Dylan Kupsh

Dylan Kupsh is currently enrolled in a graduate program focusing on
Computer Science at UCLA. During COLA, he was in his 3rd undergraduate
year where he was a double major in Computer Science and Sociology.
During his time at COLA, he helped lead many graduate students in
creating events for COLA. He was one of the individuals who devised
the Ortega strike: All Smiles, No Swipes that fed thousands of
students by encouraging students to walk into Ortega and eat.


My name’s Danyela Ornelas. I’m currently interviewing Dylan Kupsh regarding his role in the COLA. So what year and major were you when you first joined COLA?

COLA was my third year. I was a computer science and sociology major.


Did anyone introduce you to COLA?

Not really. I was really involved in the union prior to that and so I was like up to date. And so, you know, everyone, right when I started, it was all of us sort of making it happen.

Yeah, I think that was really difficult to just plan as you go on.

Yeah. It was scary, too, because I was a union officer at the time and I kept getting emails from people in the union saying, don’t say anything about COLA, don’t do anything about COLA.

I know that’s been really scary, especially when harsh punishments were being given to UCSC COLA organizations as well.

But I remember we first started in the fall of that year and it was more like UCSC rebelling against the union. And then it kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger until it like, dwarfs everything else.

Okay. So I know you mentioned that you were also part of the union, but was there anything else that caused you to join the organization and what exactly was your role in this?

Yeah. So as a little background, I was in USLAC, which is the undergrad student labor organization, and then I was also in Students for Justice in Palestine and UAW 2865. And so I was doing a lot of the organizing work on campus with the union UAW. I did a lot with AFSCME Strikes in the past. A lot of my role was trying to constantly expand COLA and also helping out a lot with logistics and planning and relaying what I learned from the AFSCME strikes to COLA– what we’ve learned was successful and what was less successful and also trying not to repeat mistakes that others made.

Yeah. What was the most significant protest to you?

For me, the most significant one was the Blackout day.

Oh, that’s right.

You know, like the days before I was like, oh, this might not be that big. We’ve only been getting like 200 people up the picket line. But then the day of, there were so many people. I think we made a smart decision and we went through the library which made the line go on for like 5 minutes. So there was a constant stream of people marching for COLA. And it was like, Wow, we really did that.

That’s incredible. That’s so inspiring. I understand that your Cheadle hall strike was a tad controversial but regardless it was pretty major.

Yeah. The second part of the Cheadle Hall strike was more impromptu.

Are there any current plans for COLA to bring more awareness to this organization?

I mean, we never really got the goal that we wanted, which is COLA. We were not pushing strong enough, I think. And then the other thing is just that it takes a lot of effort to get to the university and to strike. And I think we would have gotten it like if we were able to get like one or two more quarters. I think that it would have just continued to grow a lot. To the point where we were like Santa Cruz and actually shutting down the campus where people can’t get in and stuff. But I still want that goal.

Yeah, that’s a very important goal. Would you say a factor in not achieving a COLA was due to possibly the pandemic?

Oh, it was totally the pandemic. 100% the pandemic. I think it’s different when you’re at your own campus, like when we’re at Santa Barbara and we can talk to everyone. And everyone at Santa Barbara was on a very similar page about COLA and, or most of the people I talked to. But then when we get into these union conversations, it’s like a bunch of infighting and it’s exhausting. And it’s like people on my campus were wanting to do this and then saying, “Oh, you have to do something else”. And people here weren’t very receptive to that. Yeah, but I do think the pandemic played the biggest role though. Yeah.

Yeah, I remember I was a freshman when this happened, so I remember it being a huge explosive thing and then by spring quarter it just disappeared. I couldn’t believe the university is really failing their own TAs, their own students despite their goal of education.

It was close, I think. I think it’s harder to strike online, but I think we got really close to being able to do it again. But yeah, that was how it ended.

So how do you feel as one of the COLA representatives about the current housing crisis going on at UCSB and in Isla Vista?

Inevitable. I think it’s like the university’s own problem where instead of actually doing their job and building housing and actually trying to host students, they put all of their money in some millionaire to try to fix all their problems, which will probably never come to
fruition.

Yeah. Funny enough, my, my follow up question was going to be, what is what are your personal thoughts on Munger Hall?

Yeah. Yeah, it’s kind of funny because Santa Barbara really needs housing and there’s so many places to build housing. And they haven’t been building housing for like so many years. And then they get this Munger Hall proposal, which is some billionaire (woooo) and then the other proposal that they keep spouting– the Ocean Road one– I remember it receiving a lot of criticism because it was going to cut down the eucalyptus trees and the tunnel. They were going to take out the tunnel. They’re really trying hard not to build housing.

Oh, it’s absolutely crazy. If there is one thing you could change about COLA what would it be?

I mean, not to have the pandemic, I think, would be the biggest one, but outside our control. You know, personally, I think I should have been like start more active from the beginning. But yeah, I don’t know really what to change about the overall movement. I guess there’s a lot of things I think should have played differently around internal racism. And I think there is a lot of interpersonal conflict toward the end that I wish would have changed.

Do you have any final words you’d like to say regarding COLA or to the university?

I don’t think it’s going away. I think it’s going to be continued in a year or in a few years. I think that at some point everyone’s going to say we’re fed up with being so ridiculously underpaid for the work that people do at the university itself. And I think when it comes back, it’s going to be stronger because it’s not just going to be mainly grad students. I think it’s going to be more demanding. I think the university has done a pretty poor job treating workers during the pandemic and after the pandemic. I think every single worker has been basically screwed over by the university, besides, like top professors and administrators. So I think it’s going to get worse.

Does it make you upset as a graduate of UCSB, as an alumni, that there’s still no significant change?

Yeah, well, I’m at another UC, so I’m getting the same problems.

Oh, no.

Now I’m a grad student and I have to live with this poor wage.

And a quick follow-up question. I would love to hear more about the Ortega: All Smiles No Swipes event.

Yeah, yeah. We heard that they did like eight of these at Santa Cruz. And there was someone from Santa Cruz who came down to Santa Barbara for a day. And they told us, you have to do this. And then on the other side, I was friends with AFSCME. The people who worked in the Dining Commons, their organizer, and he was also telling me about other campuses and the mistakes that they made with this. I think it went horribly wrong at Berkeley. So we got together with a group– there was like 30 of us or something– and we spent a whole day planning this out piece by piece. I guess I was the one who led a lot of it because I was the only undergrad that really knew the dining commons. And we did it before with AFSCME where we would go into the dining commons and do protests inside. It’s just a lot different when you’re letting people in for free. But it was really crazy how… I guess I was surprised at how simple it was. We just like went in at the start of the dining period, instantly like take over– the management or whatever was stunned. They didn’t hear anything about it and… I was expecting them to pull food and stop service, but they kept serving. And then lines start pummeling. There were a few people that we
assigned to do, like, social media stuff, and they did an excellent job. And we did a good thing. We were constantly talking to the workers behind the counter. And it was weird too, that the police response at Santa Barbara was different where they only sent an undercover cop who was really easy to spot and like, didn’t do anything.

Really. I didn’t know that.

Yeah. They had, like, a plainclothes cop that they sent and it was kind of funny because it looked like she was trying to dress up, like, as a college student. But you could tell a mile what she was. And yeah, I think it was like one of the best actions because it’s not only like helping food security, which was like a tenet of COLA with housing security, but it also had a direct financial impact on the university where if we kept doing that, you know, it has a big demand. And we were very close to doing it again. It’s just the pandemic.

If I may ask, what dining commons would you have chosen next, or would you have stuck with Ortega?

So we chose Ortega because it’s the easiest to take over. There’s one entrance and by the time you’re inside Ortega, they can’t lock you out. The problem with a lot of dining commons is they just close the door when you’re trying to get in, so you have to shimmy your way in. At DLG there’s that little turntable and they block you from entering.

Yes, I know exactly what you’re talking about.

It’s a lot more complicated. And then Carrillo has the long walkways where they see you for 20 seconds as you’re walking down and then you can never get people to Portola. I think we would have done Carrillo because I think we could have gotten away with it. I think, you know, be cautious of like logistics and stuff. But like, Ortega was just the easiest
one, and that’s why we did it first.

Yeah, that makes sense. I understand Ortega got to the point where it reached capacity very quickly. And from what I remember, there were the managers who were kind of complaining about students taking out food. And I understand COLA, you guys were encouraging them to do so.

Yeah, it was really funny, our interactions with the managers. Like the first thing we did is we went to the managers and we were like, everyone needs to be free today. And they’re like, Wait, wait, wait, we have to approve this. We have to go through our chain of command. And we’re like, you don’t understand. You’re not in charge today. We’re in charge. And it was really funny how quickly they realized what was happening. You know, they had
that one person by the thing like counting capacity. I honestly didn’t think it would ever reach capacity. I thought they would just take away food and it would be good for like 30 minutes or whatever. I did not expect to stay the whole dining period too. And it was also cool seeing people take out food. We brought paper plates because we didn’t want to put extra work on the workers here. So we’ll bring our own paper plates and trash bags and stuff. And the managers during the service kept telling us, “Don’t use those plates, don’t use those plates.” And I was like, “Really? You want to put more work on yourselves
here”, you know? And then at the end, we helped them clean up everything. All of us vacuumed the whole place, cleaned up the tables and everything. I think one of them was like, this is the cleanest Ortega has been while. But yeah, no, it was weird.

I assume you also maybe have spoken to some student workers and chefs. What did they say about COLA? And also about the event?

Yeah. So as I mentioned, a big concern of mine was the workers. I heard at Berkeley, they got really scared because of the way that the COLA people did that action. And so the whole time we, we assigned one person to basically be talking to the workers. And I think the problem that we realized after was that they really only talked to the workers
that you can see because like in Ortega, they hide all the workers in the kitchen or whatever. Yeah. And I think a big problem that we had was a lot of the chefs and stuff, they eat leftovers and there weren’t any leftovers. We ran out of food. And so it was
kind of funny because after we did the event, we’re like, you know, maybe next time we have to order catering even though we’re taking over dining commons, we have to order catering for the workers. And we were actually serious. But I think that was a problem for the student workers, I think. There were mixed reactions where some were like– I remember seeing Reddit– and they’re like, please don’t come to our dining common again. Like, we’re overworked. We kept trying to interact with the workers there when we were taking it over. But I guess they don’t really want to say that it’s causing them more work, which is understandable.

I would like to say that that event was the most positively representative for the students. I would just hear students go on and on about your organization because of this very event. You guys got a huge positive reception because of it.

Yeah, it was a really fun action to do. It was one of the most fun. And it was actually, like, really chill. I didn’t expect it to be that chill because we were taking thousands of dollars of food.

They must been so surprised, especially since you mentioned that other UCs have tried and they faced difficulties doing so.

Santa Cruz like did it eight times and so they were experienced. Berkeley I think the problem was that the grad students that planned it didn’t go to the dining commons and so they didn’t know. And they also didn’t really think about the workers inside. At UCLA, it was all undergrads that planned it, so they did good. And yeah, I guess it was trying to make sure that we’re anticipating the people inside. But yeah, it was cool. We were very close to not doing it.

Really, why?

People felt uneasy. Because it’s a really high-stakes action where it’s hard to protect the safety of everyone doing it. And it’s much different because it’s not your safety personally. It’s the people you’re letting into the dining commons. We’re not the ones that are eating the food. Like, I think most of the people in COLA, like the ones who planned it, didn’t really eat. We were letting everyone else eat. And so it’s like a different level of safety where you can never really anticipate what the police response or whatever will be. There was also like, is this too much? And we all tried to come to a consensus with everyone beforehand. And there were a few people who were, like, ambivalent about it. But I think afterward everyone was like, Yeah, that was a big success. Glad we did.

It was a huge success. I know you mentioned that one of the flaws of other dining commons strikes was the fact that there was not enough support. Help from
undergraduates. So would you say that alongside graduate students, undergraduates also played a huge role?

I mean, there wouldn’t be COLA without undergrads. There’s a lot of people on campus that I think are making that mistake, like a lot of worker organizations that are ignoring undergrads. But I think it was quite clear that wouldn’t happen without undergrads. You know, the marches were amplified. The amount of people who are actually quote-unquote on strike was dwarfed by the number of undergrads. The dining common action was me and a few other undergrads. I don’t think it would have happened without us because a lot of grad students just didn’t know the dining commons. It was kind of funny because when you’re first planning this action, we did a whole walk-through of it when the dining commons was closed and no one was there. And we literally rehearsed everything to a
tee and when we were trying to find the building all the grad students were like, “Where is Ortega? I’ve never heard of Ortega before.”

And I thought that was funny because I’d been here for three years. How do you not know where Ortega is or this other dining commons? And they’re like, It’s right next to the GSA lounge. But yeah, I think undergrads played a huge deal, especially at the beginning, too, like the Cheadle Hall sit-in. A lot of grad students brought their sections, and I think that’s what made the difference for the Cheadle Hall thing. And why it was so successful at the beginning was because there were like ten of us sitting in the office and then like one person brought a group of 30 people and did section right in the hallway or whatever. And I think that made it really, really effective.

And besides undergraduate support, what was the faculty reception like?

I think faculty support was it was really good at Santa Cruz. It was instrumental at Santa Cruz. It helped a lot of the wild cats get their jobs back. I was in a lot of those meetings and about them getting their jobs back and realized the arguments that we were making as a union relied upon faculty support and it worked. They got their jobs back. But at Santa Barbara, I personally wasn’t involved in the faculty thing because I think faculty are really hard at Santa Barbara to organize in terms of like who to contact and their position on campus. I think the people who did it did a good job. There were like 30 or 40 professors and they did their own march one day and I thought it was really cool. The faculty in the history department were the main ones pushing forward the faculty for COLA. I don’t envy people who had the role of getting faculty on board.

Were you ever afraid that what happened UCSC to graduate students would happen to UCSB? Was there a threat of losing your job?

I guess talking to a lot of UCSC people, I don’t think they lost pay over that. They lost pay in the intermediate time when they were off their jobs. I think the point about the job loss is that we had a union, we had good appointment section rights and I think most people weren’t concerned about being fired. It was there, but it was also not the biggest concern. I wasn’t nervous about people being fired. I think if they fired them, it would have made COLA ten times bigger. And they didn’t fire them. I guess I wasn’t nervous about them trying to. I imagine if the grading strike went on for a very long time, they would have made an attempt. But from my position, the university didn’t care about the teaching strike. They only cared about them doing the grading strike.

And I feel like UCSB was relatively silent about talking to the school as a whole regarding COLA. How do you feel about that? There were no major messages from Chancellor Yang.

Yeah, I wasn’t surprised. That’s the way that Yang did it in the past. He’s the type of person who won’t say anything publicly. He’ll do it all privately. There were three AFSCME strikes and UCSB never gave a single comment about any of the three AFSCME strikes. And I was like, you know, this is their game plan. I think the administration in the back of their offices was scared to help. Like when we did the sit-in, it was funny because we were in Chancellor Yang’s office and we see one of the workers in the office point out that they got a report from UCOP on COLA. We could see them photocopying it in their printer room and they
whisked it off to another room right away to try to hide it from us. But I thought that was really funny. I think there was there was this fear from the university about if they said anything about COLA, then they would get a union lawsuit like what happened at Santa Cruz with the housing thing. I think they did try to meet with us and I think we did have one meeting with them. The Vice-Chancellor, David Marshall or whatever, had a printout of every COLA story on Instagram. Like he had a folder and he literally printed out every single folder on Instagram. And I thought that was like, yeah, they’re definitely stalking us.

Would you feel that COLA would have grown a little bit larger had the university made any public statements? I understand there was fear of lawsuits, but how do you feel about that?

Yeah. If they tried to fire anyone. I think there’s nothing that you can do to grow it more than doing something like that. I think it would have grown more if they said something.

And how do you feel about any negativity towards COLA? I remember looking up news articles about your events and there were many negative comments regarding COLA, calling the organization is kind of a waste of time.


I mean, we got what we accomplished or we got a big movement. I think there were some comments about like the Cheadle Hall lock-out thing that we did that I think were fair. It didn’t go to plan that day. I think that a lot of staff were incensed about the way that we handled a lot of the walkouts. But I think ultimately all the comments that were negative were outdone by a lot. And I would constantly be looking up on like the Daily Nexus and stuff and seeing what people were saying to see if there were any worthwhile criticisms. I think self-criticism is really important and mistakes that we weren’t thinking of that we made. And, you know, I think a lot of them were just like rich alumni saying something about like back in my day or whatever, and it’s ridiculous. But they got kind of outsized by everyone else.

Oh, for sure. I can wholeheartedly say as a current undergrad that the undergraduate is in full support of what COLA had done.

I think undergrad demands were largely left out of COLA. My interpretation of COLA is it’s kind of vague on like what the demand is. I think there was an attempt to really deliberately include more and more undergrads. I think most undergrad positions are way worse than what grad students face. And I think that it’s not as public and I do think it was constantly left out. A bit too much in my opinion. Yeah.

And then I guess the other side of it is the union dynamic. I think a lot of the statewide union leadership really sold out. And it was weird because like at LA, they did a whole thing like, please don’t go on strike. Please don’t go on strike. They’re like, begging us and it’s like, why? Why are they so scared? You know, a bunch of people are getting together, why are you trying to stop that? Internally, I think that was extremely present with a lot of the organizers. Me and Sheila were the two UAW people at UCSB the whole time, and I became the chair of the UAW at UCSB right when the pandemic hit. And it’s like we’re both facing this incredible pressure from not just the university, but UAW itself and UAW trying to cover itself. And I thought that was sort of antithetical to what we were trying to build. I don’t think a lot of people in UAW have really reflected on what they did during that time. And I hope they do. And I hope a lot of people learn from what COLA created, how effective graduate labor is in the university because there’s a lot of people that say you can’t strike unless you get so many people in this department to say, like, I’m not working. But COLA… there wasn’t. I think there were a lot of people, but it wasn’t like half of all TAs were doing this, but like 20 or 30% of all grades were withheld at Santa Cruz.

And that was more than 80% of students or something. It’s like a huge amount of students like were like, “where is my grade? Where’s my grade?” And I think it shows how integral graduate labor is to the university and how easy it is to shut down the university if you just don’t grade for like a quarter the whole university falls apart. And I think that’s kind of a lesson to show how neoliberal the university is, where it relies upon not the actual teaching, where they, they don’t really care as much about the teaching, but the grades. But it’s also, I think, instrumental for the future in trying to get a COLA contract or cops off campus, that you really don’t need 100% of people. You need a really committed group of rank and file people, and they can make a huge impact on the university. And I think it’s understated how much it affected them. And I guess while I’m on that note, I think it also revealed how incompetent a lot of university staff are. And, you know, I went to the lawsuit meeting every single question, the Santa Cruz labor relations person was like, yeah, after COLA, I finally read the UAW bylaws and I’m like– it’s your job! You’re getting paid 100K and you haven’t read the bylaws of the union that you’re supposed to be interacting with.

And it’s how reactive they are. I dealt with the Santa Barbara people for two or three years and they don’t prepare for meetings until like 10 minutes before. A lot of people are
trying to say the university is smart. The university is really playing this strategically. They’re thinking through all of their decisions. They have a ton of time. They’re going through ten chains of lawyers. When I really think the university always waits until the last possible second and they’re not as prepared as a lot of people think they are. I could see during bargaining the UCOP people don’t prepare for meetings, really. They just seem a little overworked, but who cares? Because they’re paid too much. But they’re like preparing like 5 minutes before these meetings and the only time that they actually prepared was during COLA when they were like oh, shoot, we actually have a huge problem where our university is getting shut down. And I think a lot of people still are thinking the university is really, really smart and strategic and stuff. And I don’t think that’s true. I guess that’s my opinion.

Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I understand that university disorganization is honestly a problem. You guys practically went to every meeting. You guys devised a very reasonable list of demands for the university. For them to just kind of glance at it seems kind of insulting.

Yeah, it feels like the university is constantly on PR watch where they’re just doing stuff according to their own interests or whatever. And then finally, when something goes bad, they try to overcorrect. Like, with this Munger Hall, it seemed like for years they were basically like stalling it out, like not doing much. And then, like, right once the stories hit, they’re in full damage control mode. And I don’t think it was strategic. It’s just being lazy.

Yeah. Thank you. Thank you again so much for your time. I really do appreciate it.


Interviewed by: Danyela Ornelas

Janna Haider

Janna Haider is currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program at the History
Department here at UCSB, researching South Asian immigrants to the
United States in the early 20th century. When COLA started, she was in
her first year of the Ph.D. program and became one of the people who
would report back to the History department about updates regarding
COLA after general body meetings.


So hello, my name is Danyela Nayelli Ornelas. I am part of the Living History Project and I’m currently with Janna Haider to interview her about her connection to COLA. All right. So thank you so much for joining me. I really do appreciate it.

Thank you for having me.

Yeah, thank you. What year were you and what major were you studying when you first joined COLA?

It was my first year of the PhD program in history here. Yeah, I was a small baby. Yeah. So I was very new to campus when it started.

Wow. Were you nervous like it was your first year in your PhD program? Were you nervous to just join like a huge organization that was about ensuring that TAs get the appropriate pay to live in Santa Barbara, essentially?

No. I mean, I was nervous because it was you know, it was a major action. But before I started a Ph.D. at Santa Barbara, I did a master’s at the University of Washington in Seattle. And while I was there, the TAs organized under a different UAW local went on strike. And that was the movement that I was part of. And I also like do have a background in like community organizing. I’ve been in a lot of community organizing spaces before coming here, so it was different but not new, I think was kind of the way that I felt about it.

Yes. You had at least had some background where you felt somewhat prepared, but I understand that you felt somewhat nervous because you just kind of like lunge yourself into this organization when you first started your Ph.D. program, which I imagine
has been wonderful but also crazy at the same time.


Very, very that. Yeah.

So who introduced you to COLA?


At the time I was a member of the Asian and Pacific Islander Grad Student Alliance and now like now three years later, I’m the president of API GSA. But, but at the time I was a member and at the time Vice President Naomi, and I’m going to leave her last name out, she was in the same department as one of the people who was most central to organizing COLA on this campus. And Naomi brought that organizer to one of our general body meetings to explain to us what was going on, because we didn’t know. We didn’t know what was going on. This was before the firings at Santa Cruz. I don’t remember exactly how long before, but this person who, based on their identity categories, was not a member of the Pacific Islanders Grad Student Alliance, came and talked to us a little bit about what was going on and then left. And then as an organization still in our meeting space, we kind of closed the door and try to figure out just like what the hell is going on.

And there was a moment that I really remember. This was before the strike vote was called also because there was a moment where somebody floated the possibility like, oh, are we going to go on strike? And then Naomi said, “oh, we’re not there yet.” And then Dana, who at the time was our president, said, “you say that we’re not there yet, but this morning there wasn’t a picket at Storke Tower, and now there’s a picket at Storke Tower. So like, we don’t know how quickly this is moving.” That was kind of like my first understanding of what was going on. And after that is when I started going to organizing meetings.

Okay. You did mention that you were a part of a few organizations even back in Washington. COLA was not your first experience in this situation. So I wanted to ask what caused you to join the organization?

I was poor and I wanted a raise.

Oh, I hear that.

Like, that was kind of it. And it’s like. It wasn’t my first community organizing thing, so I felt like I kind of knew what to do and what the space would be like. So, yeah. Yeah.

Okay. And what was your role?

I wasn’t in what I would call, like, a leadership position, I guess. But I did kind of become in a leadership position in my own department, which is history. It was me and two other women
of color who were the most central to the organizing in our department after a while. It was a lot of going to general assemblies and then reporting back to the department for a while.

Yeah. So basically you and two other people who remain anonymous were essentially like the speaking heads for COLA for the history department.

Mm hmm. Yeah.

And what was that like? Was the department excited for this organization? Were they a little nervous?

No. This is a department that, like, specifically knows a lot about labor history. Like most of the UAW-2865 head stewards in the past few years have been out of the history department. At some point, there were conversations like “you got to get your department strike ready.” They’re here, like, tell us what to do next sort of thing. Like this was a department that was very ready, ready to go, like from the jump.

Oh, that’s phenomenal to hear, especially as a history major myself. I respect that a lot. Thank you. And did you participate in all the protests? I know you mentioned that they began a few pickets here and there. So I imagine you were in at the very, very beginning. But did you participate in the other events going on?


Yeah, it was. So not all of my memories of the COLA movement are necessarily positive because there were a lot of really white spaces where whiteness kind of became the default action and the first kind of moment that we as a department came to understand that that was what was about to happen was the night that the strike vote was called, we were all in this conference room in the history department, zooming in to the General Assembly. That was happening, I believe, in the GSA lounge when the vote was taken and as a department. And so the way the ballot was set up was there were three options of actions to take. Option one was to immediately suspend classes, go on a wildcat strike, do a full work stoppage and option two was just a grade strike. To continue working through the end of the quarter but promise not to submit grades, and then option three was to do nothing. As a department, we had come together because we knew that those were going to be the options on the ballot. So as a department, we had all agreed and we are the largest department in the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, so we have a high concentration of graduate students. We had agreed that we were going to rank grade strike first, work stoppage second, and doing nothing third. And so we all got out our little phones and voted on the little Google form.

So what happened was that the grade strike was by far the most popular option, and then the people in the General Assembly space called a full strike anyway. And it was this very, like, this is illegal. Like, we are in breach of our contract right now. And also because it was an illegal strike international students who participated could be subject to deportation. Undocumented students who participated could be subject to deportation. Any of us could be fired at any time, including parents with young children, of which we have a couple in our department. And it was this moment of like, wait, that’s literally not what the numbers are telling you to do, and you’re doing it anyway. And it turned out to be the first in a series
of situations in which white people would do the things that they felt safe doing, which often was not the thing that anybody else would feel safe doing. So it wasn’t this moment of a victory. It was this moment of dread. Like what have we gotten ourselves into? Sort of thing. So I wasn’t TAing that year because it was my first year, but I was doing a supplemental readership for a professor who at the time was my advisor and I was doing the grading for this upper-division class. It was me and another grad student doing all the grading for this upper-division class– the professor wasn’t doing any of the gradings and we said that we were going to grade strike.

We didn’t have the ability to cancel class as graders, but we were out at the picket a lot and I don’t think any history TAs canceled sections except for on very specific days like the day of the march. But I don’t think anyone did a full work stoppage because it wasn’t what we had voted for. It wasn’t what the majority had voted for. And then a bunch of people from the history department kept going to these organizing meetings and being like, for the love of God, what is the plan? And the response that we would get from mostly white people was the plan is to get a COLA by spring quarter. It was winter quarter at the time. And it’s like that is not a plan. That is a goal. It’s not a plan. And it became very, very frustrating. It became exhausting. To those of us who know a thing or two about labor history, like in this department, on this floor, we knew that this was not going to work. But like, as I said in several meetings at the time, my mother didn’t raise a bitch. And if this is what we’re doing, then it’s what we’re doing. And we got to figure out a way to make it work.

Yeah. That must have been completely frustrating. I can’t imagine what the department was thinking at the time, especially when you guys filled out a Google form that said “We’re going to go do this.” And then everyone was like, “No, that’s a good plan. But no…” I remember I was a freshman when this occurred, so I remember strikes, and pickets were the most vocal around the latter half of fall quarter going into winter. As you said, that’s when the grade strike was like somewhat in the works because I remember a few classes that had TAs withholding grades. I can’t necessarily remember if my own TAs were withholding grades, but I would like to say maybe a few professors were in solidarity with you guys. And while they didn’t necessarily take away grades, they did provide forms saying like, please be educated on what they’re doing. It’s very important.

Yeah. Yeah. Most of our faculty in this department, were actually very cool about it because a lot of these faculty or labor historians, where it became difficult was the two largest cohorts in the history department ever are the 17 series of the US History Series and then the 2 series, which is the World History Series. That winter quarter both of the professors of 17B and then whatever 2 class was running really, really wanted all of their TAs to be on the same page and in the 17B TA cohort there was one in particular who really wasn’t, and this guy was the fucking worst. He’s a former cop, he’s former military. He was just is a dick in general, and he was the holdout– like he was the one who didn’t want to go on strike. So it became a very tense situation in that space because the faculty didn’t know what to do and because we didn’t know what to do in a lot of ways. And so it became after a while, it started to feel like we were putting on a really good front like that the strike was going to be successful, that we were going to get our COLA or whatever, whatever. But like all of that was like we were faking all of that. Like, that’s not how anybody felt internally.

Wow. That’s really interesting to hear. I always imagine COLA to be more organized from what I understood from my previous interviews. There was some tension, but I had no idea it ran that deeply.

