AFSCME Strike Interviews

November 02, 2018

Bianca: Fall 2018 Intern

AFSCME is the largest employee union in the country with unions all over the country. They fight against social issues like health care and benefits. This strike in particular was to end outsourcing. Employees were fighting to keep their contracts and stop employers from contracting outside work. Another issue they faced with their contractors were that employers were not giving workers enough time to review and fight the contract before it is implemented. I was able to go to the stike and I spoke to two different ladies. The first woman cleaned the dorms and bathrooms; I did not catch her name because she left before I finished the questions. The second was a bus driver named Jene. They shared their story with me.


How long have you worked with UCSC?

Woman:20 years

Jene: 13 years

What is your position/job on campus?

Woman: Cleaning dorms

Jene: bus driver

How long have you been with the union?

Woman: 10 years

Jene: 9 years

What time did you get here?

Woman: 7am

Jene: 6am

Where are you from?

Woman: Watsonville

Jene: Santa Cruz

How do you get to work?

Woman: Carpool van that cost $20 a month

Jene: parks car near campus and moves it on her breaks

What is a short term goal?

Jene: Getting a new contract with enough time to review it before it is implemented

How does support from students help?

Jene: It brings more people which gives the cause more attention

Do you feel like the union voices your opinion? If not, what would you like to change

Jene: Each strike is different and fights for different demands. Today is trying to fix our contracts which is something we want to fix.

Dan: Fall 2018 Intern


Before researching AFSCME, the only thing I knew about the strike was that it was a union strike about wages. After researching and interviewing, I got a much better sense of the demands of the union, the problems with the UC employment system, and a better idea of what it is like to work for this UC. The first person I interviewed was a man in his sixties named Wayne. He said he had been working as a loop bus driver for about 3 ½ years, and was at the picket simply because of equity imbalance. He noted that he wasn’t concerned about his own wage, but that he was standing in solidarity with the workers who were there for longer than him and not receiving the benefits they deserved. We talked about a graph he was standing next to that depicted the number of employees in the UC system that made over $500,000 a year Compared with UCLA, which had a few hundred employees in that bracket in 2017, UC Santa Cruz had 0. He really put into perspective the unfair wages that UCSC in particular pays, even though the entire UC system pays unfairly. He also noted how the median early career salary at UCSC was lower than the threshold for government assistance. His primary goal for this strike is to get a better contract.

            The second guy I talked to was in his mid-thirties and was named Forrest. He has been working for the UC system for over 15 years and is still forced to live on his parent’s property outside Santa Cruz because the UC has not raised his wage to a living rate. He told me that when he was first hired, his wage to living expense ratio was 1:10, and now it is 1:13, so his situation is only getting worse. On top of that, his retirement has now been pushed back 5 years and he has lost other benefits as well. His goal simply is to be able to do his job well full-time without having to worry about expenses or how he will pay for retirement. After 15 years at the same job for the largest employer in Santa Cruz, I think that demand is more than fair.