News for the East Bay's diverse, working-class majority.

Brought to you by the Democratic Socialists of America, East Bay chapter.

East Bay DSA

February 10, 2022

In Support of Striking CCA Workers

By Annika B

The following is the text of a speech delivered on February 9, 2022 by East Bay Democratic Socialists of America co-chair Annika Bastacky in support of staff at California College of the Arts, who are on strike demanding living wages, job security, and a fair contract.

As an alum of the MFA design program here at CCA, I’ve never been prouder to be a part of the CCA community than I am today, and during this historic strike. 

As a former student of art and liberal arts schools, here’s what I know: we’re taught to cultivate our creative spark, to embrace our individuality, to “excel” in our personal practice. But the creative power of collective action, and of democracy, is often under-emphasized. If the rhetoric from the college around this strike is that it’s destructive or inconvenient, I counter that it’s exactly the opposite: this strike is a creative, optimistic, and vital act! It’s a palpable expression of democracy. Staff, 97% of you voted to withhold your labor and take ownership over your working conditions, to demand what is rightfully yours: a living wage, job security, and a fair contract. Collectively, you are fighting to create a more just and fair CCA that puts people over profit. 

The purpose of this college is to provide high quality education, not capital investment or to line the pockets of college executives. Staff and teachers, you produce this high quality education when you teach classes, mentor students, manage studios and media centers, coordinate operations, and so much more. It’s YOUR labor that creates CCA’s wealth, not the administrators. How is there no money to pay you a living wage, when president Beale makes upwards of 550 thousand dollars per year? It’s time to prioritize workers. CCA is a prestigious institution, but it’s nothing without its staff and professors! Right now, we’re saying business as usual cannot go on until the staff at CCA get living wages and the right to bargain for fair working conditions. The college has stalled and delayed this process for so long that we’re striking at the heart of the issue: the college’s disregard for you, the workers who produce its value. 

Yesterday, I learned many reasons why you are out here on strike. I learned that you’re tired of the stress of living paycheck to paycheck. I learned that since CCA hasn’t bargained in good faith and you still don’t have a contract after over two years, you’ve seen countless coworkers get hired, burn out due to low pay and impossibly high job expectations, and then either quit or get fired. I learned that this is called “burn and churn,” and that the college is taking advantage of it in the hopes that you’ll give up the fight. But you haven’t given up: you’re just getting started! I learned that seeing entire departments laid off systematically and without notice by bosses made you realize how important it is to have a union and a contract that protects you. I learned that vague rubrics of “excellence” have been used to justify nepotism and unfair hiring practices, instead of seniority. I learned that you want to be able to live where you work, and you want ALL workers at CCA to be able to do this too. 

The organizing that culminates in this strike is the bedrock that lasting change is built on, and I hope to see it continue. I hope we stay organized and active through and beyond this strike, to create lasting change at CCA. Only when we organize together for issues that are broadly and deeply felt, like you’re doing now, can we have a chance of winning. All of DSA stands with you. Solidarity forever!

You can support striking CCA workers by donating to their GoFundMe, emailing the CCA administration to urge them to settle a fair contract, and joining the picket line this week!