Dozens of students and UC workers spoke during public comment at the UC Board of Regents’ Wednesday meeting on topics ranging from addressing basic needs to stopping the outsourcing of jobs.
Nearly all of the students also echoed their support for contract bargaining by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, Local 3299. Members of AFSCME Local 3299 also gave public comment and urged the regents to stop outsourcing staff jobs to contract workers.
“We (will) keep fighting them,” said AFSCME Local 3299 President Kathryn Lybarder. “Honestly, our futures are at stake — we don’t have a choice other than to keep fighting for this until we win.”
During the board meeting’s public comment, UC Board of Regents Secretary and Chief of Staff Anne Shaw suggested limiting the number of union members speaking, because she said during the meeting that there was not enough time to accommodate all of the union representatives and all of the students. Both the workers and students, however, argued to have more union representatives speak.
Immediately after the board meeting’s public comment ended, AFSCME workers chanted, “Shame on you,” and “UC, UC, you can’t hide; we can see your greedy side.” UC Board of Regents chair George Kieffer called for UCPD to remove the AFSCME protesters, and UCPD officers stood in front of the protesters, stating that they would be arrested if they did not leave in five minutes.
The protesters continued chanting as they walked out of the auditorium, down the stairs and outside of the building. They marched in a circle outside of the meeting building for about half an hour before dispersing.
AFSCME Local 3299 has gone on strike twice this year, calling for the UC to stop outsourcing jobs. AFSCME Local 3299 member and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory bus driver Buster Howard pointed out that the wage increases offered by the university do not keep up with rising costs of living, especially in the Bay Area.
“We want to lay the foundation so that the ones who come behind us don’t have to fight for this … to be able to take care of our families,” Howard said.
During public comment, students also spoke about student homelessness and food insecurity and called on the university to divest from fossil fuels and support undocumented students.
According to a statement provided by UC spokesperson Danielle Smith during the October strike, AFSCME patient care and service workers are compensated “at or above market rates.” She said in the same statement that workers are provided affordable health insurance and retirement benefits.
Students’ basic needs were emphasized during committee meetings as well, when the Governance and Compensation Committee approved the creation of a Basic Needs Special Committee, which would be tasked with developing a long-term plan.
Student Regent Devon Graves, who helped propose the item, said a committee would help institutionalize conversations about basic needs to the Board of Regents.
“It’s really going to raise the level of the conversation about basic needs,” Graves said. “Along with what’s happening at the campus level and the university level, (this is) making sure the regents play a role as well.”
The special committee will release a report about basic needs in two years and will provide the regents with recommendations on how to best support students, faculty and staff. Graves also noted that the new committee will be an avenue for the university to communicate with state legislators on how to address UC-wide basic needs.
The new committee will exist in addition to work that addresses basic needs at campus and university levels, according to Student Regent-designate Hayley Weddle. She also noted that the committee will be able to look comprehensively at the many different facets of basic needs, including potentially financial aid.
“(Students) are not able to meet their basic needs,” said Vignesh Iyer, the UC Student Association’s Basic Needs Officer, during public comment. “I am urging all of you to pledge your full support to produce long-term solutions for basic needs and push to institutionalize funding for basic needs both from UCOP and from the state.”