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KCBX News Update: UCSB academic workers continue strike, prescribed burn underway in Montaña de Oro

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fairucnow.org
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Academic employees at all ten UC campuses walked off the job on Monday as part of a statewide strike.

Strike at UC campuses in its second week

The strike of academic workers employed by the University of California is now in its second week. Postdoctoral scholars, tutors, graduate student researchers, and other academic employees are still out on the picket line across all 10 UC campuses, demanding better wages and benefits.

Evan Plunkett is a postdoctoral scholar and the unit chair for postdocs at UC Santa Barbara. He said there are about 3,000 of these workers at UCSB, who are a part of the roughly 48,000 workers striking across all ten UC campuses.

Plunkett said there have been no incidents of violence or clashes with law enforcement at the picket line at UCSB, which is true of all of the ongoing UC demonstrations right now. That’s partly because he said the academic worker unions have trained strike “de-escalators” at every picket line across the state.

"Their entire job is to help interface between those out on strike and anybody else and make sure that the energy and the actions that we are taking are at the appropriate level," Plunkett said. Because, you know, our goal is to disrupt the university — not to put anyone in any danger.”

That disruption of the UC system is now in its second week, and the end of the academic quarter in December is fast approaching.

UC representatives declined an interview but said in a press release that it is listening carefully to the union’s priorities with an “open mind and genuine willingness to compromise.” However, they said there are also “significant differences” between the two parties’ positions.

Plunkett agrees. Compensation has been an especially thorny issue in negotiations between the strikers and the university system. But he said he thinks UC representatives have been more open to compromise lately.

“They have been engaging a little more, and a little more critically, on some of the issues which they previously flatly refused to bargain over. So I would say it's definitely moving the needle, and it's doing so in a positive direction."

It’s still unclear when a resolution could be reached. UCSB’s fall quarter ends on December 10.

Prescribed burn underway in Montaña de Oro

A prescribed burn is underway in Montaña de Oro State Park.

The burn began yesterday and is set to end tomorrow. Ignitions start in the morning as early as 7a.m., and the last of this burn is expected to end by about 5p.m. tomorrow.

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California State Parks
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A damaged eucalyptus tree.

California State Parks officials said the reason for the burn is to reduce fuel loading and wildfire threat in a diseased and declining eucalyptus forest.

California State Parks Senior Environmental Scientist Katie Drexhage says the nearby Diablo Nuclear Power Plant is an example of why reducing wildfire risk is especially important in an area like this.

“We reduce fuels, and we remove dead and dying trees and reduce fuel loads to not only restore native habitat, but to also reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic fire that could impact not only the park but nearby communities."

Drexhage said prescribed burns also benefit surrounding native species, getting rid of disease-and-termite-ridden eucalyptus trees.

“So you burn off the years of leaf litter that’s accumulated, and then by doing that you really open up that environment for Native species to move into right now.”

The burn is being conducted by the California State Parks, in cooperation with the Air Pollution Control district and CAL FIRE.

KCBX News is run by News Director Benjamin Purper and overseen by Program and Content Director Marisa Waddell. Gabriela Fernandez and Amanda Wernik are the current reporters. Posts by "KCBX News Staff" reflect collaborative writing and reporting from multiple news team members and may include work from Benjamin, Gabriela, Amanda and newsroom interns/volunteers.