Yeah. So the last General Assembly meeting that we had before the pandemic was in the San Clemente Hall grad student living community center. So there’s a clause in the TA contract and this is very standard in all labor contracts that says the management of the university cannot negotiate with anybody but the union, and the union cannot negotiate with anybody other than management. And this is very, very common in union negotiated contracts. It’s very common language, but the thing is, since this was a wildcat strike, the union was not involved. The union would be subject to lawsuits by the university if the union got involved. And in fact, there were a couple of lawsuits. The school administration
wanted to deal with somebody, like they just wanted to deal with somebody. So who they wound up dealing with was grad students in various elected positions on campus, like the GSA president was involved, like stuff like that. So then what happened was that those grad student in those elected positions. If the agenda of this meeting had been set up differently, none of what happened next would have happened.

The first question that they asked the body to consider was, do you approve of us as the people that the campus level administration wants to deal with. Do you approve of us to go deal with them? And then the second question was, what do you think we should talk about with them? And if they had reversed those none of this would have happened because it was the first item. “Do you approve” got voted down because nobody knew what they were going to say once they were in there because of the way the meeting was organized. So it got voted down. And then after that, the GSA president at the time, Cierra Sorin, took everything very, very personally. She just ended the meeting in a fit of tears, so we didn’t even get to the next stage. My goodness. Yeah. And that was like fucking 2 hours. It was, it was exhausting.

And then. So, like, we didn’t even get to “what do we even say to administration?” And by then it very much felt for those of us in the history department, that we were better organized than whatever central COLA leadership there was at the time because
this department will not let you graduate with a PhD unless you know how a goddamn union works. It’s just a thing that happens to everybody. I study immigration law, and it’s still a thing that I have to know about because everybody teaches to it. So we had a couple of department level meetings which were like, okay, well, if the University of California Office of the President, with whom we actually have our contracts, is not going to negotiate with us and the campus is not empowered to give us raises, then what are we asking for? As a department we came to the decision that the thing that we have the most power to push for and the thing that the campus level administration has the most power to grant is that they expand graduate student housing.

Right now the deal with San Clemente is that rent is capped at way lower than market value, but the tradeoff is they kick you out after two years. That’s for San Clemente. For family student housing it’s different. They get way longer leases because the University of California being responsible for evicting grad students and their young children is not a good look. But single grad students, whatever, evict them, who cares? So the thing that we were going to ask for was more San Clemente style housing. We had just started organizing other departments to make that ask with us when the statewide stay at home order was issued. And I’ve never been part of a wildcat strike in a global pandemic before. I don’t think anybody had. So there was a solid two weeks where nobody knew what was happening. And also like I think it was week nine when the stay at home order was issued. It was week nine or ten of winter quarter.

It was. From what I remember, it happened in spring. It was like, you know, when they were giving ordinances saying like, oh, we’re going to have an extra two weeks for spring break while we figure out what’s happening.

Yeah. From what I can remember, the stay at home order was issued while classes were still in session, but like, barely. While they were still in session, winter quarter. And so we were one of the last U.C. campuses to shut down. I think Berkeley shut down first because the Bay Area got hit hard really early by COVID and then LA. So we could kind of see other campuses shutting down. We knew it was coming. So the history department came together and we were like we can’t grade strike if there’s a global pandemic. This is not a thing that like these kids like– they might die. Their parents might die, like we might die, like we can’t. This is not the circumstances under which we can withhold grades ethically. We have an obligation to our students. So as a department, we came together. We wrote two statements. One was a public facing statement that we were going to issue to the rest of COLA, and the other was a template letter that every TA was going to send to their students. It was all the same language. It was very unified. And then over the next couple of days before the statewide order hit, we as a department, we got so much shit from other departments. Like we got called scabs. We got called strikebreakers. And it’s like. Nobody knows what the ethical thing to do is under a global pandemic. We had never been in one before. But the ethical thing did not seem to be to continue to give the undergrads a climate of uncertainty. Like that seemed like the wrong thing to do.

Now your hands are basically tied. It’s unprecedented. Like we’ve never, as you said, we never experienced this global pandemic.

Yeah. And then we know that in other departments, the faculty turn to the grad students. Like, “History is like releasing grades– What’s wrong with you?” sort of thing. Which we weren’t proud of and we didn’t do it to put pressure on other departments. But that’s what happened anyway, because again, we’re the largest department in the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts. And I think by the end of winter quarter, maybe 50 TAs across campus withheld grades. So then there was spring break into spring quarter. Just a lot of a lot of Zoom meetings, the possibilities of a digital picket. This is very naive, but I do remember that the idea was floated that when we reopen in-person in fall quarter, we would just open the quarter with a campus-wide shutdown. Then we did the entire next year on Zoom, so that didn’t happen. It was like being on a train and the train is going super fast, but the track is being laid just barely in front of the train. Like you don’t know where you’re going until you get there sort. I don’t know if this is similar to other stories that you’ve heard about COLA, but the way that I remember it is that it was deeply chaotic and deeply racist.

Oh, I did not hear that whatsoever. Yeah, I’m completely interested. One of my questions was how would you describe COLA?

There were some really uplifting and powerful moments. I’m not going to say that it wasn’t. I’m a historian. So in the 2018 round of contract negotiations for UAW 2865. The
bargaining team… did a lot of things wrong. So our contract always expires June 30th, which means that the timing is always awkward because bargaining has to open by March 1st. Because the idea is that you reach a contract before the contract expires so you can just renew the contract. So that didn’t happen. They didn’t reach an agreement by June 30th. No one expected them to. And then they went into summer, which is always difficult from an organizing perspective. Like that summer between expiration and coming back with no contract because no one’s there. Buying is very low. And what happened was during that summer, the bargaining team traded away a provision that would have severely cut the funding for UCPD in exchange for truly the most bitch ass bullshit raise package. It was a 3% rate, like we got a 3% raise every year. Like, fuck you. That’s not cost of inflation. I wasn’t there at the time. This was a year before I got there, but they made that deal during the summer when no one was there to see it happen. It was not a transparent process. So what happens is that the two bargaining teams, management and labor reached what’s called a tentative agreement on the contract. And then the contract goes out to the members and the workers vote on it.

The UAW bylaws say that 51% of workers can approve a contract. The problem is that the UAW bylaws were written imagining… UAW stands for United Auto Workers. That’s who we’re unionized under. So the bylaws were written imagining like one factory as a
local. So all of the workers are talking to each other. They’re all very much on the same page. So achieving 51% is not not hard to do. 51% in either direction, either to approve or to fail a contract. All nine undergraduate serving campuses at the University of California are under the same local, which means that 51% of 19,000 people who live in different places and experience different material circumstances. A 3% raise goes further in Merced than it does in LA. Like those are the people who have to approve a contract. And what happened was that Santa Cruz, which has one of the highest cost of living areas, almost nobody on that campus voted in favor of that contract because a 3% raise would do nothing to help them keep their housing, but the contract passed with a 51% majority. Actually, it passed 52 to 48, which is not good. This is the back story since everyone at Santa Cruz was really disenfranchised with a 2018 contract. That’s why they were the first campus to go on wildcat strike because they were the ones who needed a raise the most. It started out with systemic inequity across U.S. campuses, and that, too, was how it ended.

You did mention there were some significant events that happened, some influential experiences that you faced. Would you mind talking about them, like the most significant that you that you found in COLA despite it being rather chaotic.

The 1,000 person march was very cool to be a part of and it was very cool to see. A lot of our faculty were out there with us, which was really great. I saw a couple of my undergrad students out there. And it was really meaningful. But even then, the cracks were starting to show because the march made its way towards Henley Gate. And there were cops. I remember at the time, I was walking next to one of my friends who was an international student, and he immediately saw the cops and he was like, I need to leave because if I’m arrested, I will be deported. I don’t know that the march organizers had thought of international and undocumented students, both the kind of risk that they would be at and like U.S. Citizens who were parents. We don’t know if they had been told that there were going to be cops, that there was a risk of arrest and they might not have had any plans for child care or the ability to afford child care, which is why we were on goddamn strike. And again, I had been in spaces like that before. So there very much was like me being like, “Hello, white friends, you need to stand in between us and these cops like now.” And they did it. Like, this is not a department of assholes, but while it was a very meaningful moment, it also wasn’t perfect.

Yeah. I remember. I went to a few strikes because I actually had a friend who was part of COLA. I remember joining in that march. So you did mention your undergraduates and how proud you were. Would you mind talking about the undergraduate support? How important was it for COLA to have undergraduate support?

Very much so because a lot of the rhetoric that the university was pushing at us was, how can you do this to the undergrads? Like, how can you make the undergrads feel so unsafe? How can you punish the undergrads? Whatever, whatever. So it was very cool to see like a lot of the undergrads be like “Fuck you I think that they should get a raise and I don’t want my grades actually.” And I just think this happens a lot in higher education labor organizing. The undergrads get infantilized in a lot of ways as if you’re not adults with brains. And also just like the purpose of strikes is to be disruptive. That’s what they’re for. Like, that’s the point.

So just an extra perk for undergraduates to be a little bit more disruptive.

Yeah.

But I assure you, as an undergraduate, as a history major, I feel strongly that I can speak for all the undergraduates that we were in full support of COLA. We understand the importance and it just insulting to hear that that is what the university said. You guys had a reasonable list of demands and very little was met.

And it’s weird now because, like, as a person on the 2865 bargaining team, we’re staring down contract expiration. We’ve got six more weeks under the current contract and it is… It is time to talk about strike readiness and there’s a lot of people who feel like what they were doing and what they wanted to do got cut short before it could reach its full potential. But there’s also a lot of people who genuinely feel deeply, deeply hurt by the way COLA was organized. Yesterday I was talking to a grad rep from a department that I’m trying to organize a town hall with so we can talk about strike readiness and she was like nobody told us that the wildcat strike was illegal because the department in question has a high percentage of international students. Like nobody told us that this was illegal. And they got this very scary letter from the graduate division basically being like, hey, you’re all subject to deportation, by the way, if you do this. So that department, given its demographics, like folded immediately, like stop participating, which was fair. And the way that like white people in central organizing spaces gave them shit was like horrifying to hear about. And so then like in this conversation that I had with this person, I had to be like, okay, so that’s why that was illegal and this wouldn’t be. Workers would be protected if we strike under a contract vote– like that’s very different. But like people were terrorized by the administration and they were guilted over feeling that terror by a lot of white organizers in the COLA space, many of whom then got their asses elected to UAW leadership positions. So now there’s a decent chunk of people who don’t trust the union.

This sounds very frustrating and terrible. The whole point of being a representative is ensuring that you’re the voice for all people. You’re listening intently.

Yeah, I ran for this bargaining team position very much out of spite, and then I got it out of spite. I’m seeing my role here to make sure things are done differently this time, because we have a lot of people who are very justifiably upset, but we also have had a lot of leadership turnover in the last two years. And it’s like, what can we do better now?

So yeah. Thank you so much for that. I imagine it’s not an easy job whatsoever.

It’s not. My sentiment is a minority one on this campus, but it’s not a minority sentiment on the bargaining team overall. The bargaining team is comprised of 18 people because it’s two reps from every undergrad serving campus. It’s a very commonly felt sentiment within the group of people that are actually writing the new contract.

And you mentioned there may be a town hall meeting somewhat soon to talk about strike readiness. Do you feel that COLA will finally rise up once again? Or at least will there be some awareness of this organization?

Yeah, I do. Like the material conditions are worse. Cost of living is worse. We went through a whole pandemic with no increase to our health care. Like, in fact, the dental clinic is being shut down as of June 30th.

I remember that. Like the vision care.

Yeah. And so stuff like that is worse now. And I do think that. Honestly a response that we’ve been getting a lot because we’ve done some like softball events as a union this year, like an April Fools Day party to congratulate the chancellors on their raises and like they’re very poorly attended events, honestly. And the response that we’re getting from people is like, “Call me when you go on strike.” Like, “We’re ready. Just let us know.” So I think yeah, I think it’s coming back and hopefully we can do it better this time.

I hope so too. I almost forgot about the Chancellors’ raise.

Yeah, it wasn’t a uniform raise. Like they all got different amounts again. I don’t know if he got the biggest one, like the biggest one in dollars or the biggest one in percent. But it was one of them. He got a 23% raise. Yeah. So he’s over half a million dollars now.

Oh, goodness. That is. I don’t know how to feel about that.

Yeah.

Oh, my goodness. And speaking of Chancellor Yang, he is a relatively– from what I’ve seen as an undergraduate– a relatively silent person. He likes to do things in private. So how do you feel about his silence? And also the school’s silence to COLA in a public
setting because there’s no messages, no emails, none. Nothing to inform people.


It’s kind of not worth getting upset over. Like we know who this man is. He’s been in that job for, like, 30 years, like, literally longer than I’ve been alive. There’s a pretty common understanding that the person who actually has power on this campus is David Marshall, the executive vice chancellor, but also our job is not to convince them of anything. Our job is to make their lives so uncomfortable that they have to change their behavior. That’s a tactical thing. You know, like, the only way to make your lives uncomfortable is to get as many grad students as possible to understand that there is collective power to be had. And when that collective power is organized well and deployed well, strikes work. There’s a reason that the United States government has spent the last 80 years trying to strip labor unions of of their rights and of their power. It’s because they work. As long as we can remind people of that, I think we’ll be okay.

So how did you feel about the the other events going on? You said the 1,000 person march was was your most significant to you. How did you feel about say the Ortega
All Smiles No Swipes event.


That was great. Give people free food, that should absolutely happen. It’s also an indicator that like the reason that union strikes work where wildcat strikes don’t in a lot of ways is that unions sympathy strike with each other. So like the union that protects janitorial and kitchen and other sectors, that union on this campus is AFSCME. So AFSCME let All
Smiles, No Swipes happen because AFSCME was willing to support the wildcat strike because they were they were the ones who run that and other unions, like other workers, are only legally protected in doing those sympathy actions if the striking parties are
union organized. Sympathy strikes are legal. Anything else is just not doing your job. So like. The UAW absolutely has its problems, but also we’re all safer when we strike under union purview.

Also for in terms of faculty, I understand professors played a role. Would you say you
guys get any support from faculty?


At the beginning. And then when it became clear that we didn’t really know what to tell them because we didn’t really know what we were doing, that support kind of started waning. I said earlier that history grad students would show up places and be like, “What is the plan?” And the answer would be, “the plan is to get a COLA”. And it’s like, I can’t take that back to my professor whose support I’m asking for like. But we, in this department in particular, we had a very young member of faculty who I won’t name– He was the most junior faculty in the 2020 school year. He had been a labor organizer in his own graduate student union. So he very much was like this is the thing that you could try doing, and then he would like leave the room. So the expanded grad student housing thing was actually his idea.

Oh, that’s interesting. So I want to ask you about what you would change about COLA.
Anything in particular that you felt didn’t work as efficiently?


I would have loved to see on the Santa Barbara campus the sort of efficiency that the Santa Cruz grad students had. Like every single thing that happened at Santa Cruz was coordinated and planned ahead of time and had broad reaching consensus. Like,
I would have loved that. And that’s what we’re trying to do now. Like, that’s the goal.

So yeah, would you say there was just too much conflict to really create a sense of unity in COLA?

Yeah. And I think it’s and this is always a thing in social movements like. Activism spaces are not immune from social power dynamics that exist in the society that creates them. It’s why you see so much like misogyny in the Black Panthers. This is just a thing that happens. White people in COLA spaces didn’t want to take criticism, from my recollection. They didn’t want to understand why some of the actions they were taking were more dangerous
for some people than others. And that is definitely something we’re going to have to deal with this time around.

Would you say like you guys are hopefully going to focus more on ensuring the safety for international students?

Yeah, that is a thing that I have made my problem. Like I told you, I ran for the bargaining team out of spite. That’s one of the things that I’m that I’m going to insist on. And it honestly shouldn’t be that hard because there’s a lot of members of the bargaining team who are themselves international students.

Yeah, I can’t imagine how how frightening it was for them to want to fight for what’s right, But also there’s this looming fear of I could literally be kicked out right now.

Yeah. And that’s like, it’s one thing for it to be the international students who are safe to say “I’m not a US citizen.”The undocumented grad students is a whole different thing because they can’t even say that. They’re feeling vulnerable.

Yeah. I’m glad for when COLA does rise up again. Like you at least know what didn’t work last time. What you can focus more on now are your strengths because overall support from all graduate students is ideal, especially for those who, as you said, may not feel comfortable to mention their statuses.

Yeah. So having having a movement with varying levels of participation is not a thing that really existed during COLA, but we’re going to build out this time. So help me God.

Wonderful. I hope so too, goodness. I hope so, too. Especially now, considering you’re still in your PhD program, you’ve seen there’s no real change despite all this work you’ve put in.

Yeah.

That must be incredibly frustrating.


I mean, onto the next, you know, that’s all there is.


So I wanted to ask someone who is part of COLA, how do you feel about the current housing crisis going on in UCSB and Isla Vista?

Bad. I just. It sucks because this cohort was touted as the most diverse class to ever be accepted to the University of California. Two things: by accepting a class of that size without building up the housing infrastructure, the university has created a narrative that, by seeking diversity, it’s disenfranchising people for housing. And the fact that that’s happening on the backs of students of color is terrible. The other thing is that the increased student body size led to an increase in funding and also membership for the UCPD when it’s a class with more people of color than we’ve ever had before. Like. Bad. And there just
doesn’t seem to be a plan to build more housing that’s, like, fit for human habitation. Like, there’s been no ground broken anywhere. There’s been no negotiation with the like four landlords that control everything in Isla Vista. There’s no foresight. When Alameda County sued U.C. Berkeley, a lot of us here were like “do us next.” Like, that would be super funny. It hasn’t happened yet. I can’t imagine it’s not in the works somewhere. But like this is unsustainable and it’s happening specifically on the backs of like brown kids, which is terrible.

Yeah it is. I imagine considering COLA was all about cost of living, it must seem extraordinarily frustrating that… Here we are in a housing crisis. Nothing is being done. Rent is higher.

Yeah, my rent is 43% of my income.

Oh, my gosh. Thank you for sharing that with me. So just one last question. Any final words or any topics you would like to say regarding COLA or to the university itself?

Not really anything to the university because I mean, again, like labor organizer, one of the initial founders of the UAW said that the point of labor organizing is forcing management to say yes when they want to say no, and they will not be persuaded into that. So the goal is not to persuade them. The goal is to make them uncomfortable. And we’re coming.

Thank you. Thank you so much. And thank you for continuing to speak out and help people listen to the people of color, especially for those who are undocumented and who are international students.

Thank you. I’m trying.

Interviewed by: Danyela Ornelas

UCSB COLA Timeline

In late 2019, UC Santa Cruz went on strike in order to obtain higher wages, or a Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA). The goal of this strike was to aid graduate students in receiving a liveable wage that would reflect the cost of housing near campus. This came to a total of $1,412 based on their formula that had variables consisting of: rent for a 3 bedroom apartment split in three, pre-tax income, and monthly cost of living adjustment. Many sister UCs followed suit in support of UCSC. UCSB used social media and staged daily protests to demonstrate their support for UC Santa Cruz. These protests began early in the morning at 8:00 AM at Storke Tower until early evening at 5:00 PM, eventually leading to a grading strike in March 2020, where TAs refused to grade the work of their students in order to force negotiations with the UC Office of the President. Here are the major events that solidified the cause of COLA.

December 9, 2019: Beginning of Strike

Organizing emerged gradually on the UC Santa Cruz campus. The Graduate Student Association (GSA) and UAW 2865 had banded together to call for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) from the UCSC administration. To no avail and no negotiation to be seen, resorted to the full-on strike that called for administration attention and gained a noticeable following of Graduate and undergraduate students alike. 

The demands were as followed:

  1. Out of rent burden
  2. Without raising tuition or fees
  3. With a guarantee of non-retaliation

Soon other UCs joined the cause of UC Santa Cruz. UC Santa Barbara follows similar tactics as done by UC Santa Cruz, not limited to strikes, marches, sit-ins, and even grade withholding. The message was the same for all UCs who participated: administration must develop a suitable plan that will aid their students to have a substantial wage for a proper living situation. 

January 23, 2020: Connection to UCSB

A call to action as UCSB became the second UC to join the COLA cause, ultimately fighting for a better wage for TAs who struggle against the rising rent from Goleta and Santa Barbara County. While this was not a formal announcement of striking, it became the ripple that would inevitably lead to a full-on strike and marches. 

Soon other UCs followed suit, many providing numerous support for COLA and creating their own small organizations that would reach locally to the other Graduate students who also work as TAs but still struggle to make ends meet. 

Sicheng Wang, Photograph of a rally of groups; graduate, undergraduate, and faculty in front of UCSB Library, Daily Nexus, 23 February, 2020

February 23-24, 2020: Cheadle Hall Strike

A prominent point for COLA in terms of UCSB as it was this day that the Graduate students had declared they would begin a full-on strike on February 27th. In this protest they decided to take over Cheadle Hall, quite literally staying within the building, and only left at midnight on February 21. The purpose of this action was to gain the attention of Chancellor Yang so that he may address the situation and hopefully provide a solution. 

By then UCSC had declared their TAs were going on a full grading strike. UCSB had begun a noon rally in front of the library, with numerous attendants all calling for the attention of Chancellor Yang and President Napolitano to address the situation and to be empathetic toward their Graduate students who do so much for all of the UCs across the state. The only person to make a comment was Chancellor Yang to notify The Daily Nexus that meetings would begin soon. As for President Napolitano of the UCs, she remained silent on the matter.

February 27, 2020: UCSB COLA Wildcat Strike

UCSB4COLA organization went into full swing, where a multitude of Graduate Students and Staff joined together to strike against the low wages and minimum support offered by the University despite the rising cost of rent and the housing crisis. There was an overwhelming amount of support at the Wildcat Strike on February 27, about 300 showed up for the second day of the rally. Lasting from the early morning at 8 AM, into the evening hours of 5 PM the strikers went on rallying from the Storke Tower Lawn then onto the Arbor, Mosher Alumni House, and circled the Library on the way back to Storke Lawn. By the end of the rally, COLA had over 1,000 supporters on their side.

The creators and heads of UCSB4COLA found this support to be very profound, wanting to keep the momentum going and using it as a motivator to keep going for the cause, hoping for more involvement by the student body. Not only did they have support from students, but faculty, and even local politicians, some of who mentioned taking the cause to our state’s capital, Sacramento.

March 5, 2021: Black Out Protest

On March 5 COLA set out on yet another protest, this one being a ‘black out’ protest, where all participants were encouraged to wear black, as they wanted to make a comment on the University of California’s motto – “Let there be light”. Standing in solidarity with the recent graduate students who had been fired at UCSC for withholding grades as a part of their protest, they began early on that Thursday at 7:30 AM in front of Cheadle Hall. Blocking all four entrances and chanting, some got into verbal altercations with UCSB staff who did not support the cause. 

UCPD became involved after administration employees were prevented from entering the building, so protesters moved into the halls and floors of the building and continued to chant. After a de-escalation between an advisor and protestors, there was a rally at Storke Tower once again. Many speakers from different unions spoke at the rally, and there were about 3,000 people in attendance. Those of who marched to Henley Gate at 1 PM, chanting about both COLA efforts and the distaste of cops’ presence on campus.

March 6, 2020: Gaucho Bucks Cop-Out

After days of protest, rallies, and strikes, the University finally made an announcement of acknowledgment, providing a hopeful solution to the demands of the COLA movement. The university made it clear that they wanted to award the wage increase and cost of living adjustment demands. The only issue? It was to be paid in Gaucho Bucks, the increase being $1,807.51, announced by Janet Napolitano herself. 

Though this seemed to be a step in the right direction, it was not quite what COLA graduate students wanted for themselves. Gaucho Bucks are very limited in where you can use them, such as the Bookstore, Arbor, Ortega Dining Campus, and other campus exclusive facilities. What Gaucho Bucks definitely did not help with was rent, one of the bigger and broader issues and concerns of graduate students.

March 9, 2020: “All Smiles, No Swipes” 

One of the focuses of COLA was to promote acceptable living conditions for graduate and undergraduate students to thrive in. A clear crisis plaguing students of any campus is food insecurity, where not every student under the supervision of the school has a reliable source of food. As a result, COLA organizers decided to take over Ortega Dining Commons on campus on March 3rd, 2019, where they promoted their “All Smiles, No Swipes” event. On this day, COLA organizers had allowed students, regardless of whether they held a meal plan or not, to enjoy a meal for free at this dining commons. 

There was no indication that the UC system wanted to stop this event. During the situation, authorities were called but nothing was done to take COLA protestors off the premises. There were a few altercations between staff and students trying to take out food, but under the protection of COLA organizers, many students took out meals. The goal was to have the student body side with the COLA movement and based on generally positive comments, it worked. 

Sanya Kamidi , Photograph of COLA Protestors speaking to students during ‘All Smiles, No Swipes’ event Daily Nexus, 9 March, 2020

April 10, 2020: UC Santa Cruz Submits Grades

Weeks into the spring quarter and after students had been subjected to learning from home because of COVID-19, the UCSC graduate students who had begun the COLA protests, submitted grades for both fall and winter. The reason? After May 1, these absent grades would change to ‘Pass’ for students, and no letter grade would be given. This could have caused a number of issues for undergrads and the UC administration shifted this burden off of themselves and onto the students. 

Many UCSC graduate students were fired for withholding grades, and because of these eventual submissions, they were up for possible reinstatement, meaning there was no guarantee. At this point, UCSB was the only campus in the UC system that still had not put in grades. Because they had to submit grades, UCSC began putting their efforts into pushing for help in Unfair Labor Practice charges with hopeful backing from UAW. Ultimately, what they wanted was protection from their strikes as grad students. The UAW focused on getting signatures to move forward with the charges, which was harder due to the momentum lost with the COVID-19 pandemic eliminating in-person interaction. 

April 10, 2020: COVID/End of Boycott 

Ultimately what put a halt to this organization and the remainder of the COLA movement, was the COVID-19 pandemic. UCSB4COLA is still alive and well online on Twitter and Instagram, focusing mainly on the housing crises and upsets happening on campus and within Isla Vista. 

September 30, 2021: Housing Crisis 

Despite a slow start to the rebuilding of COLA, the cause to promote substantial living wages remains strong especially now with countless students facing the idea of not having reliable housing. A mixture of the pandemic and the influx of admitted students has shone a light on the housing crisis. Some students were even offered hotel contracts for Fall Quarter 2021, as all the housing contracts had already been sent out. A gathering at Storke Tower led to a march to Cheadle Hall to voice their concerns and complaints to the administration for not paying closer attention to this dilemma that could have been easily avoided and solved in a more suitable solution. 

By: Arianna Sanchez and Danyela Ornelas

References

pay us more ucsc – UC grad student workers fighting for a cost of living adjustment, https://payusmoreucsc.com/. Accessed 12 March 2022.

Bemis, Henri. “Graduate Student COLA To Be Paid in Gaucho Bucks.” The Daily Nexus, 6 March 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-03-06/graduate-student-cola-to-be-paid-in-gaucho-bucks/. 

Kamidi, Sanya, and Jackson Guilfoil. “UCSB Grad Students Hold Demonstration in Solidarity with UC Santa Cruz Over Cost-of-Living Adjustment.” The Daily Nexus, 23 January 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-01-23/ucsb-grad-students-hold-demonstration-in-solidarity-with-uc-santa-cruz-over-cost-of-living-adjustment/. 

Rivera, Arturo Martinez, and Holly Rusch. ““Without graduate student labor, there is no light”: UCSB 4 COLA Rallies as Part of UC-Wide Black-Out Strike.” The Daily Nexus, 6 March 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-03-06/without-graduate-student-labor-there-is-no-light-ucsb-4-cola-rallies-as-part-of-uc-wide-black-out-strike/#search. 

Rusch, Holly. ““All Smiles, No Swipes”: COLA Protestors Organize Lunchtime “Liberation” for Ortega Dining Commons.” The Daily Nexus, 9 March 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-03-09/all-smiles-no-swipes-cola-protestors-organize-lunchtime-liberation-for-ortega-dining-commons/. 

Rusch, Holly. “Students, Faculty, Community Members Organize Protest Over Housing Crisis.” The Daily Nexus, 30 September 2021, https://dailynexus.com/2021-09-30/students-faculty-community-members-organize-protest-over-housing-crisis/. 

Swartz, Katherine. “Two Days In, UCSB COLA Wildcat Strike Draws Close to 2,000 Supporters.” The Daily Nexus, 28 February 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-02-28/two-days-in-ucsb-cola-wildcat-strike-draws-close-to-2000-supporters/. 

Swartz, Katherine. “UC Santa Cruz COLA Strikers To Submit Withheld Fall and Winter Grades.” The Daily Nexus, 29 April 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-04-29/uc-santa-cruz-cola-strikers-to-submit-withheld-fall-and-winter-grades/.

