“UC SCAM DIEGO: Affordable Housing Now!” Photo by Michael Murray
A movement is growing at the University of California-San Diego, in opposition to rent hikes that were announced by the Graduate Family Housing Advisory Committee – Housing, Dining and Hospitality. At noon on March 19, nearly a hundred student-workers and supporters gathered at Mesa Nuevo East Graduate Housing on UCSD’s campus for a march organized by UAW Local 2865, joined by the Party for Socialism and Liberation and supporters in the community.
Will Schneider, a UCSD graduate student and member of PSL San Diego pointed out to Liberation News that some planned rent hikes are as high as 85%. Additionally, UCSD graduate student rent prices have outgrown graduate student salaries fourfold since 2016. In response to these unaffordable conditions, demonstrators pledged to withhold rent starting April 1 until they are offered a seat at the negotiating table by UCSD.
At the rally preceding the march, Kristin of UAW Local 2865 told the crowd to, “Imagine this, your landlord comes to you and says, ‘Look, I made some bad choices and business decisions, and because of that I have to raise your rent now.’ Imagine your reaction to that situation, because that is exactly what’s happening here.”
UCSD is admittedly raising the rents on student-workers in order to cover debt accumulated by their own graduate housing expansion plan. The burden of UCSD’s poor planning is being pushed onto graduate student-workers who contribute much of the labor that make universities function at all.
Following the initial rally, demonstrators marched around campus and surrounding streets toward the I-5 freeway. Cars honked in support as protestors shouted chants such as “Fight, fight, fight! Housing is a human right!” and “Pradeep! Pradeep! The rent is too steep!” (in reference to UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla).
As the march concluded, Liberation News sat down with Ahmed Akhtar of UAW Local 2865. “They’re planning on allowing cheaper housing if you’re willing to do double occupancy and that’s literally a health and safety issue. Those rooms are incredibly small, and they’re trying to exploit us and cram as many people into an apartment as possible. And what they should be doing is actually investing in graduate housing and subsidizing it so we don’t have to pay more than 30-40-50% of our income on housing!”
At a time of extremely high student debt, exploitation of workers, and the unsafe reopening of many educational institutions leading to unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic, capitalism’s foundational inability to safely organize society is being exposed. This move puts many students in danger of housing insecurity which will further the spread of the disease which has already killed hundreds of thousands in the U.S. Supporting this union-led movement is one critical way to ensure a solution. Ultimately, labor must organize around a socialist system that puts workers in power and their needs first to solve this!