The UC System of Contradictions

Last Wednesday, Janet Napolitano sent out a “Note to (her) colleagues” that appeared in my ZotMail inbox. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first. I opened and skimmed it during my twenty-minute break at UTC. It stated that on her tour of the UCs, Napolitano was in awe of the UC system — impressed by the dedication and intellect of the students, inspired by the research faculty that is leading the world in change and enjoyed “the gorgeous, well-maintained grounds (she has) seen.”

Wait, what?

Because, if I remember correctly, as of the same Wednesday of last week, ASUCI voted to support the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME 3299, in their battle for a more deserved wage. Quoted from the New University  story, “ASUCI Backs Workers,” it was iterated that “the UC administration is establishing (a) wage freeze while unilaterally imposing a 1.5 percent increase to pension contribution … decreasing the amount of their take home pay.” Delving deeper into this issue, I contacted Lisa Lei, the EVP Labor Liaison, and she forwarded me a letter that the labor unions wrote to our UC Administration. It says that “even before these latest cuts, 99 percent of service workers were income eligible for some form of public assistance.”

And the day before that, October 16, a “Take Back UCI” rally took place and students mourned of the death of worker’s rights and the death of public education.

With the powder keg quickly filling up, and the administration’s lack of response, many students may ask, why is this battle so important? Simply put — it is winnable. With the insourcing, or the direct employment, of these workers, the UC system took responsibility for them. Very similar to the kind of responsibility that they took for us, students. That is why the solidarity of these two groups needs to continually be strongly emphasized. Because if they can force these changes upon these workers, what is stopping them from imposing a higher tuition on us, or more cuts in library hours?

President Napolitano’s visit to UCI will play a huge part in the outcome of this battle. And whatever is decided, will set a huge precedent for other institutions, unions, and universities throughout the country because the UC system preaches such qualities of being a university of the people, diversity and offering a quality and affordable education.

 

Kimberly Van is a third-year literary journalism major. She can be reached at kmvan@uci.edu.