Swartz, Katherine, and Sanya Kamidi. “Graduate Students Occupy Cheadle Hall Until Midnight, Rally for COLA and University Support of UCSC Strikers.” The Daily Nexus, 23 February 2020, https://dailynexus.com/2020-02-23/graduate-students-occupy-cheadle-hall-until-midnight-rally-for-cola-and-university-support-of-ucsc-strikers/. 

“UCSB #copsoffcampus (@ucsb4cola) • Instagram photos and videos.” Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/ucsb4cola/

John Foran

This interview questions John Foran on the aims, objectives, and obstacles in the Eco Vista project, a project working towards transitioning Isla Vista into an ecologically homeostatic community. The interview was a group one, conducted by Alex Proksch, Natalie Chen and Bianca Costa.


Okay, why do you want to establish the Eco Vista community?

Yeah, sure. The goal of Eco Vista is rather, uh, ambitious. When we started out five years ago, we put it as turning Isla Vista into Eco Vista in this decade, the 2020s along the lines of something like an eco-village or which has no strict definition. Lately, we are aligning ourselves with what’s called Just Transition and Green New Deal work among activists in their communities. All over, just transition is another word for making the transition transformation of a community. Uh, so that it’s ecologically, uh, in line with what the climate science tells us is required, um, with respect to everything and energy transportation, um, and land use. Um, and just the just part is that this has to be based on the principles of environmental justice, which means that in the community, the, uh, we, we want to have the leadership and participation of, uh, those residents who are most affected by social injustice of all kinds, actually, whether it be economic, whether it be due to the environmental, the impact that’s happening around the world and so forth. 

So what we’re talking about is a full system. Systemic alternative is the lingo and sociology that I work with and a green new deal. Of course, uh, there are many versions of the green new deal, but it’s a, um, ambitious and progressive, uh, it’s a name for a proposed legislation at the national level to achieve some of these goals. And that of course, was performed by Alexandria, Ocasio, Cortez, and Marky and the Senate. Um, and it, you know, Bernie Sanders had a very elaborated, greener deal, uh, with numbers and, uh, like 50 pages of, you know, the details when he was running for president and all over the country, communities are trying to generate a local green new deal. So, uh, we’re involved in a project for a local green new deal that we are launching as a kind of wide consultation with the residents, all the residents we can reach in AR Vista to see what they identify as the problems for their lives, living in Arla Vista and what they would like to see instead, and what their ideas are about the future and their wellbeing. 

So, um, all of those things are part of the goal, the ambitious goal of in a reasonable least short period of time, a handful of years putting is Vista on track to become, uh, a community that is again, ecologically based, um, where everybody is, uh, receives the, has their needs met to some to degree that’s possible. Um, there’s a vision that there would be all kinds of jobs here that would be good for the environment, of course, and, uh, good for folks who are looking for jobs. So it’s some asset undertaking and it has to be done in consultation with the whole community. And EVI is a very small organization, relatively speaking with limited capacity. Um, and it has to be done through Alliance with existing community organizations of which there are many who trend in the same direction. So we are embarking on that process literally in the spring quarter. 

What do you feel is the most pressing environmental justice project for Eco Vista? 

Yeah. So hopefully these all have some bearing on environmental justice and foundations in it. Um, the most salient projects of eco Vista so far, certainly one would be the food forest in a sterile park. Um, that’s been created in the past year by a small group of very dedicated people working also with the Isla Vista recreation and park district, which has sort of jurisdiction over all the parks. Um, that’s the most visible project and it’s, it’s small. Everything we do has to sort of be within our means. Um, but the, the hope is that it becomes a model for other projects or that it’s a project that can continue to grow over time. Um, the community plan is the name for the, uh, process. That’s about to start consulting as many individuals and organizations as we can to create a document that is sort of a, a report of what the community wants and you know, what the problems are and how the community wants to solve it. 

So that’s not something visible to the eye yet, but that’s gonna be a major campaign involving a lot of people. We hope volunteers can do it. Uh, we’re using something called the house party model for that, which is simply, uh, sitting down with your neighbors in a small group or your friends as few as three or five people. And going through this conversation about, you know, what are the obstacles to living here? What are the challenges to living here? What could be done about them and doing many of those house parties will eventually generate hopefully hundreds of, uh, people’s inputs into what they’d like to see here. So that will all get put together in a report somehow, um, that will serve as the basis for, you know, some kind of visionary, holistic, transformational, um, a number of projects that will come out of that. 

So we’re kind of on one year to do that process. And then if it succeeds after that, a whole number of actual projects on the ground will come out of that depending on what people want and what they can do. So I would say the food forest, uh, is a modest, but real step toward, uh, dealing with some of the, um, food, um, in the direction of food sovereignty in food self-sufficiency. Um, and the community plan is a sort of comprehensive bottom-up, uh, process to, to have a, a detailed vision of how to bring about this big transformation. Um, those are two very important projects that are going on. The third is, uh, we just recently opened a community. Well, we haven’t even launched it to the public yet, a community center, um, a physical space, uh, on par road that we hope to open to the public in April as a, uh, community center, a place for organizations to host events, a place for, um, evenings, uh, of culture, whether it’s open mics or music or any other number of things that people will bring to it.

Um, and a physical place where people can sit and be with each other during the day, hopefully over a coffee. It’s actually in the space of the former coffee collaborative, which was a, a well-loved institution in IBM, uh, the whole community and followed by campus point, which operated there as a cafe for two years or a year before the pandemic shut everything down in that space. That’s been emptied, uh, for a while. So we’re jumping in and trying to use that as a space, again, to do outreach to the community, to, uh, be of service to the community, um, and to build a kind of denser network of people who are basically aligned with these values. I would say those are the three big projects. I can also name the E Vista club. That’s a, uh, launch to be happening. Hasn’t happened yet, but there’s planning for, uh, the club to be an organized student group on campus, which will kind of involve students in a, um, in a way where there might be resources and they can organize their events through that. 

And as you know, Natalie, uh, the Zen is a publication. Um, I guess our website is a kind of major project too, because on the website, you can find information about all, most of these projects, you can find issues of the Zen called the radical C at the end about roots. Um, and we even have a so-called E eco vistas climate justice press, which publishes free books, including fiction analysis of, uh, the problems that we face and some possible solutions and poetry, and even a children’s, those can be found on our website in that space. So I’d say that’s like five things maybe. 

How do you think about grass-root environmental, uh, organizations will impact the public perceptions and participation on environmental justice? 

So how do, um, environmental justice and social justice organizations, how might they make an impact? How are they making an impact? Uh, yeah. How do they reach out within the community to raise awareness? Um, well, by doing some of these things, that’s how E ego Vista is thinking about it. And there are many we’ve discovered and what most people know if they scratch the surfaces. There’s a, a rich network of community organizations, including, you know, official governmental elected bodies, like this community service district and the rec park district, including, uh, organizations that serve young people, um, Ivy youth project, the St. George project, um, uh, know bombs, which is trying to offer free meals, uh, nutritious meals to the community on a regular basis. Um, that list goes on and on. So all of these organizations sort of are throwing their best ideas around all of this. 

Um, there’s like no one model or a way to do it. Uh, and I think it has to be a network, a coalition of forces to, to do it all. Um, so that part’s important and yeah. How do you raise awareness if that was the question you have to work at it, um, and we’re doing it along with other organizations. The best we can. The idea though, is that this will grow, become more visible and more vibrant and more attractive to people to participate in all of this. And, um, we’ll get to the point where big changes can be affected. Somehow. I don’t have a roadmap, nobody has a roadmap for that. Nobody’s in control of that process. And that’s why it’s interesting, cuz we’re gonna learn from each other by doing things together. 

In your opinion, what is something you feel we would need to pay extra attention to and something that might slip to the rug if we didn’t know, and how to incorporate those into our social enterprise.

Course. Um, the food issue is probably, you know, right up there as the leading issue in a community like is Vista the, the sort of obvious number one is the housing crisis. Um, and that affects food security too, because if you’re spending all your money to have a place, you have less money for everything else and food is the next priority. And maybe it’s the first priority. In fact, some people can’t afford housing because they have to devote limited resources just to food. So there’s obviously a problem and you probably know that there have been studies of food insecurity across the UC and shocking number of UC undergraduates. Um, we don’t have, uh, food security. Um, you should look for those. So you got the problem for sure. And hopefully you’re talking, you have a very specific idea, a new kind of social, socially responsible startup to address, to offer free food. 

That’s awesome. That’s like what could do better and to have that in the community and to have that at scale, um, the people that are doing that with a different model is food, not bombs first and foremost. Um, and they have the perhaps, I mean, it sounds to me like you’re gonna need a tremendous amount of capital, uh, to do anything, to make this work, not to do anything. So that’s the first obstacle I foresee for you. And that’s a common obstacle, all groups trying to do good work in a community. Um, these wonderful ideas are there, but realizing them is a challenge that is beyond the obvious means that we start with, so you have to do some fundraising, you have to find the, you know, sort of chicken and egg, um, the project, if you set it up, will the funding you need to do what you want to do in is Vista. 

So you’re gonna need partners, maybe existing, you know, social entrepreneurs, um, to pitch this too. And so one way to make it work for you is to go into the community, the broader community of Santa Barbara, which Ivy is part of and, um, take a look at organizations that Hey, you could be interested in the idea. And then beyond that, you know, look for, uh, foundations and sources of funding, where you could propose this to. So you might have the workings of a kind of, um, funding, uh, proposal. And we have some experience in that world, not a lot of success, but we’re kind of ourselves at the point where we are trying to raise funds for, to pay organizers really, rather than all this voluntary work that people have put in their heart and soul into. Um, and also a model where, uh, people who became active in Eco Vista, the vast majority from have been young people who will graduate either from city college or, uh, UCSB and move on is for people that, you know, get the, the bug to stay in the unity and try to realize this, any of these projects for them to have an opportunity to afford to do that. 

That’s where we get into how interconnected everything is. A circular economy is the idea that, um, somehow we can generate, create work with others to start up, um, enterprises for organizers and activists to do the good work and get the compensation they would need to live in the community and other chicken in problem. So, um, and then the other, uh, obvious solution is to just grow the food yourself, which is a great solution. Uh, you have to take that to a lot of scale. There’s, you know, there’s always been a vision that in Isla Vista, there could be more gardens, public gardens, private gardens, um, free gardens, and UCSB is involved in doing some of that work. So the greenhouse garden project is kind of asked, uh, little farm of small plots, uh, beyond the stadium. Um, that too, I would, uh, say, look in at UCSB the resources were around food and student, um, internship paid internships because in the office of sustainability, there are some great people like Katie Maynard, um, who work specifically to find funded internships and who is, uh, direct, involved the number of those projects to do with food. 

So hopefully, you know, about Katie, if not, I can introduce you, um, and Mo Lovegreen, who is sort of on the, uh, facility side of making Eco Vistas, more carbon-neutral around sustainability in this traditional sense. Um, so what it is is you have to map, or you could map this mosaic of, of partners and resources. And in that way, you don’t have to do this on your own with no resources cuz you can’t. So the step you’re taking is the first big step, which is to come up, as you say, with an idea that works and then, um, and making that idea a reality in all these other ways, by collaborating, by sharing what you have to share, um, by learning the lay of the land, literally. Um, so yeah, there’s a tremendous interest among students and in eco Vista as well to, to actually grow food, to have gardens, um, and we need creative ideas so that there are more gardens and more opportunities to do that.

Um, and like everything else, the, the beauty of it is not only the outcome of having food, but it’s all the skills that people acquire along the way and all the relationships that are built because those ultimately become the basis for scaling things, um, doing the same in other communities, if you leave on the Vista and graduate and so forth. And E ECOS has kind of looked at it that way, you know, the availability of students who are passionate about this, we are lucky to have, um, but they are passing through in two years, three years. And what you have to do is turn that into a plus, you know, and by doing things that teach skills and inspire people, and there’s a learning process that everybody will take with them and fan out all over. That’s taking things to scale as well. And that’s, we need to do these, not just things, not just in our Vista of, but everywhere. And so the good news is that there are networks on so many of these issues all across, at any level, the county, uh, the central coast, California, nationally, globally, um, to engage with and learn from and do things together with. So I don’t know if that’s, that’s sort of a loose kind of strategic vision, that’s all over the place. So a few tips learned by trial and much error so far on this journey. 

 I also was wondering, um, you know, this has been in the process for five years, have you guys gotten funding? And right now, what requires funding and what can be achieved without money currently?

Exactly. So for four of those five years, we wrote no grant proposals other than getting small amounts of money, uh, from office undergraduate research to do projects, which were all called EVI. Um, but there was no other funding available. And so it was very DIY, very volunteer centered, you know, put in what you’re able to, nobody could be required to do things that would jeopardize, you know, their time or their success in school or, you know, so we just kind of loosely made things up as we went. And that’s the website you see is largely the result of those three, four years of work. There’s one document called the holy catalog under the climate justice press, which brings together a lot of writing that was done in that early period, um, of all kinds. And I would recommend that as a kind of something we did with no budget. 

Um, and it’s only in the past year, literally since the beginning, January of 2021, that we decided to make a concerted effort to understand how to raise funds, to identify the foundations, to apply to and to do that. And so last year we made a number of applications to fund the community plan, um, to get that off the ground and to pay a small number of people for part-time work on that, to launch it, not having had success so far. Um, we’re launching it anyway. Um, but we continue to look for funds because the principle is as articulated. If the ideal is when you’re able to support yourself doing this good work. Um, so we’re taking baby steps in that direction. I would say if you add up all the grant proposals we did last year for that, you know, I am speaking together about many, many, uh, opportunities. 

If we had got them, we’d have well over a hundred thousand dollars, which could, you know, keep a lot of people working on this until it ended in the report we’re trying to do. And, um, in the process, you know, we made relationships with foundations. We learned, I don’t know, we learned about what a grant proposal has to look like. We got feedback from, uh, certain of the organizations that liked what we did, but didn’t think we were able to do it, um, or didn’t have the resources or the plan wasn’t really there. So that’s all helped us both on doing that, that the community plan, which will begin as beginning literally now, and, um, making better fundraising proposals until eventually we have success. And that’s the hope. Um, so it’s a shoestring operation, um, that has survived because of people’s passion and what they’re gonna do on a volunteer basis. 

And, uh, we know that to make it solid and self-generating, and regenerative is an important word, um, in this work that many organizations draw on, um, we have to find a funding model. So the collab is a bet that we can do things in that activity that raise enough money to pay the rent for it, to pay the people working there and to create a beautiful space, uh, to benefit the community. And it is by no means certain that that’s going to become possible after a certain initial effort. In this crucial we’re in, we’ve done three, two months and we hope to launch next month and then we’ll see how that goes. I don’t know if that’s much of an answer. I can’t even remember the question.

I’m curious about your personal views about what the central obstacles are to achieving this transition in regards to both culture and material structures that exist in Isla Vista in regards to say, UCSB  and the state. And generally, I mean, there’s so much infighting on the left, what might be called identity politics. And you touched on funding and like the struggles that, um, have come from that aspect, but how do you see that relating to the cultural dynamics at play in Isla Vista?

Sure. Okay. It’s a huge question, you know, pointing to the issues involved in thinking about it. Um, first off there is, there’s no answer. We don’t know what’s going to happen during this process. And the crises that we face are on an existential level that are making life worse by the day for more and more people. And that is intertwined, of course, right? The climate crisis is kind of the timeline that we have to make things happen by. And we have to do this in, in an economic circumstance that just generates inequality. We have to do it in the existing parameters of racism and patriarchy in the society. And these are global problems. Um, we have to do it in conditions of a pandemic. Um, we have to do it in, uh, what I call cultures of violence, which permeate communities and families, but really go all the way to the geopolitical level as we’ve seen. 

Um, so it seems what I’ve learned from 10 years and, you know, as a participant, uh, and observer of the global climate justice network of movements, we call it the global kind justice movement, but it’s not a movement. It’s a network of any movements, um, is that you have to build, you have to build a dense, you know, community dense, meaning more people participating, uh, more people collaborating and the, uh, trade-off is, you know, people…tend to be committed to their way of doing things. So you have to find people that are open to that collaboration across all kinds of, of differences, of strategy, of issue, of, um, you know, purpose. Um, and that’s true right down to the local level. So it’s important to the way I’ve always thought about E ECOS is that it is open to every community member potentially asking for a future that has aligned with what we call our values and our mission statement. 

Um, and it’s an open invitation. Uh, these things don’t grow by themselves, especially if you’re starting small. Um, you both understand the necessity for working with others and the value of that. Um, even if you lack the capacity to do everything that you would like to do, I don’t think we have a strategic plan that puts all that together. We are sort of by experience, trying to figure out ways to do that. And the trend, I think for E eco Vista is that it is grown in different ways. It’s not just in numbers or visible projects, but it has deep, we have deepened our understanding of, of this work. And yet we’re still very much at the beginning of it or the, you know, trying to get to the middle. And I think some of the things I’ve been talking about are the ways to do that. 

The, um, working with other organizations and working within the community for the community, um, that’s the model I see. Um, and there you deal with all kinds of inequalities, all kinds of, you know, adversaries, actually the, the landlords U C S B itself, the county, um, and then the systems. So, uh, there’s no guarantee, there’s no guarantee in, in terms of confronting the climate crisis, you just have to, uh, wake up to it, uh, examine yourself and what you think you can do. And in the process learn by doing, and working with others. It’s very general, but that’s a kind of, that’s kind of the, uh, the frame I take, you know, to activism. And I think there’s a spiritual dimension to it too. I think you have to be kind of, you don’t have to be, but it helps if, you know, things align if the way you do things aligns with, you know, your deepest, most positive understanding of, uh, some, some weighty, uh, matters also with no answers. 

Like, you know, how do we relate to nature as part of nature, that’s screwing with nature. Uh, how do we get out of that? Um, what are the ways to, to think about doing that? Because we’ve dug a hole so deep that, um, we better find some ways to do things better than we’ve done in the past. Who is that? We, I mean, I, I think starting locally is, is good because you actually have to work with other people to see what can be done and you see, you know, how that works and doesn’t work, but also networking with others and realizing that nobody’s alone in this, no community is alone. Um, that there’s plenty of like-minded communities doing amazing things. There’s, as we say, a blurry versus systemic alternatives already in motion, there’s a dense network of social justice organizations and climate justice movements doing this work. 

Um, so maybe, you know, maybe the pandemic and the technology that’s allowing us to meet over zoom. I really doubt it because we’ve scheduled a meeting on campus with however many we started with, um, to do this. I don’t have time to do that myself. So we’re doing it in my office hours. Uh, and we’re lucky no one has come so up to Sophia. Who’s coming back in a minute. So obviously Alex this is a conversation we can continue to have happy to do that and happy to, you know, make the connections, any of you want to other, uh, people working in eco Vista, uh, or who are more directly working on the food question than I am. Um, and working with others and so forth and so on. 

I really appreciate it, this was all effectively a conversation starter which has provided a lot of content that is a guiding force of some kind for moving forward beyond just academic projects. So, thanks. 

Yeah. Nobody can, you know, be content with work anymore if it’s not out in the world in a non-academic setting.

By: Alex Proksch

Dr. Ralph Armbruster-Sandoval

“My name is Ralph Armbruster Sandoval. I’m a professor in the Department of Chicano and Chicano Studies, and I’m also the chair of the department.”

So it’s my understanding that the Department of Black and Chicano Chicana
Chicanx Studies departments blossomed because of student activism. And I just wanted to ask you why you think that the method that they used added to the weight of the cause. Like, for example, the hunger strikes. Why do you think that method was strategic in this case?

Ok, so you’re asking me about the origins of the department or the hunger
strike specifically? Because there’s two different things there.

The Hunger strikes specifically.

Okay, the hunger strike was in a way, let’s see it was twenty-five years after
the department was first established. And if you want me to speak more slowly or something like that, I can.

No worries.

I know you’re recording it, but still. So twenty five years after, you know, it’s
almost like a whole generation had passed. So the people from the 60s and 70s who protested and demonstrated and did all they could to establish a department, they had “moved on”. But the students of that era still had ties to the alumni from that and the people that created that, were affiliated with Mecha and then Mecha at UCSB had its own unique kind of organizing context so Mecha became known as El Congreso in 1975 and so they had ties with those alumni and those alumni didn’t just kind of fly off, if you will, and didn’t maintain ties with the current students and students wanted to maintain ties with them as well. So but 25 years later, at the beginning, the department, for instance, only had three faculty members and 25 years later, they still had three not the same three. But in other words, they hadn’t really expanded and they had a feeling the students of the 90s, that the university had kind of tokenized them, meaning that they had created a place to kind of quiet them down, but they really didn’t offer them any substantial change. So it was just kind of a what they call it, like a co-opted device, like something to kind of quiet down. I often say that if a baby’s crying, of course you’re going to give the baby something that they would want, you know, like a pacifier. And so truly, they like, pacify restive masses. Sometimes you can ignore them. Sometimes you can mock them. This is what Gandhi said. It wasn’t me. You can mock them. You can ignore them. And sometimes, you know, push comes to shove. You might have to give them something to pacify them to kind of quiet them down. The other thing you could do, of course, is, you know, repress them. You could arrest them. You could do mean things to them. But you know, if you try out all those things you could pacify them, which the system did in 1970.

But by the 1990s, they were saying, listen, we’re not really going to take these pacification efforts any longer. And so we want to do something substantive. And initially, they tried to do everything that you can think of, meaning going to other professors, going to university officials, you know, in other words, engaging in talk and conversation and trying to compromise and whatnot. And none of it really was successful. Cesar Chavez, of course, who had regularly relied on hunger strikes many times throughout his life. Taught a class here in 1991 in IV theater; it’s the only time he ever taught a stand-alone class. The quarter-long class was like a three-hour class. I think it was, yeah, like it was called farm labor organizing in California or in the United States or something like that. And yeah, so the students, some took that class, some in or had been farmworkers themselves, if not their families and parents and stuff. So they understood that struggle very intimately, very personally. It was like a real thing for them and they respected, admired him, and that was like his weapon of choice, if you will, right, the hunger strike.

So, so lots of things like it all kind of added up to they tried to do the regular thing, which is talk to the powers that be. They ignored them. They were really angry about what was going on, not only here in California, I mean, started at UCSB, but throughout California and the whole United States. It was just everything was going in the wrong direction. And the way that I interpreted in the book that I wrote about the strike was that they had to do something significant, something spectacular because they were being ignored. And so I kind of interpreted the hunger strike as a scream as a plea for attention. And so when they got out onto the administration building Cheadle Hall, they just camped themselves out there, you know, and it was really hard to ignore that. You can imagine a group of students all Latino, you know, Latinx. I mean, they weren’t using that terminology. Two of the students, by the way, were of Guatemalan ancestry, so they’re Central American and the other seven were Mexican and Chicano. And you know, they just said, ‘you can’t ignore us anymore. You guys were right here. We’re like starving right in front of you. And if you don’t do something about it, we’re going to continue to atrophy. Our bodies are going to decline and we could even die. Do you really want that to happen?’ So it’s kind of like playing, as we used to say. Desperate times call for desperate measures. And that’s what they did.

Well, there’s two questions like why did they do it? And maybe like, why did it work? But I think that’s why they did it. It’s because they didn’t know what else to do, and they knew that Chavez had used it to bring about positive change. And Chavez died, by the way, in ninety-three in April of ninety-three. And the UCSB strike was basically a year, 13 months after his death. And prior to the UCSB students’ hunger strike and UCLA students had done the same thing in May of ’93. So only in other words, only a month after Chavez had died. And so it was kind of like this moment, a moment that was happening. Seeing that Chavez had done that, you know, you have like a toolkit on it sounds kind of random. He had a tool belt on and you had your hammers and wrenches or whatever. What could you pull out from your toolkit that you would use? Yeah. And it was a strike. They tried everything else. It was like, OK, they use everyone’s going to use a bad word. What else do we have here that we could use you guys? We use that one. We use this one. We use that one. What did this other guy do? And it wasn’t I don’t think that directly in terms of like kind of copying or emulating him, but everybody knew that he had regularly gone on hunger strikes before. And in fact, that when he passed away, he was on a fast not really a strike because he was called to testify in a case that would have potentially bankrupted the union. So it was pretty grave stakes. And he was sixty-six and was already getting kind of old and already went on a number of hunger strikes and his body just gave out anyways. Sorry. I don’t know if that answers your question.

No that was a great answer. Thank you so much. So what made you want to get
involved in this department specifically?

Oh, good question. I have a PhD in sociology, and sociology is an odd field in
a way that it’s rooted really in social justice to a degree, but it’s a very. It’s a very diverse field, so not everybody in the field is committed to that kind of project, from my perspective. So I think there have been all kinds of people that have been, you know, radicals and even revolutionaries or people committed to radical social change. But that hasn’t been the main current in the field. You know, sometimes you have to fight people to get to embrace that perspective. Whereas since you kind of Chicana studies, Chicano studies, that’s not what we’re about. We’re about that from the very get-go. So it’s more openly acknowledged and recognized. And even though there may be other kinds of differences and kind of internal fights and things of that nature, you know, hopefully, you’re all playing on the same field. So I guess, you know, I liked being in that environment where I didn’t have to like consistently prove myself and try to convince people like what I was doing that the world was messed up and that The reason why we’re here is to do something about that is to turn the world upside down. I think sociology, again, there’s a major strain of thought that believes that and encourages students and faculty and others to get engaged
in those activities. But coming out of UC Riverside, UC Riverside, where I got my Ph.D. in sociology, that wasn’t a conducive environment to practice that kind of sociology. Everybody was telling me not to do that. So when I got here, I was like, it was a breath of fresh air, like, you could truly be yourself.

That’s a nice feeling.

It is. You didn’t have to be serving another master, if you will. I did apply to
come to the job here in the sociology department at UCSB, and I really respect this department here. I didn’t get that job. I got the job and Chicano studies well. But the reason why I applied for it is the reason why I just gave you. Um, but there wasn’t a PHD program in Chicano studies, back way back when, back in the day, and the hunger strike produced that program here. Oh, in the first place.

That’s really impressive

Yeah. So that’s what I mean by earlier is that I don’t know if you’ve got a chance to look at my book. It’s no big deal if you have it. They had like six demands, and one of the demands was getting more faculty. Another demand was to get like grapes off campus as there was another grape boycott that Chavez was engineering and they had a whole bunch of demands. But one of the other demands I think is important is was the Ph.D. program. There wasn’t one here at UCSB and there wasn’t one, frankly, in the entire nation, if not world at that time. So the first one ever created was here and it came out of the strike in 1994. So now people are getting pieces in Chicano studies, which is good.

That’s awesome.

Yeah, but it’s also, you know, if you look at it the other way, it’s like, really, is that what it took? People had to like, threaten to die to kind of get something like that. It’s really sad too. It is. Right?

Yeah. Yeah. That was one of the reasons that that question came to mind because it was such an extreme measure that they had to take in order to feel heard. So I thought that that was like an important part of the history.

I mean like theoretically. And if you think about it in an abstract way, like I used to when I was doing the research, I still do sometimes. I remember the cell phone commercials where people are talking on the phone and because especially now with Zoom and stuff, people say, “I can’t hear you,” or people say, “can you hear me now?”

Yeah

So that could be like a metaphor for, you know, like, let’s say people are out
here demonstrating and they had a bullhorn and they were passing out leaflets and whatnot. People would ignore them, wouldn’t they? Some of us would listen and hear. But the thing is, we do not want to be ignored. We want to be heard. Can you hear me kind of like the phone? It’s like, Yeah, but in a way, the hunger striker just sits there, just sits there. But it’s like they’re shouting. But it’s because they use their words and their words didn’t have any impact. So they’re kind of like, done talking and they’re done eating. And as they say, like, if you didn’t listen to me before, maybe you can hear me now. Yeah, it’s kind of a very unique strategy. But some people oppose it, too. They imposed it back then because they felt that if it didn’t work like I said the toolkit thing, they had nothing else in their toolkit, nothing else in their arsenal, nothing else on there. Sounds macho to say, nothing in their holster. If you shoot that bullet, so to speak and it doesn’t work, then what the heck are you going to do? That’s another issue.

Yeah. So why do you think it was important that this happened, like during that specific time period, you kind of answered that with like it being right after Chavez’s death? But why do you think that this place specifically during that time? Like why UCSB?

