Decrying the University of California for paying unfair wages and refusing to negotiate in good faith on a new contract, thousands of healthcare, research and technical workers took to the streets for a one-day strike on campuses across the state.
At UCLA, the members of United Professional and Technical Employees and Communications Workers of America (UPTE-CWA Local 9119) packed the picket line in Westwood outside UCLA Medical Center where they were joined in solidarity by multiple other unions including AFSCME Local 3299 which is also in negotiations with the University of California.
The picketing union members and their supporters also welcomed a special guest. That’s right, Westwood experienced the Bern.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders declared that he was joining the demonstration not as a presidential candidate for 2020, but “as someone who has spent the last 40 years of his life walking the picket lines with unionized workers.”
“If we’re going to create an economy that works for all of us…we’re going to have to grow the union work movement, and workers are going to have to stand up and fight back,” Sanders said. “The time is long overdue for the American people to stand up and say ‘enough is enough!’ If you work 40 hours a week, you’re entitled to decent wages, entitled to decent benefits and entitled to be treated with respect and dignity.”
The Research and Technical workers of UPTE-CWA assert that the last two years of negotiations with the University of California have failed to produce an acceptable offer. The union called the daylong system-wide walkout to publicly challenge what they perceived to be growing inequality and the UC’s drive to privatize.
“Just because we work a job and we get paid for it doesn’t mean that we deserve to be treated like a second class citizen,” said Jenna Barrett, a psychiatric clinical social worker and the President of UPTE Local 2 at UCLA “Our fight is a real fight. This is going to be the future for the labor movement.”
Sanders echoed the sentiment that unions must wield power in order to force corporations to be good citizens and allow workers to get the treatment they deserve. He envisions a day when public universities and the University of Vermont in his home state may become tuition free.
“The struggle you are waging here is part of the struggle taking place in every state in this country,” Sanders told the crowd. “If I have anything to say about it – and I expect that I will – we are going to make it easier for workers to join unions, not harder. We are going to make it easier for workers to get a contract and demand that employers sit down and negotiate honestly and in good faith.”