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Service and Student Workers Rally at UCI for Higher Wages

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Campus service and student workers from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3299 held a rally at UCI on April 12. The local chapter, which includes over 30,000 UC non-academic staff workers, demanded a minimum wage increase to $25 an hour and a 5% increase for campus service workers already making $25 or more an hour.

Frank Valdez, strategic communications director for Local 3299, stated in an interview with the New University that the union’s demands go beyond just a wage increase, and that their fight is on behalf of more than just their union members. 

“We, as a labor union, [recognize] that wages have not kept up with the dramatic rise of inflation over the past few years, especially during the pandemic […] We recognize that workers across the University of California that do not make $25 an hour are struggling,” Valdez said.

In addition to the rally’s principal demands, they are demanding that the UC system stop investing in the Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, run by Blackstone Inc. — an alternative investment management company that has been linked to the growing housing crisis in California — and instead invest in affordable housing for both UC workers and students.

AFSCME workers are in the middle of a contract with the UC which expires on Oct. 31, 2024. 

When asked why AFSCME is choosing this moment to take action and what this means for their campaign, Valdez stated that the time for action is now. 

“[Workers] need this relief now. They need to be able to be on a path to economic prosperity. And while $25 an hour doesn’t truly fix everything, it’s a good place to start.” 

Local 3299 also stated that the rally was not a strike, and that none of their members are walking off the job. They plan to make their voices heard through rallies and a strong presence at UC Regents’ meetings. 

The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) stated in an email to the New University that it is grateful for all its employees, and that the current contract with AFSCME-covered employees is meant “to reward the hard work of these employees and recognize the cost-of-living realities of living in California.”

“Currently, nearly three-quarters of all systemwide AFSCME contracted members earn at least $25.00 an hour and no staff member, including students, is paid below the prevailing minimum wage at their location. UC is committed to providing competitive and fair compensation to all our employees,” UCOP said.

UCI administration has yet to respond to a New University request for comment.

Makyla McLeod is a Campus News Apprentice for the spring 2023 quarter. She can be reached at