Well, I mean, the other thing in California was Proposition 187. I cannot stress how important that was. So Proposition 187 would have basically, like criminalized all people who are undocumented in California and anybody that was going to school k through 12 as well as college, but mostly through K through 12 who was undocumented, would have like obligated the teachers to like, inform the INS because we had the I.N.S. at that time, not ICE Immigration and Naturalization Service. It would have turned them into like Border Patrol agents. So if there’s a kid in their class that they knew there was undocumented, they had to turn them in, right? So basically, they wanted to kick undocumented kids out of school. And anybody that was undocumented too that went to like the emergency room or to seek medical attention would be denied access to health care. So it was a demonization. I mean, we’ve seen it, you know, a lot of people think, Oh, California is real chill today in terms of our race relations and whatnot, and we’re very democratic and we’re blue and Yippee, so to speak. You know, California has not always been like that. And in the nineties, because we had a recession and because we had a really right-wing governor named Pete Wilson rallied behind this Prop 187. So we heard the steady drumbeat of every day that the reason why California was in, you know, not doing well, people are unemployed. Same things that you hear today high rates of crime, high rates of smog, anything that they could blame on somebody who was frankly Mexican. But Latino as well. Anybody who was brown was like a villain, the enemy. And so and I think that trickled down to UCSB and to other campuses because they were saying, like, I mean, basically they were saying, Get out, we don’t want you here. You know, they felt that education and health care were like a magnet that was drawing immigrants to come from Latin America, from Mexico here, so they could take advantage of the system. Right? That’s what the narrative was. 

Yeah. 

And so, you know, if the campus wasn’t hospitable to Latinos, then UCSB was saying, get out, too. You know, like, we’re not going to provide you guys with a decent department. We’re not going to provide for you. We’re going to sell grapes on campus. The other thing they were doing was INS raids, which UCSB wasn’t in charge of. The Federal government was. of like Latino families in IV. So they wanted to create a community center, right? And a lot of people that work here and there still to this day are Latino, right, in terms of groundskeepers, janitors, all that kind of stuff. But they lived in IV and they weren’t providing any services to them. So they wanted to tear down building 406 too back during that time period. This is what we’re looking at in front of us. That should have been built in the 1990s. 

Wow.

But the reason why it wasn’t is because they went on a hunger strike because the original blueprint was to expand that way. So if you go around this building, you know you’ve been building 406. El Centro was slated for demolition. So they saved it. You know, so that place has always been like a home away from home for Latino students, right? So they were just like, Hey, the 187 thing that’s happening statewide is kind of happening here too, because, in a way, they’re not making this like a welcoming environment for us. And they’re telling us to get the hell out. So, so you know, so that’s on the one hand. But they had specific grievances like the department wasn’t growing. Oh, they also were pissed that only 10 percent of our students at that time were Latino. You know, back in the day, they only had one percent 1970, and then it inched up to 10. We’re like, Well, I think in the 90s, maybe a third of California today, you know, Latinos are a majority. And so you. But back then it was like, Hey, thirty-five percent of our state is Latino, and only 10 percent of our students are like Raza. We use that term in that era. So we’re like, What the heck are you guys? What the heck? That’s not really right.

And their big thing was in Ventura County, Santa Barbara County and San Luis Obispo County, the tri-county, central coast. There were all these Latino students that we could be attracting to come here to recruit them, but they weren’t doing anything to do that, you know? So we’re like, What the heck is going on here? So that’s why they created even a college day back in 1991. That’s where I came from was to like, bust these kids from these local schools to like, get them in like, Hey, this is what higher education is all about. You don’t have to come here. You go to Cal State, you go to community college. But we want to encourage you guys to come here. Yeah. So that’s one of the reasons why they did that as well.

And slowly but surely, you know, today we’re a society. You know, like 30 percent of our students are Latino, something like that. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine percent. But it was all because of what they did. So one of their demands was to increase funding for EOP and for other recruiting and retention efforts. One thing to bring a Latino student on campus, another thing to retain them, to get them to finish their degrees right? So they had like a really, I think, wide encompassing agenda, you know, from the department to students they didn’t talk about like CAPS. Unfortunately, the CAPS is, you know, the mental health thing. That’s a whole nother story But anyways, they I think that for what they were doing in that era, they were like thinking so far ahead, like, we’ve got to keep it central. We need a community center for like youth and Isla Vista, and we need to stop the I.N.S. raids all these kinds of things. So they put all that on the table. And I think one of the students told me that we were at war. It seemed like there was a war going on, and if it was that serious, then it merited a serious response like the hunger strike. 

And you kind of already answered this, but what has brought. Like what specifically brought you to UCSB and how has your experience been so far? Have you encountered any challenges?

 I mean, what specifically brought me to UCSB? I mean, when you get a Ph.D., you know, you have to eventually go on the job market and you have to like, seek out a job. You’re not going to be unemployed with a Ph.D., although it happens. So I applied to lots of different places and I was lucky enough to get interviews and job offers even. But UCSB was hard to turn down because of the history, right? I knew the history that was here and that was engaging and like, attractive to me. So. What was the other part of the question?’

 How has your experience been so far here?

Yeah, that’s a very tricky question. Yeah, no. People ask that like, what’s been your experience? I mean, I think my experience has been like mixed, mixed in a good way. The thing that’s been saving grace for me is that when I first got here, actually, the students in Congresso interviewed me at building 406, and they asked me what I knew about the hunger strike. And my honest answer was I didn’t know much about that. What I was really interested in as a graduate student, what I wrote my dissertation on was the Anti Sweatshop Movement. And I was an activist. I was an organizer. I got interested in what was happening in Central America, even though I’m not Central American, in the 80s. And I was involved in labor unions and that kind of stuff. And so, unfortunately, the hunger strike here didn’t leave any impact on me in my twenties, if you will. So I felt really stupid, actually when they said that. What’s your take on it? I don’t think they said that. They just said, you know, what do you think about the hunger strike. And I was like, Oh God. But I couldn’t really lie to them. Yeah, that didn’t make sense to me. That was unethical. But I got the job, and I think the students knew that I was probably going to be in solidarity with them in terms of my politics and organizing and activism. And so and the strike had just happened four years prior, so I was hired in ’98 and the strike was in ’94. And I would’ve never been hired had it not been for the strike, never been hired because one of the demands was to increase the number of faculty in the department from, say, like three. I still love it. They said they wanted fifteen. 

How many did they get after that? 

Well, so it went up to like eight, but two other professors were hired the same year I was. So I think in nineteen ’88 when that year started, it was like seven. So they got like a compromise. Actually, they were very smart. Sometimes you’re like, oh, that’s really dumb. Why did you ask for fifteen? That’s just like crazy talk. You know, you ask for the moon. You always ask for the most you can get, hoping that they will actually give it to you, right? Yeah. So they asked for fifteen and they got eight. It’s a lot better than three.

Okay, so anyway, so I got, you know, when I was here, some of the students from that era were still here. Some were like super seniors; some were active in the area, working at UCSB, working in the community. And they’re like, Yeah, Ralph, you know, you should write something about the hunger strike. And I said, you know, I totally would be open to that. I support what you guys did back then, but I’m working on this other thing right now in my book on the sweatshop movement. That’s my primary passion right now, and maybe I’ll get to it. So in 2009, I finally started doing it in earnest, you know, and it took a long time for the book to come to fruition and get published.

But during that time period, this whole time period and even up until today, the best part of my experience to answer your question has been working with students in Congreso and in other organizations, not just them. But I have a very special place in my heart for them, for what they did. And not only in that era, but even before that, because they put their bodies on the line, they sacrificed themselves for our department and for a better world. So meeting them has totally turned and changed my life upside down. It gives me a reason to like, live basically. Yeah, to be in a community with other people that kind of share the same values that I do. So that’s been the best part of working here all that time. And yeah, I’ve gotten roughed up here and there like anybody would in a predominantly white institution and all that kind of stuff. But I survived. You know, I survived and the thing that made it survivable, that’s a word is being in a community again with other people that care, and it’s not just them, it’s other faculty, it’s other people that work on campus in EOP and CAPS and all these other places that you continue finding people that share your values here, your commitment. And so even if we get messed with, I’ll clean that up for you. Even if you get messed with, there’s another word I could use. You can still just talk behind the scenes and go, wasn’t that really messed up that they did that? Yeah, that was messed up and start like, you know, talking like that. And then after you kind of process that you say, Well, what are we going to do about that, you guys? Well, what can we learn from our past? Oh, they did the hunger strike back in the day. I think we could do that. I don’t know. Maybe not. That hunger strike seems kind of rash right now, but maybe we could do this. Maybe we could do that. Not only can we learn from Chicano students, but what about Black students? What about Asian-American students? What about queer students? What about undocumented students? Because once you start digging into this campus, you could see that we really have this rich tradition of activism and organizing, and it’s inspiring. And you know that you kind of students are part of that.

It’s really amazing. I’ve been finding that a lot in the living history project. I didn’t even realize that it was such a huge part of our campus.

Yeah. Yeah. I know it’s not like they put that as one of their calling cards.

No, and they should.

Well, I think I share your perspective, but you know, so you know, North Hall is right up there, right? You see that. And you know, the pictures are up there for the takeover in 1968. Have you seen that?

I don’t think I have. 

Ok, we need to go up there. You want to go up there? … So just take it in for a second. This is October of 1968. [black and white photos on the wall under North Hall]

Wow.

Twelve Black students, some of these folks, it’s really interesting in terms of gender. This is the only one of a Black woman there was. I know there were others, but I’m glad that they did this anyway. They took over this side of the building. This is like a locked unit. Back in the day. This was known as the computer center. Ok, so they took over. They had a long list of demands. They were also not listened to and the – ‘can you hear me now?’ So they decided to take over this building and they said,’ Listen, you guys, if you don’t give us our demands, we’re going to destroy all your records.’All the university’s records, all destroyed. So, you know, again, can you hear me now that got their attention? Here’s the newspaper, back in the day it wasn’t the daily nexus. This is all on the Living History Project too, but it’s one thing to see it there and another thing. So a couple of little stories like this.

There was a group that was like a multiracial radical organization of the United Front that involved white, Black, Chicano students. So these were students in UMAS, which is the group that preceded Mecha the United Mexican American students and first, you know, Chicano Power or Black Power, but they’re in solidarity too. And one thing that was really amazing to me that’s always discussed is so these folks, I think they probably I’m not sure how well-planned they are. Sometimes when you’re an activist, you do things, but in the seat of your pants, you to spontaneous. Yes. So you take over a building like they did, and I’m not sure if they had brought food in and whatnot. So somebody said, Hey, guys, you’re probably getting hungry up there as they’re negotiating because eventually, obviously, they got the university’s attention. They came over to start negotiating and somebody said, you guys must be hungry, so they pass them on grapes. The grape boycott was going on at the time, United Farmworkers, right? And they threw down the grapes. They’re saying, ‘we’re not eating these grapes’. 

Wow.

Ain’t that a great story?

Yeah, that’s an amazing story.

 It still sends chills up my spine. You can see the newspaper covered that. This is at Berkeley, it was in the air, everybody knew because the boycott started in 1965 and it was in its third year so, I love this, I mean the whole thing is just really striking. But the fact that Black students initially organized and they asked for a Black Studies department and out of the Black Studies department came our department. So like, especially when Black Lives Matter was really hitting and it’s been going on for a while, but after George Floyd was killed there was all these demonstrations, we had to like as a department say like our department came out of this Black Struggle because there’s this anti-blackness in our community and we need to recognize the fact that these people did all these things, not for us, but they opened up space, not only opened up space for us but you know for other marginalized groups and communities, right. For example, look right over here I wanna show you this other thing up here, so anyway check this out…years ago, read that thing [plaque on the entrance of North Hall] So this is what existed prior to that [installation of pictures under North Hall bridge] The BSU, they organized back in 2012 and they had a whole list of demands, some of the demands went back to 1968 and they were in touch with Alumni, that’s what I mean by the Congreso people, so this first thing is like twisted, cause it says that UCSB was committed to diversity [laughs], so they were like ticked about this side, it was small, it wasn’t right, and, yes, and it makes it look like the administration was nice.

And like it was their idea. 

Exactly, so one of the things [on the list of demands] was like, listen, this is dumb, we want to have this thing that’s really on display. That’s kinda hard to see, like you would never really see that [the plaque], so do you want to see the one they created for the hunger strike? 

Of course

This is where they went on strike and they camped out here on the lawn [in front of Cheadle Hall]. Yeah, what do you think? [points to nothing – no marker indicating that the strike happened]

Wow

It’s not there.

Why not?

That’s my point…we need to take our cues and learn from Black students because the way they got something– they demanded and the system listened to them. They asked for CAPS, better cops in IV, and all that kind of stuff, they asked for so many great things in 2012 and they got some of it. You ask for a lot hoping that you’re gonna get some of it, but here there’s not a single marker to mark anything, the 1970s, 1990s, any of the eras, and I’m grateful that the Living History Project is trying to archive stuff and make things available because not a lot of that stuff is found on campus. We talk about like decolonizing space– you know this building is named after Cheadle, so Vernon Cheadle was a UCSB Chancellor from 1961-1978 and Chancellor Yang took over in 1994 and is still here today, he’s almost going on 30 years, but did you know that there’s only been one or two buildings named after people of color on this campus? And one of them is that little tiny building, Building 406, but they wanted to tear it down. But, anyway, when you’re walking around, not you just personally but anybody again on the visitor thing [prospective student tours], you know what they usually say “let’s go to the 8th floor of the library” which is really cool because you can see the Channel Islands and it’s a beautiful view, but maybe they should teach them a little bit more.

Over in IV, one student was killed because there was a riot in IV after the bank burned down and the national guard came in and they shot to disperse the crowd and a student was killed over there. There’s a little tiny marker, to mark that, and actually, that student was really pro-establishment, really pro United States, and he just happened to be accidentally shot and killed, but one visitor guide years ago when I was eating lunch over there said “Uh and this is where a student was killed years ago, but you might wanna ask your parents about that because I don’t know anything about the war.” 

Oh my God.

I was like please make it stop. It was just so clueless….Do you have any more questions?

So where does our Chicano Studies department stand today and do you think that the changes that have been made are reflective of where we stand today as a community and what does the future of the department look like? 

Well I think like we were just saying, the Chicano Studies department came out of the movement and really referred to people that have Mexican ancestry, people say that the word Chicano refers to someone that has Mexican ancestry. I mean I think that’s the kind of simple definition, but also it’s greater than that, meaning that somebody has a political commitment to, from my perspective, bring about radical social change. It’s not just an ethnic marker, it symbolizes, if not obligates, I think one to do something to enact some kind of social change, now how somebody does that is open-ended, but the fact of the matter is the Chicano population or the Latino population or the Hispanic population embodies more than just people of Mexican origin. There’s people from Central America, South America, from the Caribbean, indigenous people, there’s people who are AfroLatino, I mean it’s a very diverse and rich community.

Even within Mexico, even that is multilingual, multiracial, all this kind of stuff, so I think that that’s pressing on the department to acknowledge that reality and so it’s not only just about that, also about queer issues as well– you know recognizing the fact that there’s a lot of fluidity there, a lot of gender fluidity, but also just in terms of that kind of spectrum of sexualities. The question of sexuality, the question of indigeneity, the question of Central Americans, like I think that those things from my perspective the department is engaging with but we haven’t really dealt with them as strongly as we maybe could have. Other departments, like the Chicano Studies department at UCLA, changed its name to Chicano Studies and Central American Studies, CSUN has an independent department called Central American Studies. We’re different, I mean we live here in SB, our Central American population is not as extensive as it is in San Fernando Valley and LA proper, but you know I think we could be doing more and perhaps we’ll keep on moving in that direction. We hired a new professor that hopefully, you’ll be able to take advantage of or take classes with, he’s Central American, Guatemalan, his name is Giovanni Batz, so I think we’re moving in the right direction but it just takes time and sometimes what facilitates that is a push from students. It always has been, right? I’m not saying that that’s what’s necessary or what has to happen. Again students shouldn’t have to take desperate measures to do things, they should be done for them already, but we need to recognize that the world is changing, frankly, and we need to keep up with those changes as best we can. 

Thank you and what do you see for the future of the department?

I think the terminology would not just be about words, it would be about a commitment. So, if we say that were this Central American Studies or Indigenous Studies, that implies that we would be working to uproot systems of injustice, race, class, gender, sexuality, colonialism, imperialism. It would be more explicit, again, in trying to turn the world upside down, so I think that’s what our mission is and I think that’s what we’re doing, but I also think that it could be more explicit, so that’s what I hope we do in the future: make known our values and our commitments, that everybody knows where we’re coming from, from the very start. 

How does it feel to be a part of and a leader of such an incredible legacy of these students?

Well, it’s a little daunting because you have like some pressure on your shoulders to keep that going. But again it’s also, I feel reassured that others– I’m following what they did and hopefully I continue on that legacy, continue building on it as best as I can and it’s not just, it’s not my doing, it’s the faculty’s doing as well as the students and the people that have made their little contribution, your ‘granito de arena’ (little grain of sand), everybody put forth their ‘granito’ to the Chicano Studies project and it’s just my turn, I guess, to be the leader for this moment. Somebody else will take my place, and hopefully they’ll build on it, expand it, change it, do whatever they wanna do with it, but it won’t just be them by themselves, they’ll be in connection with their colleagues, and the community in general. Well, it was really nice meeting you and I hope that was okay like going through all that. 

Of course, it was great, thank you so much.

Yeah, go through El Centro again because you’ll go through it with a different perspective now. It didn’t look like that, the students saved it because they were gonna destroy it because it had earthquake damage, so they saved it once with the hunger strike, and then the second time the University pumped a lot of money into it, like a million dollars, it looks nice now. Before, you would step in it and the floor was cracking, it was falling apart, people were sleeping in there, it was kind of a nightmare but you could do some little research on that.

By: Mina Matta

Allen/Rashidi

April 29th, 1970


KCSB interview with Bill Allen, Rashidi, Jim Trotter, and Steve Plevin.

Transcript

Allen: [00:00:04] Allen.

KCSB: [00:00:04] And then what’s your status legally? I guess you were arrested during Reagan came to down, and what’s happened to you since then?  Have you been bothered by the police?

Allen: [00:00:14] Consistently. The state, status legally is that I have three trials coming up, one on the 21st of May, which is the raid-, no, it’s the, um, Isla Vista disturbances, in which I’m accused of breaking most of the windows in Isla Vista for January or February 24th, I guess it is. Then I have another trial on the 31st. And that’s where the Reagan demonstration, which we were accused of initially disturbing the peace. And then after, after the arraignment, at the arraignment, they tacked on two other charges of inciting a riot and vulgarity against a police officer, which is their trip. You know, I mean, they keep adding and and and harassing. And then on June 8th, we have the Santa Barbara 19 or now 20 trials since I’ve been consolidated in that. So I have a lot of court things going on.

KCSB: [00:01:11] They can’t put all this together into one trial? 

Allen: [00:01:15] Oh no, there are separate charges every day.

KCSB: [00:01:17] How can you afford the court fees for three separate, three separate trials?

Allen: [00:01:21] I can’t. There are people who’ve helped out.  We’ve helped out some people in the past and are helping people out now and people are helping us out. 

KCSB: [00:01:27] Well, who’s going to open your defense?

Allen: [00:01:32] On campus, the, for the Privilege and Tenure thing that people at, uh, conducted their defense were Richard Wasserstrom, who’s a Panther UCLA lawyer for the Los Angeles. And Leon Letwin, who’s also in UCLA law school with Wasserstrom. And that hearing is completed, the disciplinary hearing, and they still haven’t received a transcript of some 900 pages of transcripts, and only about 480 were done on Tuesday or [unclear] Tuesday in the Isla Vista militia mischief or whatever the thing is. John Sink is defending me and for the campus demonstrations of Santa Barbara twentieths, John Sink and Roden. And then I’m not sure who’s going to defend me for the, for the Reagan demonstrations.

KCSB: [00:02:29] What about your suspension by the chancellor? Is that still in effect, or have you had your final hearing on that?

Allen: [00:02:35] Well, I’ve had the hearing, as I said, on the discipline, but they haven’t come up with a decision yet as to what the, what the discipline should be.

KCSB: [00:02:43] So you’re still waiting on that.

Allen: [00:02:45] Right, and we’re also anticipating another hearing, the Privilege and Tenure Committee, as to the violation of my privileges that I mentioned earlier.

KCSB: [00:02:53] And you appeal, what was, what’s the final appeal or at what stage of appeal are you now then?

Allen: [00:02:59] Well, I, we’re waiting for the Privilege and Tenure Committee to reply as to our request, which was made a week ago Sunday for an opening again of the, of my, of the hearing on the violation of my privileges.

KCSB: [00:03:14] If I can, I’d like to ask you some things about the Academic Senate. Do you think there’s a possibility that there’ll be some real reforms in the [unclear] if the current student pressure’s kept up?

Allen: [00:03:25] Oh, for sure. I don’t, I don’t see any other alternative. I think the Academic Senate is, is just being pompous at this point, just being incredibly arrogant. You know, I mean, like, they must realize that students are not going to let up on that pressure. I mean, no matter how much repression that they’ve, they’ve brought down this year, the same kind of stuff is happening on every campus.

KCSB: [00:03:45] What kind of faculty support do you have? I noticed the Academic Senate meetings I went, there were a few people, you know, that seemed to be pretty vocal, but what percentage would you say?

Allen: [00:03:55] Oh, really low. This is a very conservative Academic Senate. I mean, this Academic Senate is more like dinosaur, like a dinosaur than any other Academic Senate in the system. I mean, it’s more conservative than UCLA and UCLA is just, I mean, like a lethargic mass, you know.

KCSB: [00:04:14] Who’s being vocal in there right now? I know, I know Richard Harrison’s come otu with a few, a few statements.

Allen: [00:04:22] Well, there are a number of people that have been, you know, fairly vocal over a long period of time on the left side, the right side is much more vocal. And that’s, you know, led by Harry Girvetz, who was supposed to be the bastion of liberalism but, you know, it’s just very conservative, and Andron, who is just completely out of phase with reality. I think that that faction is much more significant in the academic sense here and deserves a lot more, more, press. I mean, they’re the people that are doing all the things in the Academic Senate. No one else gets a chance. They’ve got so much time, and they’ve had it since it was a ci-, since it was a state college. Most of these people that are are powerful on this campus are holdovers from when this was, you know, just a mediocre state college. And that’s why, you know, you get this sort of attitude of just incredible conservatism.

KCSB: [00:05:17] How do you feel about the tenure system in general? Should it be scrapped altogether or revised or what would you propose?

Allen: [00:05:22] I think it should be scrapped. I think the tenure system is is just a poor excuse for some kind of refuge. You know, security. I mean, people build up a kind of specialization in their field, publish, you know, generally a lot of crap, but volumes of it and and then, you know, hide behind the tenure system. So they never create. They never produce. You know, it’s a, it’s really a bummer system, I think, all the way through.

KCSB: [00:05:56] We’re going to take telephone calls, questions if you can phone the minute nine six one two four two four, and we’ll have the questions brought in to us here. All right, well, Rashidi’s here with us and he’s got a trial going on a lot too, so could you rap about that for a few minutes? What’s the story, what are the charges, and how the trial is going?

Rashidi: [00:06:17] Well, the jury came in this morning and I was convicted of, on two counts. The counts were obstructing, no, counts were disturbing the peace, obstructing the pig and battery on a pig, and I was convicted on the obstructing and resisting and on the battery, and I have to go back for sentencing on May the 20th.

KCSB: [00:06:45] This was during the Reagan coming-. 

Rashidi: [00:06:47] Reagan demonstration.

KCSB: [00:06:47] Were you arrested in any other, in IV or, first time or second time?

Rashidi: [00:06:55] Well, in addition to that, while I was in court, you know, right after, I think it was Monday, I went up to court. The two sheriffs who were testifying against me, well we weren’t sure if [unclear] Santa Barbara policemen arrested me again after court on a charge of grand theft, which was a warrant which was put out by the UCLA police department on two counts. Now, this is something that is utterly ridiculous. They haven’t, still this, as yet, have not informed me of what I’m supposed to have stolen or when or anything, and I’m supposed to call down to the Los Angeles court and find out what this is all about. In addition to that, in one incident, which I would like to tell about is last Tuesday. Last Tuesday night, I was walking home about two o’clock and I was stopped by two Santa Barbara Sheriffs, and when they first stopped me they, the one on the passenger side said, Rashidi, what are you doing out this late at night? Don’t you know that there are people who would like to catch you out at night and off you? You know, and emphatically, you know, and he said it’s about two or three times, you know, then they said, well, can we search you, you know? And I said, well, do I have any choice? You know, so they got out and they searched me. Then one of them started looking around on the ground with a flashlight all around the area and he came back to me and said, you threw this. He came with a red pill and said, you threw this down. I saw you make a furtive movement and you threw this down. And they said, well, we can arrest you now or you can go down and talk to Sergeant Briganti. And I said, well, you know, I didn’t want to be arrested, so, you know, let’s go talk to Briganti. So they took me down to their station, their headquarters they had over in Devero, and they took me off in this little room and they said, well, we’re not gonna arrest you, you know, we just want to talk to you. And they went through this long rap, and in essence, what they said was that, you know, they made this appeal to me, you know, well, you’re an intelligent guy, you know, you’re a good guy, you’re going to make it, graduate, and you’re going to be going and getting a job and blah, blah, blah. And, you know, there’s no reason for us to be fighting each other, you know, with some of these other these white guys, you know, who are really insane, they’re crazy. They just want to cause trouble. You know, we really got to get rid of these people, you know, so why don’t you just stay out of it? You know, and this, they rapped with me for about half hour, 45 minutes.

KCSB: [00:09:44] What was your response to that?

Rashidi: [00:09:46] Well I, well I told them, as always, they’ve made mistakes like that before, you know, that they are good dudes, you know, and I like them and we believe in the same things, you know, and, well, you know, naturally I wasn’t going to be belligerent, you know, and cuss them out or anything like that ’cause there was nothing but pigs in the building and, you know, they had me surrounded. I was in a little room and there was about 10 of them waiting outside. But I mean, I told them, you know, what I thought, you know, and then the two pigs who were really picking me up took me back to where, where they originally picked me up, and they parked, turned off the lights, and then they both got out on either side of me and, and one said, well, you know, no more games, you know, we’re this serious business from now on, you know, you’re an intelligent guy, you know what we mean, you know, that type of thing. And I, you know, took it as a threat, you know, I think that the, this is what was meant by, also previously, you know, in the building, I didn’t mention this. They said, well, Rashidi, what do you think’s going to happen, you know, and I said, well man, I said, I can’t say. It all depends if you guys rip someone else off. I feel like, I think if you kill someone else that there’s going to be a lot of shi-, crap, you know? I’m not supposed to say that, you know. In Isla Vista, and they said, well, if you guys keep doing what you’re doing, I think that’s what’s going to happen. And I said, well, you know, we’re right and we’re not going to stop because you guys are wrong.

KCSB: [00:11:17] Well, Jim Trotter also ran into trouble with the police department in the last few demonstrations. I wonder if you could tell us about that.

Trotter: [00:11:23] Well, I was charged by the grand jury with three counts of felony, arson, battery on a peace officer and interfering with an executive officer in the line of duty. And I was acquitted on all three counts by a jury trial in the superior court. And tomorrow I have disciplinary hearings with Dean Reynolds and the conduct committee or some such thing about events that took place on February 12th, which was a demonstration in front of the administration building in which several people got clubbed and things, and I’ve been charged with violations of the new student code that you can’t do anything, oh you know, the very elaborate one where I was charged with disru-, interfering with the operation of the university or something, and that was when the university had closed down the administration building and had the police out there, yet had not declared the building closed. So that’s the-

Allen: [00:12:23] That was the day that I went [unclear].

Trotter: [00:12:28] Yeah, right, clear, you’re correct.

KCSB: [00:12:28]  I remember when William Kunstler was on campus, he was talking about the jury and the judicial, judicial system in general. And he said, you know, in theory, it’s an equitable system and the jury system is as goody-, good as any if justice is done equally. What are your impressions about, all three of you, about the, about the judicial system [unclear]?

Allen: [00:12:47] I’d like to have had you seen Rashidi, I mean. Like, there, first of all, there were nine senile old ladies. I mean, that, you know, had never been sexually satisfied in their life, no way that they could have been, I mean, thin lipped, you know, and just flat foreheads and, and then three guys there. One was about maybe in his late 30s, early 40s, and the other two were like, you know, retired guys. I mean, you’re supposed to be tried by your peers, you know, and the average age of these people must have been in the late 40s, early 50s. Like, that is not, you know, those are not his peers. Those people don’t have the same lifestyle, they don’t have the same attitudes towards things. They’re more concerned with, you know, preserving their status quo, even though it’s ugly and unsatisfying to them. God, it was this ugly-, there’s no way that those people could find him guilty legitimately. They cannot possibly be a legitimate jury.

