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On the picket line

February 25, 2005 | Page 11

University of California-Santa Cruz
By Jonathan Weaver

SANTA CRUZ, Calif.--February 14 was far from romantic for Denise Denton, the newly appointed chancellor at University of California-Santa Cruz (UCSC). On her first day, she was met by a crowd of 200 organized by the Student and Worker Coalition for Justice, including service workers from AFSCME Local 3299 and clerical workers from the Coalition of University Employees (CUE) Local 10.

The rally began outside Denton's office to protest a $192,000 position created for her partner, as well as the $68,000 to pay for the couple's move to Santa Cruz. Occupying the Kerr Hall Budget Office, students and workers demanded that someone provide an explanation for these outrageous budget decisions.

The gathering also demanded to know why clericals of CUE, working without a contract since last September, haven't had a raise in the past two years, when UC health center executives got a combined $2.4 million in bonuses out of the $5 billion UC has in unrestricted reserves.

None of these workers earns what the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) has defined as the necessary wage of $25.90 per hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment here. In the same study, the NLIHC reported that Santa Cruz is the fifth-most expensive county in the U.S. Of the 550 service workers at UCSC, 93 percent earn below a living wage of $16.88 per hour (as determined by the California Budget Project).

"Students believe that the workers who feed us, who clean our bathrooms and classrooms, who advise us on our education, who do the work that makes this university run, deserve as much respect as top executives and administrators," reads an official statement of the Student and Worker Coalition for Justice.

Students are also outraged about the increase of student fees by 8 to 10 percent for the spring quarter and the scrapping of entire academic departments. Students are already organizing to defend Hindi and Arabic language departments, which they fear will be cut from the curriculum.

The crowd got the classic runaround from Assistant Chancellor William Hyder, who answered their questions about the budget with, "No comment."

The only option left was direct action, and CUE president Becky Kline said a strike might be necessary to shift the university's priorities. With the suggestion of a strike, the assembly cheered in solidarity.

The rally demonstrated unity between students and workers and support for a possible strike in April. When the time comes, we'll need solidarity from students and workers throughout the UC system to secure a victory.

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Six Flags New England
By James York

AGAWAM, Mass.--Workers at Six Flags New England walked off the job February 4 and are striking for union recognition.

Disgusted by the lack of respect, shifting hours and low pay, 12 amusement ride mechanics and communication workers are determined to win the respect they deserve. Workers have been forced to use their own trucks to pull around rides, tools that have broken down on the job haven't been fixed, and pay raises have not kept up with inflation.

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters Local 108 has been involved in the organizing effort. "We've stuck together as a group, and we've tried to negotiate with Six Flags even without the union, but they don't want to listen to our concerns, and they treat us like kids," mechanic Rick Seldomridge told Socialist Worker.

Other workers at the park are non-union, and some are hostile to the organizing effort. The workplace is divided, and some 30 workers are eligible to vote for or against the union. What happens on the picket line will either provide momentum and confidence to other workers on the fence about the union or may sink the ship.

The park is bringing scabs from other parks and hiring non-qualified personnel to work on the rides to ready them for the park's April 15 opening. We need to step up the pressure at the gates to stop the scabs--and reach out to make sure that the community realizes that Six Flags is compromising safety by having scab mechanics set-up and work on amusement rides.

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