Poor People's Campaign

February 21, 2020

The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival denounces the threats that are being issued against graduate students who are demanding a decent standard of living at UC Santa Cruz. 

Confronting the decision to pay rent or buy food, the graduate students at UC Santa Cruz decided in December to stand up for their basic needs and demand a modest cost of living allowance of $1412 per month.  The median monthly cost of an apartment in Santa Cruz is over $1600 and it is one of the least affordable places to live in the country. Meanwhile, the striking students currently earn less than $2500 per month.

On February 10, the students expanded their grading strike to a wildcat general work strike. The strikers include teachers’ assistants, doctoral candidates and graduate students and they have been joined by teachers, undergraduates and UC maintenance workers, among others, including UAW Local 2865, which has pledged, under the current contract, to defend strikers facing discipline.

In response to their demands, the students have faced at least 4 different police departments – UC Police, Santa Cruz Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and the Alameda County Sheriff. At least 17 people have been arrested so far. University of California  President Janet Napolitano is now threatening to fire these hundreds of striking graduate students and teachers if they do not submit grades by 11:59 pm, Friday, February 21. The University has refused to bargain with the strikers. President Napolitano was the Secretary of Homeland Security from 2009-2013 and oversaw the expansion of immigration enforcement at the border.  

In support of the strike, Rev. Dr. William Barber, II, National Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign stated: “President Napolitano has chosen to respond to this crisis of poverty with a repressive position that promotes structural violence against the poor. We stand with the UC Santa Cruz students and teachers lifting up their demands for a cost of living increase and against the immoral choice between going hungry and being homeless.”

Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, National Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign stated: “These striking graduate students are revealing the patterns of exploitation that face millions of workers in the UC system and workplaces across the country. Their actions break the silence and stigma around homelessness and make known the broad crisis of poverty facing 140 million people in this country.” 

The Poor People’s Campaign joins with the students, the National Union of the Homeless, the California Poor People’s Campaign and all who are supporting their demands to President Napolitano to withdraw her threat to fire all strikers and come to the bargaining table. There are between 8-11 million homeless people living in the U.S. today, among them 1.5 million public school students. The Santa Cruz students’ must be heard. 

For more information, please contact: Anthony Prince, [email protected]

To send statements of support, please contact [email protected] and Alicia Kuhl, President, Santa Cruz Homeless Union.