Rashidi: [00:13:46] You know, it would, what he said, you know, like, I defended myself, you know, on this particular charge, on these charges. And the first thing that I did was objected to the constitution of the jury, because first of all, of the people that were there, you know, available for selection, there was not one black person, first of all. There were a couple of young people, but the defense automatically exclude those when [unclear], you know, their policies automatically exclude any student or, or any black person or, or any young person, you know, because they feel that they’ll be sympathetic. And being there’s, by the jury commissioner’s own testimony, only one percent students that are chosen for the entire, the entire year, you know, serve on a jury. They’re very easily-, they get seven, they can eliminate seven people in a municipal, you know, a misdemeanor trial and 14 in a felony that it’s impossible for a student to get another student or almost impossible for a student to get another student on a jury so that the average age of jurors by the jury commissioner’s own testimony, really under this case, is 47 to 68 years old, and for the most part, retired people. And I mean, in my case, it was just ridiculous. You know, the pigs who testified contradicted each other. I had reputable witnesses. I had Kief Dotson from the news press who testified on my behalf. I had Catherine Peak, who’s lived here 50 years. I had Officer Becento who’s a sheriff, you know. Although he didn’t see the incident, he testified as to what I was doing there that was not try-, kinda-, trying to cause any trouble. And there’s just no way, you know, and, and, and, and the prosecutor handed down this thing, this rap about law and order and how these people, it was their duty to prosecute me, their duty to find me guilty to stop all these demonstrations, you know.

Allen: [00:15:54] Because it’s cost them tax dollars.

Rashidi: [00:15:56] Yeah. And, you know-

Allen: [00:15:57] That’s the thing they’re into, right.

Rashidi: [00:16:02] And they…thirty five that I, there’s no way they could have convicted me, but they did.

KCSB: [00:16:08] Can we ask you, Bill, about the events in Isla Vista and what you think about violence in general against, the difference in violence with-, against people and against property, and what’s your thought at both the burning of the bank and the police violence on the shooting of Kevin Moran?

Allen: [00:16:26] Yeah, well, I think there is a, you know, distinct difference between violence and sabotage. I’m going cough. I think that the acts of, of collective sabotage against the bank on the 24th of February and the 25th of February and again this last month, were, were acts that were actually, were, were clearly acts against property. They weren’t against people. In no case was any, was any person fired upon unless somebody had, had fired upon them first. In other words, in, in no case, that I know of in Isla Vista, were the pigs attacked until after they attacked first. And every case, they committed some brutal act and then people retaliated. And, you know, I think for all intents and purposes, what happened in Isla Vista is, is a direct result of an overzealous, ugly police force, I mean, that, that wants to see, you know, a lot of shit going on in Isla Vista, because that’s exactly how, that’s ex-, h-, that, sorry about that, that’s exactly, you know, how they’re going to bring this thing to a head and completely quash any kind of, of significant social change. And th-, and they’re so effective at it, man. Like they, they had the [unclear]. You saw what they did the last time with Operation Wagon Train, a sneak attack on a group of students, man, as if they were Vietcong, you know, like those are the kinds of sneak attacks that they have in Vietnam. Exactly. You know, and those are the kind of sneak attacks that they, you know, that they impute that the Indians used to have, even though it’s clear that the settlers had a lot more attacks on the Indians than the Indians had on the settlers.

KCSB: [00:18:19] Now, what about the main difference between the last demonstrations and the ones were part of the bank was burned, but quite a number of students have come out and said they’re against violence and were trying to defend the bank, one of them being Kevin Moran?

Allen: [00:18:30] Yeah, I think that, that what happened there was, was that there weren’t very many people that I knew that really were hot to have a riot on the, in this last riot kind of situation. I don’t think anybody was, was turned on to see any more kinds of rioting going on in Isla Vista. You know, several of us went down to, to talk to Jerry Rubin and attempt to, to get him to come up here and just be in the park, in that, you know, we felt that it was important that, that he come, but it was also important that, you know, that we show that there was a sense of community in Isla Vista starting to develop, and that that sense of-. 

KCSB: [00:19:06] Was Rubin actually here that day?

Allen: [00:19:07] Well, if he is, if he was, he was in a good disguise because I didn’t him there. And, and, and the riot that ensued, you know, after Jerry Rubin was here, was not because, you know, Jerry Rubin didn’t come. I think most of the people felt somewhat disappointed that he didn’t come, but what happened effectively, it seemed to me, is that, is that the police desperately wanted a riot, you know, and when all of those people were standing on the steps of the bank on, on Thursday night, it was clear that nobody was going to go out and throw a Molotov cocktail at a, at a bunch of liberals and conservatives standing on the bank trying to protect it. I mean, nobody was going to do that, you know, and it was over effectively. And yet the police had to come in. They felt compelled to come in. And the next night, the same thing happened, you know, it seemed to me. The fire had been put out and nobody was going to, I think, run up and throw another Molotov cocktail at those people standing there.

Rashidi: [00:20:02] You know, I think, in terms of, you know, you know, all this tal-, talk about violence, you know, which mainly, all the people who talk about it in the Academic Senate, the Chancellor, you know, they alwa-, you know, they always refer back to, you know, that damn bank, you know, or, you know, something of this sort. They try to play down, you know, the fact that Kevin Moran was killed by a pig. You know, they play down the acts of brutality that were committed against the people in the community. They play down the acts of brutality that instigated the whole thing, you know, and, and-

Allen: [00:20:37] You know, nobody talks about this guy getting hit with a police car. Nobody talks about the nine people who were shot, you know, one of them now dead. And yet, you know, we keep hearing this thing about, you know, people out, you know, out against violence, you know? Well, most of the people that I know that are fairly radical on this campus were against violence, and I too, and, and to some end, they were trying to build barricades so the police didn’t swoop in and kill people like they finally did. I mean, they were, people were left merciless. They were left right, you know, in the hands of the pigs when they swooped in.

Rashidi: [00:21:11] And, if I could, yeah, I, I, I, you know, personally hold, the, specifically the Academic Senate, the Chancellor, you know, and number of other people on this campus who, and, you know, in Santa Barbara, who have consistently resisted change. I think they are responsible. You know, I think that the people who are engaging, you know, the small, who’s engaging in, you know, the real daring acts, you know, were reacting out of the, the, the, I mean, from legitimate, let me word the le-, legitimate emotions. I mean, they were frustrated because every time they try to get anything done, they’re constantly, you know, they just spit in their face, you know, the Chancellor just, just, just said, to hell with student voice. You know, the people in Santa Barbara said to hell with you people, you’re out of this control, and how do they expect people to react? This people reacted normally. They were frustrated. And, you know, they taught me in psychology, frustration leads to aggression, and this is something that they knew was going to come about. And I thin-, you know, I think Cheadle’s responsible and I think that he ought to be hunged for it.

Allen: [00:22:16] I’ll tell you, if there were-

Rashidi: [00:22:18] Mmm hmm. And the Academic Senate.

Allen: [00:22:18] If the grand jury were-

Rashidi: [00:22:18] You can bet.

Allen: [00:22:18] -composed of Isla Vista residents, I’ll tell you who the people that would be indicted would be. It’d be Cheadle and Varly and Evans and Reynolds and Webster and Buchanan and all the rest of those, those people, Mayor Firestone, county supervisors-

Rashidi: [00:22:35] Yeah, and I think also those people, you know, the students who didn’t, like, you know, for a long time-. 

Allen: [00:22:40] And Ronald Reagan.

Rashidi: [00:22:40] -the whole, the whole thing that, that we were trying to say was like students, let’s get together and let’s show them that we’re all together and we all want change. People are so apathetic. They wouldn’t come out. You know, a lot of them wouldn’t come out. 8 thousand, yes, you know, 8 thousand came out for a while and then, you know, they started to, drifting off, you know, and then pretty soon was left, maybe 500 people still struggling for change, and the rest of the people said, to hell with it. You know, I think if they had all come out and got together and, and shown that they were behind change like they say they are now, you know, when all these things have happened, like has been killed, people have been shot, and things have happened. You know, if they had come out and showed that there was student support, and we had exercised student power, real student power, like the BSU’s been calling for, ever since we started this whole thing with North Hall. We always related the things that we were doing to the larger issues of student power. If you check back on the records, and our statements always been related to students should get together. But they didn’t, you know, and now they all sorry, or mad, or whatever, but when they could have got off their asses and done something, they didn’t, and now they want to come and condemn those people who had guts enough to do something and to beat and to defy that illegitimate authority that’s oppressing them and oppressing all of us.

KCSB: [00:23:53] We’ll be back to this discussion with Jim Trotter, Bill Allen, and Rashidi in a few moments after election coverage from KCSB FM, Santa Barbara.

Rashidi: [00:28:27] So therefore, you know, I mean, that’s the whole thing that they’ve been running down on Black, you know, Chicanos, that, that we’re irrational, we’re emotional. Yeah, you know, and, and-. 

KCSB: [00:28:36] We’re back, back on the air with Rashidi, Bill Allen, and Jim Trotter, talking about the violence in the streets-. 

Plevin: [00:28:43] Steven Plevin.

KCSB: [00:28:43] And Steve Plevin also, excuse me. I think we got a telephone question? Yeah, this is for Bill. Where do you stand on issues such as the Goleta Slew and other conservation issues, or do you have time for such concerns, in light of your present predicament?

Allen: [00:28:57] Oh, yeah. I think that there was a statement recently by the Chancellor, and I think it’s an outgrowth of what’s happened here, and that is that they’re not going to touch the slew now. A lot of things have been saved, you know, since we started demonstrating and putting our bodies on the line out here. One of them was Rexroth, and the other one is the slew, and so some good things have happened. I’m very much, you know, more concerned with ecology than, than it would appear in the last two or three months. Some people may remember that like three months ago in a day we said in its terms, we [unclear] on the oil. That was the day before the demonstrations started here. I would like to see people really getting militant about ecology. And I’m not, you know, I’m not really mincing any words. I’d really like to see ’em get it on against the kinds of polluters and exploiters that, that corporations are in this country.

KCSB: [00:29:44] You don’t think the environment issue is a cop out then, like a lot of people do, taking-

Allen: [00:29:49] No, I just think it has to be put in political perspective, man. It’s a political problem right now because the major exploiters and, and the major polluters and, and those people concerned with, you know, increasing their consuming base, which is basically an exploitative kind of trip, are the corporations in this country. And they’re so good at it, man. I mean, they’re just, they’ve got all the technology that they need to destroy the Earth to turn it into one agrobusiness garden kind of environment, you know, and smooth out all the regularity, I mean all the variability, just like they’re, they’re cutting off all the cultural variability.

Rashidi: [00:30:26] They like to pave the world.

Allen: [00:30:27] Right on.

Rashidi: [00:30:27] Just have the whole world-

Allen: [00:30:28] And they’d like to have the whole world culturally middle class, which it means that they’re going to consume for creature comforts, and it’s just, I mean, that’s their, their scheme of the world, you know.

KCSB: [00:30:38] Well, I’d like to ask Rashidi about that. There’s been some talk, I understand, from Black leaders in the East and they’re saying that ecology is a cop out and isn’t the real issue and that that should be put secondary and fighting racism first. Would you go along with that?

Rashidi: [00:30:51] I think that, the, what most of the Black leaders are saying and what my side down in the Black Panther Party out in UCLA said, you know, today is that, and like, you know, I’ve been here in Isla Vista, you know, for over a year, you know, like I’ve gotten out of the, you know, the environment, you know, of living, you know, in the ghetto, you know, and that people are there-, people there are concerned with much more basic personal things, you know, like eating, you know, like working like, you know, pigs constantly, you know, I mean, I mean like here, you know, we have harassment, you know, and it’s, and it’s, and it’s intolerable, you know, because the people aren’t used to it, you know, to that extent like in the Black community, at least once a week, like a young Black person is ripped off by a pig, you know, and, and, you know, it’s, you know, justifiable homicide. And these are things that these people are concerned with. The thing about ecology is, I think that [unclear] a lot of people do use it as a cop out. A lot of people, like Nixon, you know, got behind it, you know, and Reagan even said that, you know, that bull sh after he came out and said this thing about, we have to find a happy medium between progress and preserving natural resources, you know, and that a lot of, I think a lot of people are into it, you know, as a cop-, I, you know, as something that, that, that, that no one can condemn them for, you know, and yet they can still say that they’re trying to, you know, to help, you know, but I think there are a lot of serious people. I think Bill’s serious because I seen him, you know, put his own body on the line, you know, his own self, his who-, his own career, you know, risk going to jail, you know. I think if people are concerned enough to get at the cause of it and point out who’s doing, like you know, these corporations and then tie that in, you know, to their exploitation of the ghetto, the exploitation of, of the students here, the exploitation of the entire world, then they’re really on the right track, but if they’re only talking about preserving their own environment for their own personal enjoyment, you know, then I say, to hell with ’em.

KCSB: [00:33:07] Well, if I can give you just one specific case, I know in South Carolina, they’re trying to put a factory [unclear] Head, I think it’s called, and the choice there is whether they’re going to put in this factory and pollute the Bay or whether the factory will be put in and it will give jobs to a large number of Blacks who are in the poorest county in the United States. How do you make a choice like that?

Rashidi: [00:33:28] Well, I really couldn’t, you know, not being here, not knowing the specific situations that they’re confronted with, you know, all Black people are not necessarily working for the good of, you know, the entire world to give the community or whatever. You know, they’re Black capitalists who only care about making money. You know, I’d want to find out if those Black people have some interest in that factory being built, you know, but I think that the important thing is that if technology is used correctly, you know, I think, and I think me and Bill at times disagreed on this and [unclear] other, you know, the radicals, to quote white radicals in quote, you know, that I think that technology can be used to increase, you know, people’s lives, and to better people’s lives, but as long as it’s under control of the corporations and not in the hands of the people that, you know, that we’re just going to keep polluting, and, you know, none of us are going to have any place to live. I think Trotter, you know, really is more into that to me. I like-. 

Trotter: [00:34:44] Well, the whole, the whole ecology movement, the whole concept of ecology is, is ultimately a very revolutionary concept. There’s no way to deal with the problems without having a revolutionary perspective, because ecology is a, is based in scientific fact that demonstrates that the whole world is one global sphere and that internationalism is the only possible solution to these problems. You can’t have specific national interest or local interests.

KCSB: [00:35:09] You’re probably aware of what happened to the Honeywell Corporation’s stockholders meeting yesterday, which was disrupted by a lot of people, young people who’ve held proxies, and [unclear]. Do you see this sort of thing happening in the future?

Trotter: [00:35:22] Yeah, I personally know several friends of mine whose parents are very wealthy that are buying stock in, in corporations designed to end pollution, or clean up pollution, or are using their stocks in whatever way they can. It’s a very minimal type of effort because using, trying to vote in non pollution measures, say, in a stock-, in a board meeting is almost contradictory because you’re going to vote yourself out of your profit. Our pollution is some of these profit is, you know, as a little slogan goes, and it happens to be very true. There’s just no, there’s no question about the reason that there is pollution is because it is in the interest of a capitalist class to, you know, to sluff off that duty. They have a social duty because it’s not enforceable.

KCSB: [00:36:09] Probably the major issue of last month’s regents meeting was moved by Regent Dutton to have the university’s seven million dollars worth of General Motors stock. The proxies for that being used to fight for some reforms of GM, and this, this failed do you have any comment on that? 

Allen: [00:36:26] Can you repeat that?

KCSB: [00:36:26] Last, last month regents meeting, one of the biggest issues was how the university would vote their stock in the upcoming General Motors stockholders meeting.

Allen: [00:36:40] Yeah.

KCSB: [00:36:40] The university holds seven million dollars worth of GM stock and there was a move on to have the stock used to put some pressure on some reforms in General Motors, and this failed.

Allen: [00:36:54] Where did it fail, the Regential level, or-

KCSB: [00:36:56] The Regents.

Allen: [00:36:56] They, they refused to. Well, sure, you have all the biggest capitalists in the state, I mean-. 

Trotter: [00:37:02] They did a lot to tear down the image of the University as a liberal vehicle for reforming society when in reality, it’s the University of California that produces all the nuclear warheads that the country uses; it’s the University of California that won’t vote for reform in the, the largest producer of air pollution, and it’s stripping away all of the facades that the University has been trying to maintain over the past few years while all the disruptions have been going on.  They’ve been trying to say, we’re working for social change; we’re trying to improve the environment; we’re trying to improve people’s lives, but when it comes down to the vote, they’re not.  They’re not interested in that.  They’re interested in their own profits and this is, this is the kind of issue we’ve been talking about now for a long time, and people are going to start seeing it in a real sense when they see how these votes go.

KCSB: [00:37:45] Well, we have environmental problems a lot closer to home right out in Isla Vista, so I wonder if each of you could give an idea on how you can make Isla Vista a decent place to live? How can they clean up this community?

Allen: [00:37:55] Yeah, I think we ought to shoot for, on Isla Vista, a program where we do away with cars in Isla Vista completely. I mean, if it’s going to be a student [unclear], let’s turn it into, as utopian a one as possible? To that end though, we might do is have just emergency lanes running down the streets that presently exist and, and have those emergency lanes on any bike lanes and, and the rest of the street be torn up and turn into organic gardens. And it could happen, like people are starting to plant all over Isla Vista in vacant lots, you know, and there, there seems to be a lot of energy towards functional kinds of things like that Isla Vista. I mean, you know, a lifestyle that people are starting to evolve is, is not just a communal one for sex and, and leeching off of people, you know. It’s one in which people can start living real lives in which they, you know, can control some of their own subsistence, hopefully all of it eventually. In addition to that, I think that, that, that they ought to put a limit like the, that limit being right now on, on any more building in Isla Vista.  No more building should go up there. There’s too many people already, and they ought to turn some of those vacant lots that the realty companies own that they can’t build on anymore anyway if we put the limits on; gotta build at least one of them into a daycare center to give some of the women in Isla Vista some liberated time. And then I think we ought to, we have to think about getting some of those merchants who have been gouging the people for years now to start contributing some money to, say, a breakfast program for some of the kids on Isla Vista and, and in some of the Goleta ghettos down here where the kids certainly don’t get very good meals. And I think that we ought to start evaluating exactly how much longer we’re going to permit the kind of rent gouging and the kind of inflated market prices and the kinds of inflated gasoline prices to persist in Isla Vista. So I think that, you know, that the best way to get any kind of sense of community out there is to start turning the place into something that, that people really want to live in, you know, instead of, that people just want to be transient in, you know, and that people are willing to put up with because they’re getting a quote education so they can fit within the system again.

KCSB: [00:40:05] I got a fact from a listener. He says that the ecology problem exists from a consumption economy supported by advertisement.  If advertisement were outlawed, would it help the ecology movement?

Trotter: [00:40:18] It certainly couldn’t hurt the ecology movement, but the single biggest problem is not necessarily just advertising, but the fact that people, you know, have to live a certain type of lifestyle in this country to survive. I mean, you know, people that live in, especially in Isla Vista kinds of situations, where you’re, you’re really dependent on grocery stores for your source of food and the fact that the energy necessary to supply, say, a TV dinner, you know, go to the icebox, open the icebox, take the [unclear] out, put it in your oven, and prepare that. The energy necessary to do that in this country is, is, is in fact the real manifestation of imperialism. The United States uses 54 percent of the world’s resources and it’s only five percent of the world’s population. Those resources are used to accomplish acts just like that, to open your door, to prepare a TV dinner, to drive your car, do all these very highly technological processes that require energy that is deprived in the other 95 percent of the world’s population.

KCSB: [00:41:15] Would you go along with Jerry Rubin’s idea of having planning in the morning and farming in the morning and playing music in the afternoon and then making love at night?

Trotter: [00:41:24] That’s definitely, that’s not just Jerry Rubin’s idea. Buckminster Fuller advocates, you know, the same thing-. 

Allen: [00:41:28] Tribal people all over the world have been doing it for thousands of years and digging it. I mean, it’s just, I’ve lived in that kind of environment, and it’s hip.

KCSB: [00:41:37] I’d like to get into a few questions concerning the student elections that are going on right now, at least the votes that are being counted. One question that we asked the candidates last Sunday night and might be worthwhile asking you is the fact that a couple of years ago, most radicals on campus and minority groups were condemning AS government as being totally ineffective. And this election at least, we’ve seen a lot of minority groups and radical, radical individuals seeking office. Can you explain this, the change?

Allen: [00:42:05] Let’s wait and see the results.

Rashidi: [00:42:07] Well, I think that the reason that, I know, you know, before last year, you know, we got into it, we pointed out to people that the student, the student government really didn’t have any power. The administration really didn’t listen to them. You have people like Paul Sweet, you know, in there who, who basically were administration boys, and this is the type of people that, you know, were in there. And the reason that I think that we became involved was to force the administration to deal with the question of whether students had any power or not, or they were gonna listen to students or not, and I think that this year, you know, they showed that they wouldn’t. And I think that most of the people who are running this year who, you know, have labels on, you know, whatever side you want to label them, you know, are dealing with this question and the whole thing, the whole reason is to bring it out to the students, you know, that they will not listen to us, you know, and that the present system is ineffective and that there is no power whatsoever in the hands of students. People like, Taz Do, you know, and Perry, you know, we talk about getting lawyers, you know, and things like this, you know, that is not going to work, you know, and it’s obvious and I don’t see how after the, the, the, the way that the administration has acted, the statements that they’ve made, have you been reading the things they made in the news press, you know, about the students? You know, how we are distorting issues, you know, while they’re the ones that are distorting issues, how the Academic Senate has been con-, they just completely ignoring. They have just said, to hell with you. You know, and people have been really reading what they’ve been saying, you know, and I think this is a thing, And students are going to have to realize that because as long as they think that that student government, you know, as it presently stands, is going to bring in some results, it’s just going to be going down a blind alley and eventually, it’s going to happen, you know, because people’s awareness, you know, you know, like the awareness today is much more than it was last year at this time, and it’s going to be at a higher level at this time next year. You know, eventually they’re going to realize that this present system, you know, is, is just not one that’s designed to give students any voice. You know, the university wasn’t built that way and it wasn’t the students, you know, the way the system was set up, students weren’t, you know, it’s a game, you know. They let the students play around here with their little money, which they’re now trying to take back, you know, and I personally think that they financed this move to take away, you know, to do away with the student funds you raise, and then this propaganda thing they’ve been running, you know, about where this money is going, you know. I think if the issues are made clear to students that keep that, but I think that’s the reason people have become involved, you know, because they, the people who were n-, were on there before were not even attempting to really articulate truly, you know, the grievances of student issues, but they wanted to be, you know, quote, responsible, end quote. And that’s another thing that I’ve, you know, had experience with in the Black community, you know, the responsible Negroes, the house niggers, we call them. And you got a lot of house nigger students, you know, one in particular, you know, I won’t mention, you know, on that committee that they put me and [unclear] on, you know, after Bill’s thing, you know, to, to investigate, for student input into departments, you know. We resigned because we knew basically that the committee did not have any power whatsoever. There was one student in there who is now working for the administration who called various other student members and told them, well, you know, you ought to stick on this committee because, you know, like, it’ll be really good for you. You know, you’ll make a lot of good contacts, you know, and basically they’re selling out student interests, you know, you know, their, for their own personal gain and not there to, to, to, to see the students really get a voice. They’re there because they’ve been handpicked by the man, you know, and there are a number of students in these positions. And, and that’s the type of thing we’re going to see through. That’s the kind of thing we’re going to have to deal with, you know.

KCSB: [00:46:04] From the earlier election returns from the UCEN, where they’re counting the ballots from the student elections, it looks as if the more moderate candidates are building up a sizable lead. Do you interpret this as a sign of, some sort of student backlash to what’s been going on, this, the radical, well, I don’t know what you want to call-, the office holders that we’ve had, and the disturbances in Isla Vista?

Allen: [00:46:25] Yeah, I don’t think there were too many radical officeholders. There were, you know, some that supposedly are-. 

KCSB: [00:46:37] If you could call him-. 

Trotter: [00:46:37] The part of the, the moderate upswing in candidates, I think is not necessarily due so much to a backlash; the backlash is probably a benefit than more the number of people who voted, you know, a more conscientious student body. I’ve forgotten how many s-, they’ve estimated voted this time, but it’s more, much a significant greater number than last time. But the fact that in the last year, student government has been so insignificant, so totally insignificant, that only, like the fraternity and established traditional organized groups have any kind of power to win those seats. And last year, those people who can see themselves as radicals or were in groups such as that, had an organizational base in which they could, you know, run for office and won. And this year, people have learned that organizations’ how it’s done, and the more moderate elements are better, are more organized now. And it represents their organization because I don’t think the student body has become any more backlashist than it ever was. It’s still basically progressive.

KCSB: [00:47:30] Will the campus be a swing towards conservatism while people try and control El Gaucho and groups such as Asia and the Radical Union.

Trotter: [00:47:38] Any depth of, any organization that finds itself in a structured power situation like this is inevitably going to try to take control of El Gaucho and whatever media things they can.

Rashidi: [00:47:48] And I think a lot has to do with fear, you know, how the students are afraid of, you know, of the man coming. I think KCSB is afraid, you know, that the man is going to come down on them again. I think that what happened to KCSB was just, you know, inexcusable, and I, and, and the response that came from KCSB in regards to what happened, you know, I remember-

Allen: [00:48:13] It was lukewarm at best.

Rashidi: [00:48:16] Yeah, when they tried to play that album, and went [unclear] when they just called and told you not to play that album, you know.

Allen: [00:48:22] And that’s amazing, you know, I remember that, man.

Rashidi: [00:48:23] What, what i-, what is this man, you know, and people, you know, still make justifications, you know, they said, well, we don’t underst-, you, you guys said, I said, well, we don’t understand because we were so responsible, you know, and we were really being good guys, and you cut us off, you know.

Allen: [00:48:36] They were being, you guys were being less than responsible, I think, you know. Freedom in this country doesn’t mean, you know, freedom from responsibility. I mean, it means exactly that you have to be responsible and find out what’s going on and I don’t think this station has done.

Rashidi: [00:48:49] You’re supposed to be responsible to-

Allen: [00:48:50] I don’t think this station’s been objective.

Rashidi: [00:48:52] The students, you know, and not to, police about the show-

Allen: [00:48:57] Could you imagine what Beck would have done? Could you imagine what Beck would have done if they told us she had to stop publishing the papers? She’d have told them to get, get hosed, man. She would have published it anyway. She would have gone publish it any place, you know, on, on toilet paper, you know, and what you guys should have done has gotten another transmitter and transmitted, man, because you could have done it.

Rashidi: [00:49:17] That whole myth of, you know, objectivity, and what do you, I mean, what do you mean by objective? To me, it seems like with people usually, you know, what I mean by responsibility and objectivity, they mean you are using the official reports of the police departments, you know, or the official statement by the mayor. And then they say, well, you know, now we’re being objective, you know, and that’s bullshit because the, the, the sheriff, you know, has a definite point of view, you know, and obviously, if people [unclear] anti-student, you know, and I think that Becca’s positions, Becca’s position and the position of the El Gaucho this year has been pro student opinion, you know, I think most students do agree that there need to be change. They might all, not all agree on, you know, the tactics, you know, what they generally agree on the things that should be done. I think that that was reflected, you know, in the newspapers and, and she, many times I read in the paper myself that, you know, I thought that they weren’t militant enough. You know, I thought that they should have declared, you know, you know exactly, you know, where they were coming from, a, they did eventually, you know, what, from the get go, they tell exactly where they’re coming from and, you know, explain all this, you know, and ran it down, you know. What she asked for, peop-, you know, if you don’t agree with me, come on in and write your own article, you know. You know, and people didn’t, you know. So like basically, you know, they were just jiving and they, I don’t know if they’re just, if they’re still so hung up in the authoritarian shit that they went through with their mothers and fathers or what, you know, I think I’ve been in this authority, but you got to recognize that you are a human being, that you have a mind, you know, and that you are legitimate in yourself, you know. No one has to give them, you legitimacy. You’re responsible, you know, you are responsible yourself. You make yourself responsible. You’re responsible to whatever you believe in, you know. But, uh, you know, I think that’s just, you know, that whole argument, you know, objectivity, you know, it’s just, and you know, so-called factual reporting, just like, OK, if, if someone said, well, you know, the pigs shot Kevin Moran, then people would say, well, that’s an irresponsible statement, you know, it’s true. You should have said, well, Moran was killed. And then, that’s one fact, OK, we know he was killed. OK, another fact, at approximately [unclear] of the time, a policeman said that his rifle accidentally fired, you know, and the sheriff even admits that, you know, you see what I mean? I mean, and then you might say, well, the sheriff before that there were snipers, and we all knew that there was no snipers, see, I mean, you can just completely distort what went down, you know, see what I mean? But, you know, I think that’s just, you know, totally bullshit. I think what these people mean by objectivity is they want a pro establishment, pro police, pro authoritarian trip going down in the El Gaucho, you know. And I think that, you know, I just keep remembering, you know, a statement that the guy, that, that day, we had one of the rallies, got from Berkeley. He said he was trying to figure out when this fascism began, you know, when can you actually say that there’s fascism, and he said, that he figured out that it’s when the people succumb to the authoritarian trip.  They succumb to the oppression. When KCSB says, OK, the sheriffs are wrong, they’re denying our constitutional right, but we’ll go out there anyway, you know, and that’s when fascism is in. And, you know, when people say, well, they’re pissed off at us, you know, and even though we’re right, well, we’ll be responsible, what they consider responsible and we’re right with they agree with, you know. If the Santa Barbara News Press is responsible, you know, and you know where they’re coming from, they’re considered responsible, you know, and you know what they are?

