January 19. 2006 - At approximately 12PM, hundreds of custodians (and their student supporters) at UC Santa Cruz skipped lunch to demand just wages.
The workers, part of the union AFSCME, recently found out that custodians at nearby colleges receive 14-30% more than they do, for the same (or less) work. Far from being a living wage, many UCSC custodians are working two/three jobs to make ends meet. This is at the same time that the UC system has raised student fees almost 80% over the past few years, and have given almost a billion dollars of executive perks for top UC employees, approximately the same amount of money as the student fee increases. Recently, Denice Denton, UCSC's Chancellor, claimed that Robert Dynes, the UC President, should be given an even higher salary. Dynes already makes more than $400,000 a year.
Meanwhile, the UC claims they have no money for the lowest-paid workers, academic programs, student initiated outreach and retention, and scores of other programs. It appears that there is not a lack of money, but a lack of decent priorities - not a budget crisis but a moral crisis.
The spirited rally, organized by AFSCME, with the support of the Student and Worker Coalition for Justice (SWCJ), is the continuation of a hard-fought struggle for the dignity of UCSC's lowest paid workers.