Members of the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE), a union covering over 12,000 employees of the University of California (UC), protested at the bell tower on Tuesday, Oct. 31. The 15-or-so demonstrators, among them union members, former UCR employees and supporters, called for improved wage conditions and a halt in the recent spate of layoffs of UCR staff, notably in the Computing and Communications department (CNC).
From 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the protesters carried signs and wore posters decrying the alleged “unfair” treatment of workers at the university’s hands. A recurrent theme in the demonstrators’ rhetoric was the university’s attitude toward employees as “expendable” and not worthy of adequate contracts. One protester, who requested anonymity, expressed her frustration frankly: “UC is for excellent research, excellent teaching, excellent education — why aren’t they for excellent pay?”
Dominating the discussion was a recent slew of layoffs in UCR’s CNC department. Robert Newman, one of the IT personnel who recently lost his job with CNC after almost a decade of service, also highlighted the injustices he perceived as rampant within UCR. Engaging with passersby, Newman recounted hearing about the layoffs, emphasizing the abrupt and unexpected manner of his own termination, ostensibly part of a cost-cutting CNC budget restructuring. Throughout the conversation, Newman held high a sign bordered by UPTE’s blue logo. On one side read the message “UCR lays off 15 IT;” on the other, “Student Tech Fee $1 million/quarter.”
Also present were supporters of the employees, among them Shaina Ho, UCR alumna and former student worker with the Department of Anthropology. Working in the office, Ho said she often turned to CNC staff like Newman for her IT needs. As a result of these layoffs, she believes the myriad offices like hers around campus will be left unserviced and lacking in proper support. “There was a very long wait time,” Ho explained, referring to her own experiences with delayed tech support. “At one point we waited 6 months. (Computing services help) never came. We physically had to go to (CNC’s) office.”
Now, Ho finds it her duty to support the IT staff that once supported her. “The school should really look into how important the (CNC) is,” she said. “Having a good IT system in and of itself is necessary to make a school run.”
This show of discontent with UCR’s employment policies comes at a time when UPTE is preparing to submit new contract outlines to UCR on their members’ behalf. It remains to be seen in which direction UCR and the union will move once negotiations begin.