On Tuesday, California State University (CSU) employees with the Teamsters Local 2010 Union met at the west entrance of campus off of Highland Drive for their one-day strike in the fight for a fair contract.
Members of the union representing CSU and UC skilled trade workers like electricians, mechanics and facilities workers, picketed from around 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Every couple of minutes, the protestors walked back and forth between the crosswalks at major entrances to campus – California Boulevard, Highland Drive, Grand Avenue and Slack Street.
These intervals backed up traffic and affected SLO Transit services.
Service to the Kennedy Library and Performing Arts Center bus stops, which include the 3A/3B and 4A/4B routes, were temporarily placed on hold according to the rider alerts website. Cal Poly Emergency Operations Center sent an email at 9:52 a.m. this morning to students and staff alerting them of this change.
Nutrition junior Graham Griswold walked onto campus from Foothill and Chorro because he was unable to take his normal 4A route this morning.
After seeing the 4A delayed on the SLO Transit app, he opted for the 3A which stopped early because it couldn’t make it any farther onto campus.
Griswold was concerned that the backups could affect students needing to get to class.
“I’m rooting for the workers, I just hope it doesn’t affect students too much because we’re here to get a degree,” he said.
Cal Poly is one of 22 CSU campuses striking today, according to flyers distributed by Teamsters. Fair wage increases are one of the major concerns of the union.
Teamsters members with the UC system are under a different contract and are paid 23 percent more than their CSU counterparts, according to Teamsters Field Director Tanya Akel.
“Everyone deserves to able to live on what you make, to be able to have healthcare, pension benefits, go on family vacations and work one job,” Akel said. “If we don’t continuously fight for that in the labor movement, then we’re all gonna be working three jobs and struggling continuously, especially for the next generation.”
This is the first time Teamsters have gone on strike within the CSU, according to Akel.
“CSU has denied workers regular step increases for 28 years, leaving many workers stuck near the bottom of their pay range after decades of service,” Teamsters wrote on their flyers. “The CSU is unfair to workers. It’s time they pay us what we’re worth and bargain in good faith.”
Teamsters Steward Evan Powels helped orchestrate today’s strike, ensuring that members knew where to go and had necessary materials, like picket signs, food and water.
“[We made sure] that they knew all the laws so they didn’t get taken advantage of when it came to the police or HR, but also that they know the rules so they’re not violating anyone else’s rights,” Powels said.
At the entrance on California Boulevard, members of the California Faculty Union (CFA) joined the picket line in support of their fellow union.
“We had quite a few of them out here walking with the picket lines and bringing a lot of water, drinks for us too,” Powels said. “They were out on the picket lines chanting with us in full support.”
The CFA is also currently in the midst of contract negotiations, unrelated to today’s strikes. Four CSU campuses will hold strikes in early December, according to the CFA website.
Students showed support for Teamsters picketers today as well, both through joining the picket line and providing supplies. About 15 students joined the protest at Grand Avenue and Slack Street, according to Powels.
“We’ve had students drop off donuts to us and water, and in the capacity they could help us and be in solidarity with this picket line,” Powels said. “It really lifts our morale.”
On Thursday, the Vice President of Student Affairs sent an email to the campus community regarding campus operations during possible strikes occurring Tuesday.
“If a member of the picket line harasses you or if you contend that crossing the line is unsafe, report this incident immediately to Allie Terzes in Human Resources at 805-756-6573,” the email read.
Mustang News emailed university spokesperson Matt Lazier to clarify if there were prior instances of picketers harassing students in the past, or if there is another reason for the language written in the VPSA email.
Lazier wrote in an email response, “The information contained in the messages sent to students and employees about the pending labor action was simply meant to provide recipients with the proper resources in the event that they would be needed.”
Lazier said the university is unaware of any previous records of harassment incidents related to strikes on campus.
Teamsters Field Director Tanya Akel stressed that a strike comes at the end of an extensive negotiation process.
“A strike is something nobody ever wants to have, see or do, but the CSU has been very arrogant and very disrespectful to workers and left us no choice but to strike,” Akel said.
Mustang News reporter Owen Lavine contributed to the reporting on this story.