Allen: [00:53:05] They’re supposed to be one of the best papers on the coast. I hope you never-. 

Rashidi: [00:53:09] I hope you never become responsible. That’s what being responsible means, because they’re responsible to the sheriff, they’re responsible to the mayor. You know, they’re responsible to-. 

Allen: [00:53:17] The oil interests, man.

Rashidi: [00:53:18] Damn right. You know, that’s who they’re irresponsible to.

KCSB: [00:53:21] Ok, well, thank you very much. We’d like to thank our guests tonight. Steve Plevin, Jim Trotter, Bill Allen and Rashidi. Following this program will be the news. Our guests next week on this program should be the president elect of the Associated Students and the administrative and executive vice president select. This is KCSB FM from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

KCSB: [00:53:45] The opinions expressed reflect those of the speaker and not necessarily those of KCSB, the Associated Students or the Regents of the University of California. Responsible representatives of opposing viewpoints are offered reasonable opportunity to respond, address requests to the general manager, KCSB, University of California, Santa Barbara.

[KCSB.4.29.70 Allen/Rashidi interviewed, Proposal for Black & Chicano Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara, KCSB Audiotape Collection 1969-1970, SBHC Mss 58, Department of Special Collections, UC Santa Barbara Library, University of California, Santa Barbara.]

Graduate Student Organizing Timeline


February 1, 1984

In 1984, California state assemblymember Tom Bates authored Assembly Bill 3251 that clarified the language of the Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act.  It mandated collective bargaining rights for UC student employees by stating that graduate students were employees and not apprentices.  It further stated that graduate student unions had to be recognized by their universities. Members of the UC Berkeley Association of Graduate Student Employees (AGSE) met with Tom Bates, the democratic state legislator from Berkeley. 

Image Credits: [Jacquelyn Affonso / Daily Nexus / February 1, 1984]
[Affonso, Jacquelyn. (February 1, 1984). Bill Will Provide for Collective Bargaining. The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/w0892c12c]

 

February, 1984

In February of 1984, 1,300 UC Berkeley graduate students went on the first strike for recognition of their union, the AGSE. The union had filed unfair labor practice charges against the UC with the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) in order to gain the right to collectively bargain. The unrecognized union had pressured the UC into giving small pay increases and improving grievance procedures. However, since the UC didn’t consider them employees, the graduate students didn’t have collective bargaining rights. The 1979 Higher Education Employer-Employee Relations Act declared that if a student was doing work that related to their career path, they were considered an apprentice, not an employee, and didn’t have the right to collectively bargain. This made it difficult to negotiate for benefits, smaller class sizes, or any other major changes. At the time of the Berkeley strike, 50% of TAs at UCSC had already joined a union.

Image Credits: [Bob Betts / Daily Nexus / February 23, 1984]
[Betts, Bob. (February 23, 1984). U.C. Berkeley Grad Students Fight for Bargaining Rights. The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/sj139291t]

 

May, 1984

In May, the bill failed in Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Hearing due to a lack of votes, but the AGSE was optimistic it would be reintroduced. The UC Director of State and Government Relations responded saying he thought the bill would create “adversarial relationships between students and faculty members.” A written statement from the AGSE stated that the “administration makes unilateral changes in basic employment policies, job categories and pay rates, often without any explanation, let alone prior consultation.” 

Image Credits: [Jacquelyn Affonso / Daily Nexus / May 25, 1984]
[Affonso, Jacquelyn. (May 25, 1984). U.C. Student Worker Rights Bill Defeated. The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/pg15bg03w]

 

1992-1993 – Multiple Strikes at UC Berkeley 1992-1993

Beginning in November 1992, over 1,000 graduate students at UC Berkeley went on strike after months of failed negotiations between the UC and the AGSE/United Auto Workers (UAW). The strike was widely supported by professors and undergraduates; 70% of classes were cancelled, only 2% of remaining classes could be considered “full.” Faculty members collected 600 signatures for a petition to support the union. Teamsters, truck drivers who belong to the UAW, didn’t make deliveries to UC Berkeley. 

Image Credits: [Charles Hornberger / Daily Nexus / November 20, 1992]
[Miralle, Anita. (November 20, 1992). Grad Students Striking at Berkeley. The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/ng451j57b]

 

USCS joined the strike in late November 1992. UCB and UCSC continued negotiations with the UC Office of the President (UCOP), but came to an impasse over collective bargaining rights. Members of the AGSE decided not to grade students’ work fall quarter, and to withhold grades until they reached an agreement with the UC. 70% of classes at both campuses were cancelled, and teamsters still refused to make deliveries. UC Davis and UC San Diego graduates protested in solidarity with graduate students at UCB and UCSC. At UCSB, the Graduate Student Association created a graduate student bill of rights. UCB continued to strike into the winter quarter. 

[Miralle, Anita. (December 3, 1992). Campuses Crippled by Striking Grad Students. The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/05741t00r]
[Miralle, Anita. (January 6, 1993). Renegade Sexists Studying in South Hall? The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/gx41mk23t]

 

December 2, 1998

December 2, 1998, was the beginning of the strike to obtain recognition for the Associated Student Employees union, which had affiliated with the United Auto Workers union. (ASE/UAW). TAs, graders, and tutors refused to hold sections, office hours, or grade assignments until the UC recognized their union in an attempt to prove that they are employees as well as students. Close to 60 TAs and supporters marched in front of Davidson Library. The strike was divisive among grad students, some were satisfied with working conditions, thought striking is bad for undergraduates, or didn’t trust the UAW. One graduate student commented that she was “totally taken care of” with “nothing to complain about.” It was equally divisive among undergrads, with one student commenting, “they should fire all the TAs and replace them with new ones,” and another saying that better working conditions for TAs means better education for undergrads. 

Image Credits: [Bart Agapinan / Daily Nexus / December 3, 1998]
[Webb, Kerri. (December 3, 1998). TA Strike To Proceed Until Demands Are Met.  The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://alexandria.ucsb.edu/downloads/z029p595f]

 

February 8, 2000

During bargaining sessions between the UAW and UC, a group of concerned students arrived at the meeting.  Upon arrival, the students, consisting of three union-member graduate students and concerned undergraduates, found the room locked.  Frank Wilderson, the active elected bargainer, identified himself and requested access to review the documents and participate in this discussion.  He was locked out after repeatedly explaining the unlawful nature of this discussion.  They waited outside the building until the door opened and the members walked out without explanation or comments.  The students followed these members into the parking lot asking for explanations and demanding Wilderson’s inclusion.  They continued asking questions to Tanya Mahn, a member of the UAW, and followed her as she walked to her car.  One student stood in front of her car, demanding answers, and Mahn bumped him and another student with her car.  The two undergraduates filed charges for assault with a deadly weapon to the cops who later came onto the scene.  This opinion piece outlines the incident and is written by Jared Sexton, a member of the AGSE and UAW.  

[Sexton, Jared. (February 8, 2000). Bargaining Practices Exclude Members.  The Daily Californian.  Retrieved from https://archive.dailycal.org/article.php?id=1475]

 

2000-2003: UAW Contract Highlights

  • The UC recognized the Associated Student Employees, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), AFL-CIO as the exclusive representatives for matters under representation for Associated Student Employees Unit
  • Fee Remission: by 2002, 100% of annual educational and registration fees were waived for graduate students with academic appointments
  • The UC outlined a clear grievance and arbitration process
  • Graduate student employees were eligible for Student Health Insurance Program fee waivers
  • Associated Student Employees (ASE) were eligible for modified duties/leave during pregnancy and childbirth. No duties were to be required of ASEs during childbearing leave
  • UAW agreed to no strikes or work stoppages that interfere in any way with the University operations during the life of the contract or any written extension thereof. The UAW could not authorize or condone any strikes, and employees who participate in strikes could be terminated
  • UC agreed to non-discrimination in employment
  • UC had to make a campus wide posting of appointment opportunities, including the approximate number of ASE positions by department for the following year
  • Training/Orientation was to be considered part of workload for the term
  • Wage increases of 1.5%
  • UC set maximum weekly workload of 40 hours for TAs

 

2003-2006: UAW Contract Highlights

  • The UC recognized the UAW-2865, which represented all Associated Student Employees at every UC campus 
  • The UAW could not authorize “sympathy strikes,” strikes in favor of other UC unions or bargaining units. However, individual employees could engage in “activities in sympathy” with other striking unions, but may not be paid in full if these activities interrupt their work
  • UC mandated maximum workload for six week summer sessions for teaching assistants
  • The UC must compensate and give fee/health care remissions (when eligible) to UAW bargaining committee members for two terms during which bargaining occurs
  • During ASE orientation, the UAW must receive ten minutes on the agenda 
  • The UC will deduct UAW membership dues/fare service fees from the wages of the graduate students and send them to the UAW on a monthly basis
  • Wages will increase 1.5% effective January 1st, 2004. 
  • Wages will increase 1.5% effective October 1, 2004 unless Senate Faculty do not receive a merit increase; wages will increase in an amount equal to the general range adjustments.  Undergraduate Readers and Tutors’ hourly rates will be increased to $9.83, and Graduate Readers and Tutors’ hourly rates will be increased to $10.35, plus any general range adjustments.
  • Wages will increase 1.5% effective October 1, 2005 unless Senate Faculty do not receive a merit increase. Wages will increase in an amount equal to the general range adjustments.  Undergraduate Readers and Tutors’ hourly rates will be increased to $10.42, and Graduate Readers and Tutors’ hourly rates will be increased to $10.98, plus any general range adjustments.

 

2006-2007: UAW Contract Highlights

  • Wages will increase 1.5%

 

June 27, 2007

At UCSB, TAs held a “Grade In” where they conducted work openly in the Arbor to show the excessive workload they received.  They held this demonstration while the UAW was in contract negotiations with the UC.  Bailey Clifthorne, the UAW president at the time, stated, “There has been an enormous increase in class size across the state, and it has become more difficult to provide quality”.  The new contract would focus on issues such as class size and working conditions, and the UAW/UC aimed to conclude contract negotiations by October 2007.

[Mullen, Jessica. (June 27, 2007). TA’s Hold “Grade In” to Protest Workload. The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://dailynexus.com/2007-06-27/tas-hold-grade-in-to-protest-workload/]

 

October 2, 2007

To avoid potential strikes from TAs, the UAW and the UC created a tentative contract that included wage increases, improved healthcare, childcare, and new workload protections.  Details of the contract were yet to be released until voted on by members of the UAW.  Negotiations began in March and avoided a proposed strike that would have disrupted undergraduate classes.  Erik Love, a UCSB TA, expressed mixed feelings over the tentative contract, saying “I’m upset that once again, the UC was resorting to its illegal tactics…but obviously, I’m happy about the contract and eager to get back to work”.

[Weinger, Mackenzie. (October 2, 2007). University Agrees to UAW Demands for Higher Wages. The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://dailynexus.com/2007-10-02/university-agrees-to-uaw-demands-for-higher-wages/]

 

2007-2009: UAW Contract Highlights

  • The UC granted short term family related leave due to personal illness, family emergencies, or birth/adoption/care of a child or family member
  • The UC granted paid medical and family leave for 2-3 days and unpaid medical and family leave for the period of time beyond the duration of 2-3 days
  • The UC granted long term paid family-related leave of up to four weeks for an ASE who bears a child, and up to two weeks for the serious illness of an ASE or a family member of the ASE or for the care of a newborn or newly adopted child
  • The UC granted up to three days of paid bereavement leave due to the death of a family member
  • Wage will increase 5%
  • The UC established a childcare reimbursement program of up to $300 per quarter

 

September 24, 2009

On September 24th, students, faculty, and employees from 10 UC campuses participated in a UC-wide protest against an approved 20% budget cut, a proposed 32% increase in student tuition, and a 4-10% pay reduction for mandatory faculty furlough days.  Several classes were cancelled as faculty members and students participated in the walk out.  Demonstrators chanted, “no cuts, no fees, education should be free”, and one group labeled these fee hikes as “twisted and racist”, as it would mean more low-income and ethnic minority students would not be able to afford tuition.  “A spokesman for the group Graduate Students of Colour said: ‘Students of colour are asking a crucial question: Why now, and why us? California’s population of college-age adults is majority black and brown. Whatever other reasons are cited, that underlying condition is left unspoken’” (The Guardian).  Over a thousand faculty members signed a petition proposing alternative sources of funding, including decreasing salaries of senior officials and education bosses and tapping into reserve funds.  

Image Credits: [Monica Almeida / The New York Times / September 24, 2009]
[O’Hara, Mary.  (September 24, 2009).  University of California Campuses Erupt into Protest.  The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/sep/24/california-university-berkeley-budget-protest]
[Wollen, Malia. (September 24, 2009). California University Cuts Protested. The New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/25/education/25calif.html

 

2009-2010: UAW Contract Highlights

  • No changes

 

November 23, 2010

A provisional contract between the UC and UAW consisted of “a minimum annual salary increase of 2 percent and the promise of additional increases, with a maximum 4 percent increase per year, if the state gives UC more money than it did in 2007”.  Members of the UAW were set to vote on the contract from November 29th through December 2nd.  Five bargaining members of the UAW wrote an open letter to UAW members urging them to vote no on the contract.  One of the organizers, Brian Malone, stated, “This 2 percent increase in wages compared to the projected 3 percent inflation rate over the next three years is equivalent to us taking a pay cut”.  He further stipulated that though there were increased coverage of childcare expenses, it was still not enough to cover the full costs.  

[Leveroni, Katie.  (November 23, 2010).  UAW Local 2865 Reach Tentative Agreement for Three-year Contract with UC. The California Aggie. Retrieved from https://theaggie.org/2010/11/23/uaw-local-2865-reach-tentative-agreement-for-threeyear-contract-with-uc/]

 

Brian Malone Interview: 2010 UAW Involvement

Brian Malone was a graduate student at UCSC who was elected into the UCSC UAW unit chair position in 2008/2009 and one of the five UAW bargaining members who organized the Vote No campaign on the 2010 contract.  In this interview, he provides critiques of the UAW, details on the structural takeover of internal party AWDU (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union), and his perspective as a bargaining member of the UAW.  

“…the critiques we had is that it was a very demobilized hierarchical union, like the sort of statewide executive board…it was very top-down…it was more business unionism type style than we would have liked”.  

“Again, the Santa Cruz members voted overwhelmingly against that contract and then they got

stuck with that contract. And I think that really made them angry. And I think similar a lot of people at Berkeley were upset. Like, wait. This is a terrible contract. We voted against it, but we got stuck with it anyway. And so I think that was. Yeah, yeah, I think that was agitational in some ways”.

[Malone, Brian, Personal Interview, April 29, 2020.  Link to full interview audio and transcript]

 

2010-2013: UAW Contract Highlights

  • University will send a notice to hiring departments reminding them of their obligations in relation to written notifications no later than April 1st
  • Each eligible ASE shall receive up to $600 per quarter or $900 per semester (double from last time) for childcare expenses incurred during the academic year.  Each eligible ASE shall receive up to $600 for childcare expenses incurred during the Summer session(s)
  • ASEs are eligible for UC retirement plan coverage
  • Eligible ASEs may participate in UCSHIP (UC Student Health Insurance Program) on campuses that have elected to participate.  Davis, Merced, San Diego, and Santa Cruz participate in the program, but Irvine and Santa Barbara are anticipated to join in August 2011
  • The University will provide 4 hours of paid release time (including travel) to attend a quarterly, system-wide meeting discussing health insurance related issues
  • The UAW will increase their electronic transmission of deduction information by sending an Excel spreadsheet to the UC every month 
  • Wages will increase by 2% from 2010-2011.  Wages will increase by more than 2% depending on the percentage increase of the State General Fund from 2011-2012.  The general range adjustment may not exceed 4%.  Wages will increase by more than 2% depending on the percentage increase of the State General Fund from 2012-2013.  The general range adjustment may not exceed 4%.

 

April 22, 2011

Brian Malone, one of the five bargaining members of the UAW involved in organizing the Vote No campaign for the 2010 UAW/UC contract, wrote an opinion piece on Daraka Larimore-Hall’s conflict of interest as UAW president.  He outlines Larimore-Hall’s current positions as UAW president and Chair of the Santa Barbara Democratic Party as conflicting due to the power he has to disperse voluntary UAW political action funds to California candidates.  This piece is written in addition to Malone’s critiques of the UAW, found in his interview here.

[Malone, Brian. (April 22, 2011). Daraka Larimore-Hall’s Conflict of Interest. Slug Organizing Committee. Retrieved from https://slugorganizingcommittee.wordpress.com/about/]

 

Daraka Larimore-Hall Interview: 2011 UAW Involvement

Daraka Larimore-Hall was active in the UAW Local 2865 for over 10 years.  He first got involved through the sociology department and became the head steward for the Santa Barbara campus, then the campus unit chair.  He was then elected to the executive board of the UAW and briefly served as the UAW president before being voted out in an internal election.  Though he continued his membership with the UAW, his leadership role within the organization ended in 2011 following the overwhelming election of AWDU members into power.  In this interview, he sheds light on his role within the UAW, perspective of the organization, and experience during the internal election process.

“…we were very focused on the nuts and bolts of power in regards to the University…like new activists, we’d be like OK, yeah, you want to talk politics and talk about the labor movement and how it’s going to change society.  That’s awesome. But we also have to go and go to the chemistry department and physics department and earth sciences and chemistry and talk to people who are not radical about why they should join the union.  And that was hard, exhausting work.”

“So so the AWDU campaigned on like, they get, like we could get better contracts by, like, being more militant and going on strike. This leadership works with the Democratic Party. And look, the President Daraka, he’s even an officer in the Democratic Party. That’s horrible. Like the Democratic Party hates workers, Occupy, militancy, blah, blah. And they just like went around, told everybody this. We were just so unprepared for, like, their use of social media, their, and really unprepared for, like, their dirtbag tactics”.

[Larimore-Hall, Daraka, Personal Interview, May 7, 2020.  Link to full interview audio and transcript]

 

April 27-29, 2011

The UAW Local 2865 underwent an internal election that resulted in a drastic change of leadership.  Those running for positions split into two groups, the Academic Workers for a Democractic Union (AWDU) and United for Social and Economic Justice (USEJ).  Negotiations for the 2010 UAW contract showed signs of internal conflict when five members of the bargaining team organized a Vote No campaign against it.  After this contract was ratified, this internal conflict solidified into two groups, AWDU and USEJ.  The members who made up AWDU were fed up with the bureaucracy of the union and wanted to establish a more grassroots, democratic, and bottom-up structure, while the members of USEJ were previous UAW leaders that named themselves in response to the rise of AWDU.  During the election process, the ballot count was abruptly stopped and resumed as a result of marches, sit-ins, and political pressure.  When the count was finalized, AWDU won all 10 executive board positions and almost 60% of Joint Council positions. 

Former UAW President Daraka Larimore-Hall participated in this election process and said, “it was like playing into all the anti-union stereotypes that are out there in the general public and everything.  It was really soul crushing”.  He describes their campaigning tactics as “just gross, very personal attacks”.  He said they created websites with photos of USEJ members photoshopped onto Ho Chi Minh and Stalin and spread these through social media.  He speaks more on the origins of the two groups as well as the inner workings of the UAW in his interview found here.

[City on a Hill Press. (May 5, 2011).  City on a Hill Press. Retrieved from https://www.cityonahillpress.com/2011/05/05/ta-union-election-turns-ugly/]
[Eidlin, Barry. (May 10, 2011).  Labor Notes. Retrieved from https://labornotes.org/blogs/2011/05/reformers-win-california-grad-union-election

Anonymous Interview: 2012 – 2016 Union Involvement

This anonymous organizer was hired as a “salt” by the UAW and involved in grad student organizing from 2012 to 2016.  In this interview, they describe their experience working under the recently elected AWDU caucus (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union) and the political culture within the UAW.

“When a union in itself is like a social service, a service that stands up for workers and for all people to have rights and to just kind of see it as a cash cow and disregard the fact that the union itself does good work by the fact of giving workers rights I thought was really wrong, and that really turned me off.”

“In the hard sciences, most of the departments which are bigger individually than all of the humanities combined, most had no representatives and they weren’t interested in changing it because they knew those representatives would not have the same political views as them.  So they would rather have no representation at all, which I would get if we were a political party, but we’re not.  We’re a union and we’re supposed to represent all workers and hear workers and hear what workers want…”

[Anonymous, Personal Interview, May 12, 2020. Link to full interview transcript]

 

May 1, 2013

The UAW submitted a document stating their initial proposals to Peter Chester, the Director of Labor Relations at the time.  The full document can be found here.

 

April 2, 2014

Preceding the UC-wide strike on April 2nd, the UAW filed multiple Unfair Labor Practice Charges (ULPs) with the UC for using intimidation tactics involving threatening an international student’s visa status and unlawful videoing.  “‘We’re striking statewide because of patterns of intimidation, threatening with arrests, threatening international students with the loss of their visa and threatening our members with firing,’ Malone said” (City on a Hill).  UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, UC Davis, and UC Santa Cruz went on strike April 2nd, and the remaining campuses joined on April 3rd.  On April 2nd at UC Santa Cruz, police arrested 20 protesters for “disobeying police and continuing to riot” (City on a Hill).  Of those arrested were 13 undergraduate students, 6 graduate students, and union leader, Josh Brahinsky.  The arrests occurred early in the morning and by 10:00am, the crowd of protesters grew to 150.  At UCSB, UAW members were joined by United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS), undergraduate, and graduate students.  Footage of the UCSB UAW strike can be found at The Bottom Line and video interviews with protesters at UCSC can be found at City on a Hill Press.

Image Credits: [City on a Hill Press / April 2, 2014], [Clow, John and Cameryn Brock / The Daily Nexus / April 4, 2014]
[Escobedo, Joel. (April 2, 2014). City on a Hill Press. Retrieved from https://www.cityonahillpress.com/2014/04/02/voices-from-the-uaw-2865-strike/]
[Quiambo, Carissa. (April 3, 2014). The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://dailynexus.com/2014-04-03/tas-strike-in-response-to-unfair-labor-practices/]
[Ramirez, Brenda. (April 9, 2014). The Bottom Line. Retrieved from https://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2014/04/uaw-strike-ucsb]
[University of California, Santa Barbara. (April 2, 2014). Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved from https://www.independent.com/2014/04/02/13000-uc-student-workers-announce-two-day-statewide-strike-over-ucs-intimidation-workers/]

 

2014-2018: UAW Contract Highlights

  • The University recognized year long appointments provide job security for ASEs
  • Each eligible ASE will receive up to $900 per quarter and $1350 per semester for childcare expenses incurred.  Qualified dependents include children in the custody of ASE who are under age 12.  Each eligible ASE will receive up to $900 per Summer session for childcare expenses incurred.
  • ASEs enrolled in self-supporting graduate degree programs are eligible to receive a partial fee remission that is equivalent to what they would receive in UC state-supported programs.
  • The UC and UAW will meet twice a year to discuss University-sponsored student health insurance plans
  • Upon written notice, the UAW can request two campus meetings per year.  Any issues that require altering the Agreement between the UC and UAW must be excluded from these discussions
  • ASEs are entitled to up to 4 months of unpaid pregnancy disability leave.  The University will maintain health insurance coverage for the duration of the leave.
  • ASEs are eligible for up to 4 weeks of paid leave for pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.  ASEs will also be approved for up to two additional weeks of unpaid leave for baby bonding
  • ASEs are eligible for up to 4 weeks of paid leave due to serious health conditions.  This leave can also be used to care for or bond with the ASEs newborn child or a child placed with the ASE for adoption or foster care, provided that this leave is taken within 12 months of birth or placement of the child with the ASE.
  • ASEs will have access to spaces for lactation support, including expressing and storing breast milk and allow adequate time for an ASE to express breast milk.  If no reasonable space exists, the department/hiring unit will create a temporary space.
  • The University will engage in discussions with ASEs or the Union to provide reasonable access to existing all-gender restrooms within a reasonable distance to the ASE’s work location
  • Wages will increase 5% from 2014 to 2015, 4% from 2015 to 2016, 4% from 2016 to 2017, and 3% from 2017 to 2018.

 

June 5, 2014

Members of the UAW and UC negotiated a tentative contract that includes wage increases, increased child care subsidies, and better parental leave payment.  Union members had to vote to ratify this contract, which would replace the previous one that expired in the fall.  This tentative contract cancelled any potential strikes for the rest of the quarter, and the ratification vote was to take place on June 12th and 13th.  The former UAW president and graduate student, Robert Ackermann, stated, “This is a solid deal, in terms of wage increases and other economic benefits… it is not as awesome as maybe some members would like, but we do think it is a good deal. All in all, we are encouraging members to ratify”.

[Fernbacher, Max. (June 5, 2014). The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from https://dailynexus.com/2014-06-05/ta-union-cancels-strike/]

December 15, 2014

Jason Struna and Rob Ackermann, two union members with experience in UAW leadership, wrote an article for the Berkeley Journal of Sociology where they dissect the ideology of “social movement unionism” and how it relates to AWDU.  They compare the “old leadership” to AWDU, highlighting problems and solutions from both sides to draw out the efficacy of their leadership.  Their conclusion is that though AWDU had commendable goals, the results led to a weaker union through decreased bargaining power, increased contract concessions, and organizing delays.

[Struna, Jason and Rob Ackermann. (December 15, 2014). Berkeley Journal of Sociology. Retrieved from http://berkeleyjournal.org/2014/12/a-reality-check-for-social-movement-unionism/]

 

June 27, 2018 – Supreme Court Case: Janus vs. AFSCME

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Janus in that workers don’t have to pay “agency fees” to a union that bargains on their behalf.  The argument was that by forcing non-union members to pay agency fees to a union that may share different political ideologies, these agency fees infringe on non-union members’ free speech through compelled financial support of such political statements.  This decision gutted funding for unions because non-members wouldn’t pay the union, even if they continued to benefit from the union’s actions.

This ruling threatened the financial stability,  membership, and unity of unions.  TAs at UCSB expressed these fears in The Bottom Line article and prepared to take steps for the worst.  Since then, the UAW reported on their website that paid membership has continued to grow statewide, despite this court case.  In a paper focusing on public sector unions after Janus v. AFSCME, DiSalvo highlights the legislative follow-up by state governments in attempts to shield unions from bearing the full brunt of this ruling.  A majority of these laws helped push for increased membership and decreased dropout rates so unions could still hold onto substantial funding by paying union members.  

[DiSalvo, Daniel. (February 14, 2019). Manhattan Institute. Retrieved from https://www.manhattan-institute.org/public-sector-unions-after-janus]
[Matthews, Dylan. (June 27, 2018). Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2018/6/27/17509460/supreme-court-janus-afscme-public-sector-union-alito-kagan-dissent]
[Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, et. al. Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved from https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/17pdf/16-1466_2b3j.pdf]
[Samaniego, Arturo. (February 27, 2018). Retrieved from https://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2018/02/what-janus-v-afscme-means-for-uc-unions]
[UAW. UAW 2865. Retrieved from https://uaw2865.org/about-our-union/]

 

September 14, 2018

Two graduate students and executive members of the UAW described how the recent UAW/UC Contract for 2018-2022 was regressive and prematurely ratified.  In terms of benefits, they said this contract had “stagnant wages, no housing reliefs, punishing concessions on international student fees…the 3 percent nominal wage increase barely keeps up with projected inflation rates, does not constitute a living wage, which is estimated to be $34,269 for one adult in Alameda County, and does not compete with GSI pay at peer institutions”.  There were some gains in sexual harassment protections, but the contract still failed to secure affordable housing, which was considered a priority by most graduate students, and held little to no support for international students.

