By Victoria Mejicanos, May 9, 2023
California State University employees protested outside the Cal Poly Pomona University Library May 1 to participate in an act of solidarity for International Workers Day, also known as May Day.
The four unions in attendance either entered or reopened contract negotiations with the CSU.
Hector Maciel, the president of the CSU Employees Union for the Pomona chapter, shared the protest was to support each other in common bargaining goals.
“We’re all coming together to work towards something positive, better working conditions, more staffing levels and fixing pay inequities,” Maciel said.
Anthony Lara, a Facilities Planning & Management employee, and member of the Teamsters union stated participants in the union are fighting for higher wages and to keep their benefits.
“I work two jobs just trying to keep afloat,” he said. I hardly get to spend any time with my kids, with my family,” Lara said. “It’s really ridiculous that I see the president get $100,000 more. She’s already making $450,000. I’m not even making half of the $100,000 that she got. Then, if you look into things, she lives here rent free, so she just has it made. I have to come and fight, and I’m not even going to see the money right away.”
Lara also shared the benefits in jeopardy include emergency pay, which was used during the pandemic. Additionally, their guaranteed salary increases are at risk.
“They’re always trying to take something away,” Lara said.
Nickolas Hardy, an adjunct lecturer associated with the California Faculty Association expanded on similar issues, sharing how difficult it is to receive a promotion even with a doctorate and years of experience.
“There’s people like me who go above and beyond, and we’re used to going above and beyond, and there’s still glass ceilings,” Hardy said.
In a speech given during the protest, he also stated faculty members often work on multiple campuses teaching 12-15 units every semester to make ends meet.
“Sometimes we’re traveling between two campuses just to cobble together benefits and money to feed our family,” Hardy said.
Another issue expressed by each union participating in the protest is how understaffed each department is.
Jackie Barrett, a Students for Quality Education intern explained the staff and faculty to student ratio for Cal Poly Pomona are some of the worst.
“We have way less counselors than we should have,” Barret said. “We have a total of three librarians serving a college with a population of almost 30,000.”
Lara expanded on the issue, stating he gradually saw a staff decrease since starting to work at CPP, causing him to question where the extra money for more staff goes.
“The fact that we’re understaffed, and they still get funding to have those people, where’s that money going?” he said.
Barrett shared in her speech the SQE slogan: “staff learning conditions are student learning conditions.”
Assistant Music Professor Evan Ware shared also noticing staffing issues within his department impacting how it functions.
“The music department had a complete turnover in staff in the last two years,” he said. “We’ve been without an (Administrative Support Coordinator) functionally for about a year and a half.”
There were also a few students representing student workers. Carlos Callejo, a graduate student gave a speech addressing the continued delay of the CSU to allow students to have their union election.
“They have the power to consent to a quick union election right now, instead of doing that they just told us ‘See you in court,’” Callejo said. “We have to come together to pressure the CSU to consent to our union election and let us vote.”
He also shared specific issues student workers face, such as no paid sick time, when the minimum per California law is three days. According to Callejo, the CSU claims student assistants are not actual workers, so they are exempt from the law.
All employees expressed feeling overworked, underpaid and understaffed but were optimistic about working toward the same goal.
Hardy explained why all the employees decided to work together.
“At the end of the day, we’re all here for the same thing, which is to make sure CPP is operating the way it needs to operate,” he said. “We’re supporting the most important element on this campus, which is students. Our students.”
Feature image courtesy of Victoria Mejicanos
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