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The Struggle Continues: UCSC Custodians Demand Wage Parity
by Ryan Couture
Saturday Mar 11th, 2006 7:22 PM
The Project
March 2006
page 4

Worker exploitation at the foundation of western capitalism has never gone unchecked. From slave ship mutiny, to the implementation of the weekend and child labor laws won by early labor unions, to the victory of AFSCME workers for a better contract from the UC last April, labor has always found new ways to influence the decision-making bodies that impede their progress towards fair, safe, and dignified employment. Even in the wake of major social victories coming out of the labor, civil rights, queer, and feminist movements in the US, however, the fundamental system of exploitation remains, and the struggles continue.
Worker exploitation at the foundation of western capitalism has never gone unchecked. From slave ship mutiny, to the implementation of the weekend and child labor laws won by early labor unions, to the victory of AFSCME workers for a better contract from the UC last April, labor has always found new ways to influence the decision-making bodies that impede their progress towards fair, safe, and dignified employment. Even in the wake of major social victories coming out of the labor, civil rights, queer, and feminist movements in the US, however, the fundamental system of exploitation remains, and the struggles continue.

On Tuesday March 7, a crowd of almost two hundred workers, students, and sympathizers continued this struggle with a march from the Bay Tree plaza to the Chancellor’s house, to promote wage parity for the UC’s lowest paid workers. Right now, despite a major contract victory won in April 2005, UC custodian wages remain on average 13-30 percent less than CSU and community college custodians. The action Tuesday evening centered around a candlelit vigil expressing solidarity between AFSCME workers, other sympathetic unions and various student organizations (like MEChA de UCSC and the Student and Worker Coalition for Justice), and called attention to the embarrassing wage disparity felt by many UC workers (not just AFSCME). As it wound past McHenry Library and Kerr Hall, the march carried with it chants and cries for respect and fairness from UC administration. Fueled by recent reports of extravagant raises, luxuries, and perks for high-level administrators, the vigil reached the driveway of Denice Denton’s mansion, asking whether the budget crisis that the UC uses to defend its sub-standard wages is not in fact a distribution crisis that ignores this vital portion of the UCSC community. For years AFSCME workers have been forced to work without living wage compensation. For most workers this means working one, if not more, additional jobs just to support themselves and their families. And while these workers must struggle constantly just to feed, clothe and house their families, executive salaries, perks and luxuries continue to rise. And the struggle continues.

There exists a revolution in the minds of the masses of the world that screams “NO!” whenever an oppressive force steps in to place. We—the tired, beaten hope of this world, those of us who have no other option but to accept the oppression and fight against it—stand up now, like our ancestors before us. Our plea: tear down the walls erected to keep us, the community, apart, to shield us from the pain and suffering that confronts us on a local, national, global, and now universal level. It cannot be ignored. We walk past it begging next to a trash can downtown, glance over photos of it slowly burning to ash on the cover of the Times, live it between nine and five. Connect with this pain and make it your own struggle. STAND UP AND FIGHT, not just for yourself, but also for the betterment of the world you live in.

Get Involved! The Student and Worker Coalition for Justice meets 8pm Thursdays, Porter Room 144.
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