In addition to the regressive nature of the contract, the voting process pushed for a rushed, undemocratic Yes vote.  The vote took place in summer while most of the workers were away when it should have occurred in the Fall when the union had a credible strike threat.  The bargaining team was explicitly divided about the contract, with 8 members for it, 7 against it, and one abstaining, yet there was no time for them to debate for something better.  The organizing staff also canvassed explicitly for the “Yes” vote by including pro-yes arguments in the email that contained the ballot while pro-no arguments were attached as an external link at the end of the email.  Overall, the ratification process seemed to push forward a regressive contract that diminished the credibility of a strike threat and minimized the power of the UAW.

[Phillips, Tara and Shannon Ikebe. (Sept. 14, 2018). The Daily Californian. Retrieved from https://www.dailycal.org/2018/09/14/recent-uc-student-workers-contract-is-regressive/]

 

2018-2022: UAW Contract Highlights

  • Each eligible ASE will receive up to $1100 per quarter or $1650 per semester for childcare expenses incurred during the ASE’s appointment during the academic year.  Each eligible ASE will receive up to $1100 for the Summer session(s) childcare expenses incurred during the ASE’s summer appointment
  • For eligible ASEs, the University will provide a Partial Fee Remission of $100 per quarter or $150 per semester to partially cover campus fees, effective beginning January 2019
  • If a grievance meeting is scheduled by the University that conflicts with bargaining unit assignments, the parties with the conflicts are eligible to receive paid leave for the time period in which the assignments cannot be rescheduled
  • Sexual Harassment: The University made a statement of commitment to create an atmosphere free of harassment, exploitation, or intimidation along with a more in-depth definition of Sexual Harassment.  The University prohibits retaliation against or by ASEs.  After a preliminary assessment of the facts, a Title IX / EEO will initiate the Alternative Resolution process, which includes mediation, separating parties, providing for safety, etc.  If the Alternative Resolution is unsuccessful, the Title IX / EEO officer may initiate a formal investigation.  The University will implement Interim Measures for Complainants, which includes changing to a different workstation, schedule, work location, etc.  ASEs have access to remedies such as changing work stations, schedules, etc. The University will implement this remedy in an effort to ensure protection for Complainants/Grievants
  • The University will ensure all single-occupancy bathrooms designated as all-gender restrooms and shall list the locations of all-gender restrooms onto the campus website
  • The University will provide Reasonable Accommodations for ASEs who are disabled or become disabled and require additional assistance to perform their jobs.  This interactive process will be used to determine what reasonable accommodations are needed and monitor the efficacy of that support.  The University will cover the cost of a University-appointed licensed health care provider if needed for medical documentation.
  • The Union shall give a 30 minute presentation in conjunction to orientation for new ASEs.  Attendance at one UAW presentation is mandatory for first-time ASEs and salaried ASEs will have the 30 minute presentation count towards their workload hours
  • The wage range/rate will increase 3% from 2018 to 2019, 2019 to 2020, 2020 to 2021, and 2021 to 2020.
  • The University will include access to art/performance studio space in provided workspace and instructional support
  • No ASEs will lose seniority or compensation due to any legal changes to their name or social security number
  • The University will request federal immigration or Department of Homeland Security agents to comply with legal requirements before conducting interrogations, searches, or seizures while ASEs are working on University premises and under the University’s control.  If a validly executed Search or Arrest warrant is issued, the University will arrange for private questioning and notify the UAW of the immigration investigation
  • The University will provide for any ASE who was terminated because they are not authorized to work in the United States of America
  • The University will grant leave time for ASEs to attend any appointments and/or hearings related to immigration or citizenship status.
  • If an ASE is terminated because they are not authorized to work in the US, the University will meet with the UAW and make reasonable efforts to reemploy that ASE for the following term, provided the ASE has valid work authorization. If any legal changes in regards to these procedures occur, the University and UC will meet to determine if any changes are required
  • The University will provide a $100 lump sum payment for ASEs with 25% or greater appointments in the Fall 2018 Academic term.

 

September 19, 2020

Grad students at UC Santa Cruz began organizing to hold a Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) strike.  On November 7th, 200 graduate students marched to Kerr Hall to deliver a letter of demands to Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive and Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Lori Kletzer.  They wanted to fight against the burden of increasing housing costs on low wages.  As stated in their demand letter, “UC Santa Cruz cannot fulfill its mission to produce outstanding research and to provide outstanding public education if its graduate students remain underpaid, rent-burdened, and economically precarious”.  

[Bay City News and NBC Bay Area staff. (December 10, 2019). UCSC Workers Withholding Final Grades During Strike. NBC Bay Area. Retrieved from https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/ucsc-workers-withholding-final-grades-during-strike/2193182/]
[Dent, Kyle. (March 5, 2020). The Fight for COLA: From UCSC to UCSB. The Bottom Line. Retrieved from https://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2020/03/the-fight-for-cola-ucsc-to-ucsb]
[pay us more ucsc. Campaign Timeline. pay us more ucsc. Retrieved from https://payusmoreucsc.com/campaign-timeline/]

 

January 22, 2020

On January 22, dozens of UCSB graduate students called in sick in solidarity with striking grads at UCSC. Nearly 150 grads and supporters demonstrated in front of Storke Tower and marched to the Arbor. The sick-out coincided with a UC Regent meeting where UCSC strikers met with the UC Office of the President. The sick-out was the beginning of the larger Cost-of-Living-Adjustment (COLA) movement at UCSB and drew attention to rent burdened grads and how their living conditions affect their teaching and research. The organizers of the sick-out, many of whom members of the UAW-2865, were planning to draft a list of demands in the near future.  

Image Credits: [Max Abrams / Daily Nexus / January 23, 2020]
[Kamidi, Sanya, and Jackson Guilfoil. (January 23, 2020). UCSB Grad Students Hold Demonstration in Solidarity with UCSB over Cost-of-Living-Adjustment. The Daily Nexus. Retrieved from http://dailynexus.com/PrintEditions/01-2020/01-23-2020.pdf]

 

February 27, 2020

More than 1,000 students and faculty marched from Storke Tower to the Mosher Alumni House on February 27, 2020, in part of the COLA movement.  Graduate students and TAs at UCSB have been facing increased rent burdens and housing insecurity and rallied a demonstration in front of Storke Tower.  This event was also in solidarity with UCSC, which began the COLA movement in September 2019.  Graduate and undergraduate students and faculty marched from Storke Tower to the Mosher Alumni House.  The UCSB4COLA Instagram has picked up over 1,000 followers, giving this movement a strong social media presence behind it.

[Gang, Jessica. (March 5, 2020). UCSB Graduate Students Strike for COLA in Front of Storke Tower.  The Bottom Line. Retrieved from https://thebottomline.as.ucsb.edu/2020/03/ucsb-graduate-students-strike-for-cola-in-front-of-storke-tower]

 

Kavitha Iyengar: 2020 UAW Involvement

Kavitha Iyengar is the current statewide president of the UAW and resides on the Executive Board with nine other people.  She first took on leadership roles in the UAW in 2016 after several years of union membership. She ran for local campus leadership and then statewide leadership.  In this interview, she describes what drew her to get involved, the inner workings of the UAW, and the union’s challenges and goals moving forward.

“Over the last four years, union membership has grown; a lot more stewards and leaders are involved in the union.  And I think there’s a real sense among badged workers that when we come together, we can transform our working conditions.”

“I experienced a union…whose membership declined for about a decade and who kind of levels of engagement were pretty low in my experience.  And so, yeah, I feel like over the last few years, kind of everyone involved in the union has been really dedicated to rebuilding it and really building it up into a strong fighting union.”

“…one of the biggest obstacles is kind of rebuilding from a place of not knowing. Because I think a lot of us come to organizing because it’s, you know, part of the air we breathe for whatever reason. That’s because of the way we were raised or our ideological predilections. But it’s like something that we just think of as a common sense. And I think building that for people in places  where it hasn’t been for years is really, has been quite a challenge.”

[Iyengar, Kavitha. Personal Interview. May 11, 2020. Link to full interview audio and transcription.]


By: Jillian Wertzberger and Frances Woo

Anonymous

May 12th, 2020


This organizer has requested to remain anonymous in their interview.  They were hired as a “salt” by the UAW and were involved in grad student organizing from 2012 to 2016.  In this interview, they describe their experience working under the recently elected AWDU party (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union) and the political culture within the UAW.  They were interviewed by Frances Woo via Zoom.

Transcript

Ok, so just get started, can you give a little information about what your involvement was with grad student organizing?

Sure. I was involved in UAW 2865 at UC Berkeley and I was an undergrad, so I was a tutor and like tutors are part of the grad student union as well, and they hired me as like a “salt” to try to organize the tutors because the tutors had essentially no union presence at all. And I was like friends with the activisty members of the union prior to this so they kind of encouraged me to become a tutor and do that part of the work. And so I got hired by them part time for a while, I think probably like one year. And that was it.

OK. Yeah. And I just want to know a little bit more about like the different contracts that were struck with the UC, because I recently got into contact with someone else at the UAW about acquiring the contract negotiations. And yeah, he was talking about, like, how there are different ones for tutors, postdocs and academic researchers. Do you know a little bit more about, like, why there was like individual contracts for each group?

The postdocs are a whole separate local. They’re 5810 and they are separate partly because they just do totally different work, like they’re, they don’t teach, or like it’s when they are doing the GSR (graduate student researchers) job, they are not teaching. I realize that many of the same people work as GSIs (graduate student instructors), but in the GSI role, they’re not teaching and they have a lot of different things that they would focus on because they’re actually generally making a lot of money. They’ll make like 80 or 90 thousand, especially in the hard sciences, and are seeing this more as a career stepping stone, so it’s just like a different realm. That’s my impression of why it’s a separate local. I think it’s also a separate local because they did not like the politics in UAW 2865. And like I know that they were separate locals prior to this, but I think there is a real division between the political climate in those two locals, and that’s probably part of why it stayed separate. UAW 2865, most of the leadership is very consistently from humanities, even though most grad students are in science and engineering, and the GSR union is much more representative of the that. For tutors, we had a separate contract because tutors generally worked only a couple hours a week and were undergrads, not grad students, and had different demands as well, like really wanted a flexible schedule, more so than wanting sick days, for example.

Ok, cool. And what made you want to get involved with, like, student organizing?

Well, I was a socialist already and thought it would be good, and I was working as a tutor already anyways, also, and I wanted to make my workplace better.

Was it like people reaching out to you involved?

Yes, I mean, I was already friends with a lot of the leadership of that local. So I was just kind of hearing about it as it happened. Yeah, they encouraged me. They’re like, you sure you should apply for this job.

OK, and so what exactly was your role as an organizer?

Technically, what I was supposed to do, just act as a “salt” like, sign up new members from the tutors, try to get there to be like some interest in joining the union, and maybe ideally, I think they were hoping like some sort of a movement of tutors demanding whatever thing they wanted.

Did you feel like there was a lot of involvement, like from the other tutors that you recruited and signed up?

Some. I was, they they hired, like three of me. The other two were in humanities and I was in math, and it wasn’t, like, I would say out of the three, it did the best job, and I’m not saying that to brag like that was not really disputed because I signed up actual members and the others didn’t. But it’s hard with the math majors because they weren’t really super interested in it for the pay; it was more like, “we want to do this experience. It looks good on our resume. We want flexible hours. We’re only working four hours a week anyways”. You wouldn’t necessarily do that job if you were just looking for money because there were jobs that would have much more regular hours that you could apply for. So the union, and the union approached things like the leadership from a way that really turned people off. So, for example, they were like really gung ho of like, tutors need to be paid more, and like, just would not hear the tutors did not care if they were paid more and that this was not a relevant demand or, “tutors need to be salaried so they have sick days!” and they didn’t want to be salaried or have sick days. We liked having flexible schedules. And you can’t have, like, sick days and flexible schedules because if you want to change your hours every week, it doesn’t, you see what I’m saying? Like, there’s not a good way to write that into a contract. And people were fine with that. And then they would, against my advice, do things like host a union pizza party and let the bosses come in. And so tutors would show up and their boss was at the union meeting they had showed up to, and so, unsurprisingly, they were terrified and never wanted to do anything related to that again.

Mm hmm. Yeah. So when you say that you gave them advice in regards to, like the, what the tutors wanted, did you guys like, did you meet with, like the upper members of the union about, and like discuss those issues?

Within my local, yes. The whole thing was just being planned at the Berkeley level.

Mm hmm. And so I know that you were organizing between 2012 and 2016 is that right?

No, I think it was. 2010? No, I’m sorry. Give me a sec. Yeah, that’s right, ok, yeah, you’re right, you’re right.

That’s okay, it was a long time ago.

I’m like, what year did I…? OK. Yes. That’s it. 2012 to 2016.

So I know you were working when AWDU, like the AWDU party was in power, so how did you feel, like it, like how did you feel working under them was?

I originally joined because I was friends with like all the AWDU members through other political organizing, so I came in being like OK, these are clearly, you know, the right people, and then they would just say really dumb sh** like, sorry, but for example, they would literally say, “we’re joining the union because we want to take the unions’ dues and use it to do political work”, like, political work unrelated to the union. For example, like supporting, there was a big Black Lives Matter movement at the time, and I was totally a fan of that and like participated a lot and helped to organize within Berkeley. But I didn’t think it was correct to join the union to take the dues and direct it over to something else. When a union in itself is like a social service, a service that stands up for workers and for all people to have rights and to just kind of see it as a cash cow and disregard the fact that the union in itself does good work by the fact of giving workers rights I thought was really wrong, and that really turned me off. And they really would say, like, “we’re gonna take this money; we’re going to spend it on our activism stuff!”. And then, so that was my first bad taste, then they framed some guy for sexual assault, like, I cannot tell you 100 percent that it was a frame, but they would brag about the fact that they had framed it. Like this was not a, you know, under the table type of thing. This one girl said she got an email from someone who said that this guy had raped her 10 years in the past. She wouldn’t show the email to anyone. She would not disclose any further information about it. It was incredibly convenient because it was against someone who they had just decided that they didn’t like and wanted to get rid of, and so it was just extremely suspicious. And then ,just like shot down anyone who said stuff like “you don’t believe women. This is clearly, you need to believe in women 100 percent of the time, even if, like, we’re not even seeing the accusation”. So that seems super shady. And then they had this idea, like “militant minority” strategy of, “we’re gonna organize with other people who have political views similar to us”. And like, I’m a socialist as well, right, but I don’t think we should only organize other socialists in a union, because the great thing about a union and its power is that everyone’s interests as workers is united behind this organization, right, and so the goal of the organization should be to get all those people to see that, right, and to fight for these rights together, and instead, they would just kind of discard anyone who wasn’t super politically aligned with them, of like, “oh you’re-“, generally was like you’re racist and sexist, but really, it was just anyone with different political orientations, or who didn’t know things like they, they were the type where if you say “you guys” like to a bunch of girls, you would get like shut out forever, which discarded anyone who didn’t happen to have essentially a really powerful humanities education. And so they only had representation from select few humanities departments and weren’t interested in changing this, like. At Berkeley in particular, almost half of grad students are in electrical engineering. They had one rep and gave him no support. In the hard sciences, most of the departments which are bigger individually than all of the humanities combined, most had no representatives and they weren’t interested in changing it because they knew those representatives would not have the same political views as them. So they would rather have no representation at all, which I would get if we were a political party, but we’re not. We’re a union and we’re supposed to represent all workers and hear workers and hear what workers want, and so, yeah, I think that led to things like having a pizza party that led to tutors getting fired because they didn’t care about handling the actual work of a union. They were just interested in like having a rally or building a movement, and this side of thing, not that I’m against building a movement, but unions have a special power that’s separate, you know.

Yeah. Yeah, I didn’t know that-, so the tutors got fired after that, the pizza party event?

Yeah. Some got fired under different pretenses of like, oh, you know, we just, we don’t want you anymore, and one, I didn’t tell the union because he didn’t have papers, and he got fired because they were afraid that the bo-, my boss was afraid that the union would find out that they were hiring someone who didn’t have papers which we’re not supposed to do. And so, I don’t remember the exact details of this. He went to the pizza party. They didn’t like him any more because they thought he was pro union. They fired him and, like, rehired him two semesters later or something, but it just led to there being no trust in the union. Like, you wouldn’t go to a union event if, after the first one, people are fired, right?

Yeah. Would you say there was also like a lack of communication between, like the union, like, hierarchy and the other people that were involved?

Yes. Between the union hierarchy and its actual members, they really communicated only with a minority of people who they thought agreed with them politically. For example, they declared a strike, and like, I think I remember calculating, it was like five percent of grad students went on strike. And they didn’t mind that, because they hadn’t reached out or organized at all for the strike to even happen in entire departments. So their friends turned out from like anthropology or whatever, like those five departments, but like, there was no strike at all in chemistry, for example. And that was super regular, like some, a lot of people in the hard sciences didn’t even know they were in a union.

Yeah. So, also you mentioned that you were an undergrad, so I’m just curious as to what the organizing process was like while also being a full time student.

It was stressful, like getting hired by them was shockingly easy. I kept telling them, like, because I was getting paid more than I had ever been paid before, which was cool, like union jobs pay well, you know. I think I was making like 24 dollars an hour and my previous job had been like 8. And so I was like, hey, you should have like things you want me to do, but they were so intent on kind of following, you know, their own politics, which I respect, but they took it to an extreme of like, you don’t have to do the work, it’s fine if you have no results. And it kept being fine if we had no results. And like, like I told you, they hired three copies of me to do this tutoring “salt” job, and the other two never recruited a member. Like, they gave these people like thousands of dollars, and like, I like them. We were friends. I’m not saying this to say that they were bad, but just to say that this was really ineffective work. And then it was stressful because when I realized that I did not agree with what AWDU was doing, and I was the only one on campus in the leadership who thought so, so all my friends stopped talking to me, and they were all like 10 years older than me, and so it was just extremely intimidating.

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. So in regards to, like the community would you say it was like, pretty like isolating, and like political in people’s ideologies?

I’m sorry, can you answer that question a bit more?

So, like when you were working with people within the union and like recruiting people, because I know that you mentioned that a lot of people have a really strong political ideologies and kind of wanted to associate with the people that have the same views, so would you say it was pretty isolating in that way for other people?

Yes, definitely. Like, for example, I recruited a bunch of physics majors to turn out to one of their rallies and they came and they were excited at the beginning and then some of the leadership decided that they were going to, like, yell at the dean and throw trash at his office or whatever, which I’m not actually opposed to, like whatever, he’s a horrible dean, but it was just a bad move because it turned off all of these people that I had brought. And they didn’t care, because if you’re gonna get turned off by that, then you’re clearly a bad person and don’t deserve to be in the union. So in that sense, they were self isolating because occasionally someone outside of their political bubble would show up, but they would just get turned off like purposefully and shut down.

And were the protests that they held, like, did they correspond with the larger, like UC wide protests or were they individualized to Berkeley’s campus?

This one was specific to Berkeley, I believe. I mean, it was a ballot our dean, sorry give me a sec to try remember. OK, I’m not, like totally sure about this, but unless they coordinated something across Deans, which is possible, I think it was just at Berkeley, which is weird because they did do a lot of things campus by campus with no coordination.

So outside of like union contract timelines and stuff.

Yeah. Like lots of political organizing outside of union contracts and not unrelated always, but not using the union as a power source other than a list to turn out members to a rally.

And so since you were involved with the UAW from 2012 to 2016, what would you say was, like, the biggest, if any, like changes between that time period within like the UAW?

AWDU collapsed right when I was leaving. Like, their membership rate had just sunk and sunk and sunk, and they were doing nothing to recruit new members because they didn’t care if they did, so that changed, and then a whole bunch of other groups like them kind of sprung up across different campuses. So when I joined, it was like AWDU had just risen to power, and then when I was leaving, they were pretty much done. I think that was the main change.

Was there a new group that came into place?

Oh, there’s like a million different ones. I don’t remember the names of them. In Berkeley, it’s still AWDU people, I believe, or at least like AWDU friendly people. In San Diego, it’s like Power or something, I forget. It’s a lot of groups that are politically like AWDU, and some of them are weirder, like the Santa Barb-, no the Santa Cruz people are extremely like ultra left. Like the COLA thing they just did was an unauthorized strike that they did not consult the rest of the locals if they even wanted to do this or not, if we were willing to pay their legal fees when they did this, like if anyone else thought that was a good move. They just kind of went and did it anyways, and that’s like a continuation of AWDU type group over there, and then some are a little bit more reasonable now.

Are these AWDO-, AWDU type groups, like, organized, separate from the UAW or just like super left factions of the UAW?

Do you mean like if they have an official stance within-, like, can you clarify that question? I’m sorry.

Like, were they officially working with and like under the UAW or was it more of, like, like sort of a club organization, like outside organization?

Yeah, more club. Like, if you go to those meetings, I can’t guarantee because I haven’t been for a long time, but my experience was that you would see as many people who were not union members as who were even in the local. It was kind of like, a political organization that was infiltrating the union, is more how I would characterize, at least AWDU. And they hate UAW Internationals. They would definitely not call themselves like a faction of UAW

Ok, cool. So I thought I’ve gone through pretty much most of my questions, but the last thing I want to ask about was during 2014. I know there were protests like across UC campuses, and I know that there are 20 students that were arrested at UCSC, and I was wondering if that had any effect on, like organizing at Berkeley.

Do you mean the protest against the fee hike or the Black Lives Matter protest? Because they kind of overlapped timeline, timeline wise.

The fee hike.

OK. Those protests, even though they led to more arrests in Santa Cruz, actually started at Berkeley, and we did a ton of work for that, and I would not have called that union related. That was like a whole separate group. It began in Berkeley with something called the Public Education Coalition, which was an activist group that had many AWDU members. That’s where I knew them from previously. I did a ton of work at Berkeley for that, actually, and we organized that with mostly undergrad students since it was a fee hike that mostly affected undergrads, and then the union kind of came and was like yay, this is vaguely related to our contract, but I would not call that primarily a union campaign, the fee hike movement.

Ok. Well, I think those are all my questions. Are you okay with being cited and quoted on the website, which rather prefer being anonymous or is anonymous an option because of some I would love?

Yeah, yeah, definitely. Oh, yes, that would be great because they all hate me from back then and I kind of know that.

Yeah. I want to make sure that you can speak freely. Great. And so since this is like a quarter long project, our article will probably be up like towards the end of this quarter. But I can send you an email so you can check it out after. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

No. Thank you so much for taking the time to like hear that story.

Thank you for talking with me.

For sure.

Have a good day.

You, too.

 

Kavitha Iyengar

May 14th, 2020


Kavitha Lyengar is the current statewide president of the UAW and resides on the Executive Board with nine other people.  She first took on leadership roles in the UAW in 2016 after several years of union membership. She ran for local campus leadership and then statewide leadership.  In this interview, she describes what drew her to get involved, the inner workings of the UAW, and the union’s challenges and goals moving forward.  She was interviewed by Frances Woo via Zoom.

Transcript

So to start off, can you give a brief description about your position at the UAW?

Yeah, I am the statewide union president, so that means that I serve on an executive board with nine other people who were elected by members across the state. And I’m a grad student and a GSI at UC Berkeley.

Ok. So what made you first want to get involved with the UAW?

Yeah. So I got involved in 2016 when I felt like the left needed to build a lot more power to fight the forces against us. So that’s what made me get first involved. I was in my like second or third year of bad school by then.

When you say, like the forces against you, are you talking about, like, just the UC overall?

Yeah, the UC overall. But I think more importantly, in 2016, I was looking at kind of big right wing attacks on issues I care about, immigrants rights, women’s rights, economic inequality…seemed like it was going to vastly expand. And I think for us to kind of fight back against those conservative forces we need to have strong progressive institutions on the left that bring people together and to which we can have kind of real power. And so I yeah, that’s what made me first get involved, is that being involved in your union, I think is one of the most important things you can do to have kind of shared and big power.

When you first joined, were you like one of the general members of the organization?

Yeah. So, yeah, I joined my first day of grad school. I joined my union, but I wasn’t super involved or going to union meetings until,yeah, my second or third year. And then I, yeah, I started going to union membership meetings and then organizing committee meetings, and then I ran for local campus leadership before I ran for statewide leadership.

How do you feel like the overall, like, vibe of the community in terms of like being in meetings, like the people involved were?

Were? Yeah. So, I mean, right after the Trump election, a ton of people went to union meetings because we’re all, I think, looking for ways that we could come together and have kind of a way to collectivize our efforts. And since then, the unions kind of really grown over the last, now about four years, I can’t believe it’s 2020. Over the last four years, union membership has grown; a lot more stewards and leaders are involved in the union. And I think there’s a real sense among grad workers that when we come together, we can transform our working conditions. And I think we see a lot of that happening right now. We’ve seen that happen over the past few months. I think it’s a real testament to regrowing a union.

Yeah, definitely. So how do you kind of describe the UAW leadership crowd prior to, like you moving up in the ranks?

Yeah, I mean, I think there’s kind of lots of different philosophies for how graduate student unions should work and be run. I experienced a union that’s member-, that’s, that’s membership, whose membership declined for about a decade and who kind of levels of engagement were pretty low in my experience. And so, yeah, I feel like over the last few years, kind of everyone involved in the union has been really dedicated to rebuilding it and really building it up into a strong fighting union.

Yeah, definitely. Were there any changes that you like want to implement moving into your position as president?

Yeah, I mean, it’s really important to me that, like everyone knows they have a union and that they should be a part of it. And that being a part of it means not only kind of signing a membership card, that that’s a really important way for us to have collective power, but it means that there is like someone on the shop floor who identifies as a union leader, someone who is constantly talking with their friends about the union and is making sure that their friends are participating in union actions and efforts and kind of building that structure is kind of been on the top of my list of the most important things we can do, because, you know, to have a really strong and effective strike threat that can win the things we need, like an end to nonresident supplemental tuition, housing stipends, free public transit, which I think we need as part of a green new deal and abolishment of the title nine system as it currently exists. All these kind of really big, bold demands is going to take everyone coming together. And I think that takes building really serious and sustaining structures. So that’s kind of been one of my major priorities, is making sure we can build those structures. It’s also really important to me to get more international students involved in the union. It’s such a huge group of workers, are folks who come from abroad and face all kinds of discriminations in terms of visa, all kinds of discrimination in terms of tuition, like extra tuitions that folks have to pay simply based off of where they’re born. And I think it’s really important in order to fight those issues, to have lots of international students involved in the union to take those issues on. So those two have been really, those two issues have really been at the top of my mind, in addition to, I think, the third big one has been making sure that we have a real political presence in Sacramento. As you know, a public sector union, our boss’s boss’s boss is the governor of the state of California. And so it’s very, very important, particularly looking at COVID right now, that we have a strong coalition with other unions, both to fight on the shop floor, fight against the boss, but also to come together to make sure that the impacts of COVID aren’t on the backs of workers. And so making sure as a piece of that we have a plan in Sacramento to move bills effectively is very, very important.

And what would you say are some of the biggest struggles that you face trying to like get people together and organize?

I mean, I think the biggest hurdle has been just the fact that there was kind of years without structures in the union that really touched everyone’s lives. And so I think just like moving from a place where someone, like doesn’t know about the union hasn’t heard about it, no one and none of their friends know about it and none of their friends have known about it for years, has really kind of built a culture where people really don’t think of it as kind of the air they breathe or something that really matters in a daily material way. And so I think is one of the biggest obstacles is kind of rebuilding from a place of not knowing. Because I think a lot of us come to organizing because it’s, you know, part of the air we breathe for whatever reason. That’s because of the way we were raised or our ideological predilections. But it’s like something that we just think of as a common sense. And I think building that for people in places where it hasn’t been for years is really, has been quite a challenge. And then I think, you know, the other big challenge is that the University of California doesn’t want to treat us the way we deserve. Right. Like that is the other major, major, major challenge is the boss. The question is like, how do you transform the conditions of power to make the, cause the boss to care?

So right now, what are the kind of best methods are you using to kind of like, re-engage people and like we stimulate their culture of caring about the union and knowing about the organization?

Yeah. I mean, I think there’s a variety of tactics we take. I mean, running campaigns about issues that people care about I think is super, super important. And I mean, people are diverse. People care about a lot of different things. So I think it matters quite a bit to have campaigns running on housing stipends and housing issues. I mean, that’s a shared issue that clearly runs across the grad student workforce. But I also have a, we have a committee addressing issues of sexual violence and sexual harassment at the university. We have an international students committee that’s really working on these visa issues I was talking about, um, working on having kind of projects and programs that are really addressing all of those issues I think is really important so we have a way of talking to our co-workers that’s really grounded in something that folks care about. And then, you know, like raising the visibility of the union is always very, very important. And so making sure people kind of know it and see it, but I think kind of at root, the most important thing is identifying people who folks have relationships with because it’s all based on real relationships. That’s what organizing is, and so making sure that there are people who people have real relationships with, who identify and care about the union and identifying those people through kind of different issue campaigns and bringing folks into our kind of broader plan to win, I think is the whole game.

