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UC Santa Barbara student workers file to form first undergraduate union in UC system

SANTA BARBARA, Calif.—UC Santa Barbara student dining hall workers have filed to form a union called the student dining labor union.

Students like Clay Dau say that chronic pain and grueling work conditions at the UCSB dining halls have made it difficult to push through.

“We have long stretches of time without a break. And the work is also physically demanding and fast paced and very like hot in the kitchen, the temperature. So it's very difficult for me in that way,” said 2nd year Student Dining Hall Worker Clay Dau.

But they can’t afford to leave.

I'm already living paycheck to paycheck, so if I get fired, then I’m in a dire financial situation. So I would definitely feel more comfortable speaking up and expressing my concerns in a union way with a contract negotiation, because that gives the workers more power and more leverage.”

Student workers say a lot needs to change at the university level.

Student worker Jasmine Rebollar shared a laundry list of grievances including accusations of sexual harassment and a physically taxing environment. 

“You're just like in the back where there's only two fans, like pointing at each other, and that's called ventilation…and it gets pretty hot back there. We have a dish machine that runs like at 180 degrees Fahrenheit. So you can imagine the hot steam coming out of both ends as you're loading dirty dishes and then unloading the clean dishes,” said 3rd year Student Dining Hall Worker Jasmine Rebollar.

By forming a union, student workers hope they will be able to successfully negotiate better working conditions, higher wages, sick leave, and overtime pay.

“Students have these meal plans and they're paying a lot and as well as like individual students who come in to eat. And you're not really sure where all that money is going because you have all this, like, equipment that's like basically not working properly,” said Rebollar.

Students filed for unionization on December 7th and are waiting for the UC to recognize their union.

The university released a statement Monday saying they received the petition and are still in the process of reviewing it. 

If approved, this union will be the first undergraduate union in the UC system.

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Mina Wahab

Arab-American producer & reporter with a mission to dig deep in interviews, share authentically, shed light on the issues that matter, and provoke deep thought.


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