disparity between the compensation for administrators and workers was the salary of former UCLA men’s basketball head coach Benjamin Clark Howland whose 2012 salary was approximately $2.2 million.
Few students stopped to observe the protesters vocalizing their concerns about the University’s structural inequities, with most gleaning only tidbits regarding the current state of workers’ contracts and wages as they passed by.
For Patrick Zhu, a fourth-year criminology major who did stop to observe the protest, this was the first he had heard of the cuts being forced upon against the wages of UC service and patient care workers. Zhu said that aside from his professor’s assertions regarding the University’s privatization, he wasn’t aware of the issues facing workers.
“It’s not right for a public school to have something like that,” Zhu said, referring to administrators’ exorbitant salaries.
While some listened to what the protesters were saying, others openly mocked their peers’ efforts. In response to Khan’s questioning of why the highest paid UC employee was a basketball coach, a Pi Kappa Alpha member patronizingly responded “Why?” as he walked in front of her.
Proving to be an anomaly, a student who was not a member of the EVP office approached Gamble and asked her to speak. Unknowing of what he intended to say, she reluctantly handed over the megaphone to him, acknowledging his freedom of speech — the same that had allowed her group to protest.
Taking the megaphone, the student uttered three words in solidarity with the protest.
“Shame on them!” he yelled, referring to the University and its treatment of workers. Declining to give his name, he maintained he wanted to stay anonymous, afterward disappearing into the vendor fair crowd. The protest concluded after half an hour. According to Gamble, police were called but were unable to reach their location due to heavy Ring Road traffic.
A legislation authored by At-Large Representative David Hollingsworth, who was also a vocal protester, will be presented for a vote in Legislative Council today denouncing the UC’s practices in regards to its workers and affirming ASUCI’s commitment to stand in solidarity with the university’s workers.