And how have you kind of seen the member engagement increase or just overall shift as your time as president?

Yeah, I mean, I think we’ve seen member engagement increase in a lot of ways. I think we’ve seen at least like and my experience at Berkeley is the most kind of specific, but I mean, over the past few years, I’ve seen more members involved and engaging in union democracy than I have in years. And, you know, we’ve seen member engagement increase in votes and in elections in the union. We’ve seen membership engagement increase in terms of like departmental engagement. We have people who identify as the union in their department and talk with their co-workers who come to union meetings regularly. And I mean, I think the kind of whole COLA movement, while really, you know, the union didn’t, um, organize the wildcat parts of it, I think is really a testament to grad workers coming together and kind of realizing our place as workers in the university and I don’t think that happens without a strong union existing and without kind of a presence of a union that helps people to think through our relationship with the employer as workers, not just as students.

Yeah, definitely, um, and so, yeah, can you give a little more in-depth information on, like, how the union is kind of working through both like the COLA movement and also COVID?

Yeah, yeah, totally. So our union has, the university filed legal charges against the union for supposedly organizing the wildcat strikes. And we have filed legal charges against them for failing to bargain with the union over cost of living issues and for unlawfully disciplining folks at Santa Cruz who were on a wildcat strike. So, you know, our union has fought for decades on cost of living issues. This is, you know, one of the reasons our union was founded in the 90s was because we hadn’t seen wage increases in years. Past living issues have been, you know, a big issue from the very, very beginning of our union. And just, you know, during our last round of bargaining, we tried to bargain over housing stipends and the university said housing stipends are student issue, not a worker issue. And that’s been really core to our nig problem in our union for a long time, is that the university likes to treat as students, not as workers. That’s how the university is justifying giving folks housing stipends at other campuses. They’re saying, oh, these, we did this for you as a student, not as a worker so we’re not going to do it through the union contract. And I mean, all of us in the union know that it’s better for it to be in a union contract. It meansbyou have rights; it means you have protections; it means that it can’t be unilaterally taken away from you. That’s why we want a union. And so there’s a really big issue with the university’s kind of position on this, that this is, my god it’s dark, that this is just a student issue. And so our kind of relationship with the kind of cost of living issues is, you know, run deep in our unions’ DNA for a long time, and right now is taking the shape of union members organizing around an unfair labor practice strike authorization vote, because given the university’s unlawful behavior, union members can decide to go on strike together. And because of the university’s failure to follow the law to bargain with the union about these cost of living issues rather than unilaterally implementing changes that we have no protections over. That’s something that’s, you know, an ongoing effort. And, you know, the kind of timelines and all the kind of plans around that totally transformed because of COVID. So the COVID-19 pandemic, you know, is bringing forth the worst economic recession I’ve seen in my lifetime. I was here, you know, have like…This is worse than 2008. And it’s, the unemployment rates are worse than the New Deal era, you know, or the Great Depression era. This is like really, really bad. And we’ve been working in coalition with other organizations across the state, across the UC, across the country, to call for no austerity, right, in the face of this crisis. We need to have fully funded public institutions. We need free health care. We need paid leaves. We need housing. We need to cancel rent. We need like, all like, it’s really laying bare all the ways in which our system is brok- is broken already. And it’s, like we need free child care, like all these problems that were like, problems before are just exacerbated now. And so I’m really looking forward to the opportunity this affords us to work together with organizations to get more bud-, bigger budgets from the state and from the federal government, to get more research funding, to tax the wealthy, to redistribute wealth in the state of California so it goes to the people who need it, so it goes to public institutions. And I think that’s really one of the major goals and opportunities we have right now, is to come together across all sectors and identities of the working class to really take on the like, right wing corporate forces that, you know, got me involved in my union in the first place.

Yeah, definitely. And can you tell a little bit more about how, like, communication is going right now, like across other collaborating organizations, but also like within the UAW in terms of like the executive board with the other members? And things like that.

Yeah. Yeah. So I’ll start from the shop floor and move up. So, you know, we have stewards in every department talking with their coworkers all the time about what’s going on. We’ve been having phone banks every day for a variety of reasons, to just like be in touch, check in with how things are going, make sure people are doing well, see if they’re having any workplace issues, and let them know about these broader efforts that we’re engaged in on a variety of levels. There’s also, you know, union meetings that happen on each campus every month, things like monthly membership meetings, committee meetings, et cetera. Our statewide leadership, in addition to our executive board, there are elected leaders from each campus who sit on joint council, that group just met last month or last month to talk about kind of how to orient our organizing efforts amidst COVID and these broader fights we find ourselves in the middle of now. And then we also have e-board that meets monthly to talk through our orientation and how we are collaborating with other organizations. I and a few other e-board members have been really involved in the UC Unions Coalition that meets every week or has been meeting every week now given COVID to talk about our shared orientation around demands of the UC, demands of the state of California, and demands of the federal government. So we’re talking about how to collaborate on federal funding like the Cares Act, but in the next stimulus round, making sure there’s lots of money for universities to get research funding, working with the state budget to make sure that the cuts to UC aren’t as deep as the state want. The latest projections I’ve seen are they’re looking at 10 percent budget cuts to the UC from its usual, from, in terms of its state funding, you know, like only, a vast, vast minority of the UC’s funding, like five to 10 percent comes from the state in the first place, but that’s going to be cut by 10 percent, supposedly. And so figuring out how we, you know, have a joint effort to push back against that, and then also really have a united front before the employer who, you know, historically, last time there was a recession, the cuts came on the workers’ backs, and that’s unacceptable. And that’s not the way we, it should go at all. And so we’ve been coordinating at that level. And then also working through coalitions with community and labor organizations across the state for kind of really bold demands around housing and full employment and health care and making sure that we have a shared strategy around like schools and communities first in the medium term, that we need to have a plan that surround reforming Prop 13 and taxing the wealthy so that we can fund things like our public schools with the moneys they deserve and having plans around the Rental Affordability Act so we can have the rent control we need so that the landlords don’t just get wealthier. So we’ve been talking about collaborating on those efforts and also organizing efforts around kind of shared corporate targets. And then we’re also, you know, in conversation nationally with academic worker unions across higher education institutions in the UAW, because the UAW represents eighty thousand academic workers across the nation. And then in conversation with workers who aren’t necessarily just academic workers, but other higher education workers at different universities about how we can have a national strategy around fighting austerity. But like that, all of that stuff only matters if the people at the gr-, on the like shop floor are participating and engaged in it, so that’s why it’s really important that we are building those structures I was talking about and having conversations with people every day to get people engaged in this fight. And so we’re currently talking about launching a big petition around not only our cost of living issues, but what it would take to have a really kind of just recovery and that that would include addressing our cost of living issues, making sure people aren’t laid off, making sure international workers don’t face xenophobia that is unmerited.

In terms of resources, how is it like organizing like these different levels of, like collaborations and organizing with, within the UAW, and also like all these outside organizations as well?

What do you mean by resources? Like how do we, like, divide energy between all of this stuff? Because like. Yeah. Yeah, totally. Right. Like the questions, like priorities and time and how we can do all these things.

Yeah.

I mean, like I said, the most important stuff is the shop floor organizing and so that’s where I think most people spend their time and effort. And there is a, kind of, smaller group of us between the executive board and the joint council who are part of these more like statewide national conversations and finding ways for our union to usefully plug in. But really, all that stuff is only meaningful if union members are really engaged and involved. So that’s where the vast majority difference time is being spent.

Yeah, definitely. Um, yeah. Well, those are all of my questions. Do you have any questions for me?

No, no, not at all. Yeah, I. Well, I guess like. So what else are you. Yeah. What are the other kind of moving parts for your like trying to do a deep dive on the history of grad student organizing?  So the way we were kind of like structuring it is we basically are going to like old newspaper articles and we also got access to the old UAW contracts so that we can kind of like point out like what advances that grad’s in organizing has made in terms of like contractual efforts and also interviewing, like old UAW members or grad students for their perspectives on, like, the fight. And also just like the inner workings of the UAW. So seeing how it’s like progressed at the years and like, well, parts of it kind of worked. What did it do that the overall, like, presentation of the information that we find is like a mix of providing a blueprint for future leaders, but also like recognizing that, like we have done all this work already, especially because organizing is definitely hard work and it’s super easy to get discouraged. But especially because, like for students that only go to school for like four years, it’s really hard to see like a super tangible change within that amount of time. So, yeah, just kind of like showing students that, like, it can be done. Like this is how much this is how far we’ve come. There’s so, so much more that we have to do. But we can get there, you know. Yeah. Have you been really good article that I like to show people? The history of our union is that S.F. Gate article about our recognition strike when we first formed our union. Six thousand out of nine thousand teachers going on strike together to win our right to unionize. And I find that to be a really kind of useful historical perspective on kind of like that type of power we have to build to really like the University of California.

Yeah, I’ll double check it out. Yeah. Yeah.  Well, thank you so much for meeting with me. And I if you like, I can send you an email and the articles up so you can check it out. Also, are you okay with being quoted in some parts of the article?

Yeah, yeah. That would be totally great. OK, perfect. Well, I hope you have a great day. Thank you. Meeting with me. Absolutely. Wants to be nice. Thank you. Bye bye.

 

Brian Malone

April 29, 2020


Brian Malone was a graduate student at UCSC who was elected into the UCSC UAW unit chair position in 2008/2009 and one of the five UAW bargaining members who organized the Vote No campaign on the 2010 contract.  In this interview, he provides critiques of the UAW, details on the structural takeover of internal party AWDU (Academic Workers for a Democratic Union), and his perspective as a bargaining member of the UAW.  Brian Malone was interviewed by Frances Woo via Zoom.

Transcript

Perfect.

So just to kind of explain a little bit about what I’m researching. So in light of the recent color movement, we’re kind of looking into the history of grad’s in organizing, and that’s in relation to UCSB and also just U.S. wide because it is covered UC-wide due to the UAW involvement. So to start off, I just want to kind of get a feel for what your involvement was in grad student organizing.

Yeah, so. This is all so long ago. So I have tried to bring some of this back in my memory, but yeah, it is. 2008 or 2009 was sort of the beginning of the budget cuts movement. So the first sort of big cuts from the state of California to the U.S. and and that, um, and there were a number of grad-there was a grad student organizing committee at UC Santa Cruz, UCSC, where I was as a grad student, that, um, got involved with that. And there was a big sort of March 4th was the big sort of day throughout the UC March 4th, 2009. I think it was. And, you know, we shut down the UCSC campus. And and and that was similar. So I was sort of I was involved with that as a as a grad student, a member of the sort of ad hoc we called the G SOC graduate student organizing committee. But also at that point, I had. I was also the unit chair for the UC Santa Cruz UAW unit. So I think I think I was elected that in 2008 or 2009. And so that was sort of concurrent. And. Yeah.

Ok, perfect.  So I just want to know a little bit more about what made you want to get involved, like in terms of GSOC and being the chair.

It was, um, I think a couple I mean, I wasn’t I wasn’t when I came to graduate school, I wasn’t particularly politically active. I wasn’t. I didn’t have a history of activism or organizing at all. And my sort of sense was, you know, I’m just here to keep my head down. And do you know my graduate work. Right. Like, get my degree and get out. But I think a couple of things changed. And one was, I think. The with the cuts and the way those. The way things were in my department and on campus, it was just so clearly unfair that I just sort of couldn’t ignore it like this was really this…It was a crisis in a sense. And so I sort of felt like, well, I can’t you know, I’d rath- maybe I would have rather not been involved. But but but this is happening. And if I can do anything to to to to push back against this, I think then I’m going to have to try. And I think part of that came also from a really remarkable organizer who was a few years ahead of me in the history department here, Sarah Smith. And she had been unit chair before me at UAW. And she’s just I mean, she’s always just been a really good organizer and she’s very good at bringing people in. And so she’s sort of you know, she would call me as the UAW unit chair and say, hey, this thing is happening. Will you come to a meeting? Hey, will you come to a phone bank? You know? And she’s just really, she was so good at bringing people in and recruiting people. And so, you know, I went to a few GSOC meetings. I did some stuff. I realized, oh, you know, I have time. I have some energy. I can put some some effort into this. And then after a while, Sarah was like, well, you know, my term as a unit chair is coming to an end. How…why don’t you run to do that? And so I think a lot of it really was, being invited in and recruited by really good, smart, strong organizers and activists who are already here and there was already a structure in place.

Did you feel like a sense of community within like the people that you were organizing with?

Yeah, I did. I think it was a really good group. And I still remember some of those first meetings and I didn’t really know most of those people, but I didn’t feel like I was sort of on the same, like, these, I mean, these were really politically active organizers, um, I was sort of like, I’ve never done anything like this. Why, you know, why am I here? But they were just so you know, I think there was a really good energy at that point on campus, like people were excited. People were, I mean, they were upset. They were angry, but they were excited about sort of getting together and doing stuff. There were sort of you know, we came up with a sort of a good plan of how we wanted to do things and yeah, it really felt, I mean, and then later in my UAW years. Yeah, I got closer to some of those people. And I mean, I’m still you know, these are some of these people are still my friends. Like, I still, you know. Yeah. There really was a community there.

Yeah, definitely.  And so based on just some of the research that I’ve done. Yeah. I read that during, like the 2009 to 2010 contract negotiations. You were one of the bargaining members of the UAW. So I just remember that you vocalized some concerns regarding the contract. So I was kind of wondering if you could tell me a little bit more about that.

Yeah. So. There’s there was partly a history there, which was the UAW at that point.  We had really significant critiques of the UAW at that point, the sort of statewide UAW. And, and I mean, I think the critiques we had is that it was a very demobilized hierarchical union, like the sort of statewide executive board, they called the shots and they weren’t particularly activists; they weren’t particularly interested in member organizing like. It was very Top-Down. It was very top down. It was very it was more business unionism type style than we would have liked. You know, it was really, and I mean, they tended to really want to focus on pay, primarily, but they weren’t even very good at that in a sense. And the interesting thing is that it really was centralized at Santa Barbara. Like, that’s where the leadership really sort of had its iron grip. Meant a lot of them came from set. And I my understanding is Santa Barbara has really changed politically since. Which is amazing. But at that time, like there was this sort of cabal or clique of Santa Barbara, UCSB powerbrokers who were running the union and, and there was a lot of friction or tension between them and the Santa Cruz people. So my predecessor, Sarah Smith, felt like her hands were totally tied in trying to organize. The grad students at Santa Cruz. So she wasn’t allowed to actually even have email list of the members. Like all emails had to come from the president of the union. And, you know, and there is a story that Sara tells that, you know, she asked she request she had no power over her own budget. And so once she requested colored paper because she wanted to make posters for an event and the president denied her request because the president was afraid that she would use the colored paper to make unapproved. Posters unapproved. I’d like it really. It was really like this top down. The president of the union controls all the messaging or the president of the statewide controls all the messaging and, and so we found that very difficult to to mobilize and organize membership. And part of the problem with that is that, you know, the statewide leadership, the executive board and I was on the executive board for a while, they really they really didn’t want to pursue the kind of contract campaign that seemed like we needed to do it, and so I think one of the big issues with that contract campaign was that. It kicked off like a contract campaign, kicked off in like mid April or something. When Berkeley was already getting out for the summer and then the primary organizing for that contract campaign happened over the summer. While all of the students were gone and off campus. And the primary pressure that we intend that the statewide bargaining team intended was to put a bunch of names on, I think they called it a report card where it sort of hear our criticisms of the U.S.. Here are the things we want. Sign this. And so I spent hours that summer calling graduate students in my unit and saying, hey, would you sign your name to this report card, you know, and find they did. And then in like July or something like I they sent me a big printed copy of this report card and I had to go to the admin building and hand it over to whoever would come out the door. And there was a photo of it. And this was what we this union thought was pressure like this is what they thought was our lever of power, and it was. Wrong. Like, I mean, it was so not helpful. You know, and so and at the table, the U.S. was saying, we don’t have any money and we’re not giving you anything. You know, we’re not, you know. Well, we’ll offer you a point. Five percent raise it or whatever. I don’t know. You know, and and there were members of the bargaining team from Berkeley and Davis and Santa Cruz who were sort of like, you know, they’re not offering us what we need. Like the salary they’re offering us doesn’t even keep up with inflation. They’re not really giving us the other things we want. And we’re not putting pressure on them like this report card thing this summer. It’s stupid. Like we’re putting no pressure here. Like, the thing we need to do is we need to start organizing strike pledges like we need to. And. And, you know, and eventually it is. It’s really important, was really important for the UAW at that point to settle the new contract before the expiration of the old one. Like, they didn’t want to ever go off contract, but in order to strike, you have to go off contract. Among other things have to happen. So but they really wanted that contract to get settled by the end of September when the contract expired. Luckily, the U.S.’s offers were so bad that we didn’t manage to settle it then. But there was still a lot of pressure, like, no, we’re not going to do much more organizing. Come on, let’s get this contract settled. You know, and I think it ended up two percent raise or something, which wasn’t. I mean, essentially with cost of living, I think it was a pay cut and and the bargaining team pushed that through and outvoted those five of us who who didn’t like that. And in the last few weeks of the campaign, when it was clear that the UAW statewide wanted to settle this contract, no matter what, we get some of the bargaining team and particularly the members from Berkeley, we’re sort of like, well, we if this happens, we have to put together a vote no campaign and we have to try and get our members to vote down this inadequate contract. And so that’s yeah, that’s how that came about. 

Did was the UAW ever conspire with why they wanted to. Why they didn’t want to go off contract?

They had this you know, they had this. They have this cliche, this thing that they would say over and over again. Now that I think about it in it, it was just this phrase that they would say that it was almost like an article of faith, like it was a dogma. And they would say over and over again, our power is at its greatest the day before the contract expires and, and no one ever actually explained why they thought that was the case, because that also seems wrong like that. I don’t see any leverage there or not the kind of leverage that you can have when you’re out of contract and can start considering work actions. Yeah, it’s it was this point of pride with them that they always settled the contract before the expiration of the previous one. And I’m not. I don’t think anyone ever adequately explained to me why they thought that is the way they had to go. I mean, my speculation, like we would speculate that they didn’t actually want to like, it’s a lot easier to do it that way. Right. Like it it’s a lot simpler. It’s more sort of structured. You know, it and it and it causes a lot less trouble. You don’t ever actually then have to be, you know, I mean, there there are some boxes that open if you go off contract, but, you know, potential problems. But you know those you can negotiate around some of those. But, yeah, I think they just I don’t think they wanted the chaos. I don’t think they want to be uncertainty. And I think I mean, I also think they really weren’t that interested in any kind of work action. Potentially.

And when you reference them as they are you kind of referencing the executive board or.

Yeah, it would be the. So the. Yeah, it’d be the executive board. It would have been the international representatives. So that paid representatives from the UAW International who to serve are tasked with keeping the our statewide local on track. And then also the bargaining team, who, again, for the most part I mean, does are the campus leadership positions on each campus, the two. And so and for the most part, the executive board and the international reps kind of decided policy. The bargaining team sort of took their, took their, took the cue from them. So, yeah, yeah, that’s the they here.

Ok, cool. And then so when whenever the contract was, like ratified between the UAW and the UC, did all the members of the UAW have to vote to approve it? What was that process?

Yeah, they did. So they had to vote. Those votes are usually pretty. Pro forma, they’re used, but they just, you know, they usually don’t even bother to put much energy into turnout because I mean by the time the bargaining team big time. By the time a tentative agreement is reached, like everyone just wants to get it approved and done with. But then in that case, in that situation, we decided that our best option, that the two Berkeley reps and the two Santa Cruz reps and the Davis rep. We decided that our best option was to try and convince them, reship to vote it down. And so we actually did run a pretty, a pretty decent Vote No campaign. And actually the majority of Santa Cruz, the vast majority, voted it down, voted against it. I even think, although I don’t remember this for sure. I think Berkeley may have voted it down majority wise. And so statewide it passed because they ran up big totals down at UCLA and the southern campuses. But it really only passed right, as I recall, like 60 percent, which is pretty remarkably low, like most of the time, contract ratification votes like 97 percent. And so, you know, we didn’t win like the no vote. No campaign didn’t win. But I think it really did show that we had some organizing power, especially at the northern campuses. I think. And I think it made a lot of people mad, like the Santa Cruz. Again, the Santa Cruz members voted overwhelmingly against that contract and then they got stuck with that contract. And I think that really made them angry. And I think similar a lot of people at Berkeley were upset. Like, wait. This is a terrible contract. We voted against it, but we got stuck with it anyway. And so I think that was. Yeah, yeah, I think that was agitational in some ways.

Was there did the UAW ever address the fact that, like, the majority is in person? Berkeley voted no.

No. No. No, I’m not positive. Berkeley had a majority, but it was close. And those numbers must be somewhere. But I know Santa Cruz was. No, I mean, they they you know, they had a press release where they trumpeted, you know, contract passes by by 20 percent, you know, because it was 60 to 40. Right. And so it was, you know, 20. You know, they had a big trumpeting press release. And they and then we all sort of ignored each other for a few months. Yeah, I mean, then we all sort of never talk to each other again. Well, because that was sort of it turned out that was the first first sort of skirmish then, because then the following year in 2011 was the UAW elections. And so all the positions, the leadership on the campus and the executive board were all up. And so the vote now was actually sort of the catalyst for a lot of us, especially in the North, to say we have to take over the union, like we have to win those seats, like we have to have a campaign. Like the next step now that we’re stuck with this contract is to change the leadership so that the next time contract comes up. We do this right.

So do you think the change in leadership kind of helped push the UAW into more progressive direction?

Yeah, I mean, I think when I mean. I think when, when, AWDU academic workers for Democratic Union. When that organization when we won the UAW elections and took over the statewide, you know, I think one thing that happened is and part of the platform was to give campus autonomy. So like campus leaders got access to their e-mail lists, like they could email their members, like they could organize their members and however they saw fit and. You know, there wasn’t as much top down messaging like, OK. This is, you know, it was so much more collaborative. Bottom up. But then, I mean, I think really clearly going into the next contract campaign, which was, I guess three years after that, four years after 2014? Yeah, I think it was. It was run totally differently. So, you know, the statewide. For one thing, bargaining was run differently. Like when I sat through bargaining in two thousand nine and 10, like the bargaining team, we would sit in a room. We would never actually go see any of the U.S. negotiators. Like like the international rep would, like come into the room and say, this is what the U.S. saying. I think we should say this. And then we will be like, yes, OK. And then he’d go back and negotiate behind the scenes, you know? It was all behind closed doors. We never actually really had any participation in it. And by the next contract, that was totally different. Bargaining was open. So opening bargaining. And it wasn’t just all the bargaining team members were there. It was any number who wanted to come could come. And I you know, I was by then, I wasn’t unit chair anymore. But they actually did hire me to organize for a couple of those quarters, and part of my organization would be organizing people to come to these opening bargaining and have the members show up and tell you see what they wanted and see the horrible things the U.S. was saying, you know? And then I think we also really organized actions on the ground. So when bargaining came to the various camp, you know, that was another thing. Bargaining used to would often take place off campus, but when audiogram bargaining, they had to come onto campus and then we would have our members show up and, you know, demonstrate outside or march, you know, and show power in numbers and show mobilization. And also, as I recall, we left that contract expire. And we I think we we had an we had several strikes. We had a U all peace strike, you know, and a part of my organizing. Then when I was on the payroll to organize, then, you know, was organizing for that strike and getting students to turn out for that strike and and not cross the picket line. And so I think we did a lot. We mobilized and organized the members. We went past contract expiration. We really made it very unpleasant for the U.S., like very unpleasant for them. And I think in the end, we got a better contract then than we would have gotten like actually, I think a really good contract, as I recall. I don’t remember the numbers, but the raises were better than than had previously happened then. My understanding then is this last contract, things kind of went bad. But I was already gone from the U.S. at that point. So, yeah, I don’t know what happened there.

Yeah. Yeah. And that’s like another thing that I’m curious about. So like, I’m going to be interviewing more like UAW members regarding that. But so I think those are the majority of the questions that I’ve had. I think one for one those. What is your opinion on the current COLA movement? And kind of like why do you think it emerged even with, like, all of our negotiations with the UAW or.

So this is from this is from a bit of a distance because, I mean, I still live in Santa Cruz, but I don’t teach it at UCSC anymore. Most of my friends and connections there have moved on. And so, you know, I’ve gotten some updates. I run into people around town sometimes. And, you know, I see stuff on Instagram. I mean, I’m all for the COLA movement. I’m excited about it. I think it’s really exciting. I think. I mean, I think. I think part of. My understanding, and again, this may be imperfect, is that the most recent UAW leadership has been a bit more cautious and maybe agreed to a contract that not everyone was very happy about. And I think one of the things that may have activated again was this sort of Santa Cruz resentment because we are such a small union or a small unit within the broader UAW. And we don’t I mean, you know, 10 years ago, we didn’t feel like our concerns were being taken seriously, like we were being paid attention to by the bigger unions. Like we just sort of got dragged along. And I think there’s there are things. I think it’s really hard to be a grad student in Santa Cruz and I imagine in Santa Barbara as well. Right. Like cost of living is terrible. It’s not, you know, even though it’s a small town. We don’t maybe sort of feel like we get the respect and prestige that, you know, the Berkeley and UCLAs do. And I think. And so I do think that. It sounds to me like dissatisfa- I mean, I think just general grad student dissatisfaction has been building at Santa Cruz is the place gets more expensive and and all of that. But I think it seems that that they felt like the UAW leadership wasn’t taking them seriously, wasn’t giving them what they needed, wasn’t bargaining the kinds of contracts they needed. And so they sort of felt like, you know, this is we’re gonna take this into our own hands, like we have to like our union isn’t going to do this for us. And so we we have to do this without the union. Yeah. But again, my sort of outside understanding.

Yeah. Yeah, definitely. I’m going to of jump back just a little bit. But so during your time organizing, I was just curious like because I know you mentioned like their representatives on different campuses, but in your opinion, like how involved do you think, like grad students in general were with like the direct actions of the UAW? And by that I mean, kind of like in terms of contract negotiations, like how many do you think were like invested with and like aware of what exactly was happening?

I mean, that’s a good question. That’s a hard question. I think. I think before I think in the 2009 2010 campaign, not a lot, because essentially I think, the, the sense of the the idea from the statewide was, you know, let’s ask our members to do as little as possible, essentially, like let’s let’s call them and ask them to sign a report card. And that’s really all we’re comfortable asking them to do. So I think there was a lot of deep mobilized members then. You know, it’s harder to say in the next campaign under AWDU like what that looked like, especially on other campuses, because I was mostly just focused here, you know, but but, you know, we were turning out several hundred people at Santa Cruz for various things. You know, that was about, you know, when we struck, I think half to two thirds of our unit of our unit, actually. And I’m sure it was much lower at other campuses, which are much larger. But I think the mobilization was. Higher. I mean, again, I still don’t know. You know, I think there’s still lots of graduate students who don’t know what’s going on and don’t pay attention and do sort of keep their heads down and just sort of. You know, they’re there for them, for their degree. And so they aren’t. But yeah. So I think it’s hard for me to estimate.

Ok, perfect. So I think those are all my questions. Do you have anything you’d like to add regarding anything that you talked about?

No, I think I mean, that sounds about right to me. Yeah. Are you talking to other people from that from that old time era? Who are you talking to? Or can you tell me?

Yeah. So I’ve actually, cause most of my research has been going through, like old student journals and reports and stuff. So I’ve been like kind of trying to like track down people. And there was a grad school organizer. I think he went to UCSB, but he was also talking about like concerns regarding with the UAW, my contract negotiations in 2007, I think? And that was like one of the earlier contracts. So I reached out to him and we’re going to set up an interview to discuss what happened back then, too. And then I also have a couple of interviews with, like UAW leadership lined up just to kind of see what happened on their end. Yeah. Because there’s definitely like two sides to like what every like what happened during the time. I think the main thing that, like, I want to talk was not really about like the divide, but more so how, like, both groups are kind of fighting towards the same goal, but in like different methods.

Yeah.

Ok, cool. Thank you so much for being with me.

You’re welcome. Yeah. Yeah. Thank you. It’s a fun project. Yeah. So I wish you luck on it.

Thank you. And also, I was just wondering if you perchance have any access to, like, pictures of any the organizing that you did during that time, if not a while ago?

Oh, I’m sure I do know somewhere on my hard drive that I do. I could glance through some of that.

Yeah. If you have the time and you can just send some over there, be great. But if not, that’s okay too.

Ok. Yeah. Yeah.

 Ok. Well thank you for meeting with me. I have. I hope you have a good rest of your day. Thank you.