By Jolene Darensbourg and Julietta Bisharyan
DAVIS – A car caravan on the UC Davis campus will be held today at 2 p.m. to highlight a petition that demands relief from parking fees for the fall 2020 quarter during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to prioritize the safety of essential workers and students.
Members of the UAW Local 5810 (the union of UC Postdocs and Academic Researchers) and UAW Local 2865 (the UC student-workers union), along with other university employees and graduate students will be participating in the socially-distanced car caravan.
The workers demand UC Davis to re-institute free parking on campus for essential workers for the fall 2020 quarter.
The petition, signed by thousands of workers, will be delivered to UC Davis Chancellor Gary May, Vice Chancellors Kelly Ratliff and Pablo Guillermo Reguerín and Assistant Vice Chancellor Robert Segar.
During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, UC Davis suspended parking enforcement, benefiting essential workers’ health, so they would be able to drive to campus. Many researchers continued to drive to work on campus, continuing experiments and maintaining animal and plant stocks.
To maintain social distancing, labs have only been occupied 30-40 percent, and workers have been coming in to campus at differing shifts throughout the day.
However, the university has recently announced there are reversal actions in place for parking even though there has been a surge in coronavirus cases.
There are plans to resume parking enforcement for the fall 2020 quarter, along with increasing the rate by at least 10 percent.
According to UC Davis’ commute options webpage, the goClub programs encourage members of the UC Davis community, who commute to campus, to choose alternatives to driving, such as by train, bus or bike.
The student carpool permits will be suspended and instead, the university recommends the students to develop their own carpool to get to campus this fall.
All transit pass subsidies will also be eliminated indefinitely, along with other environmentally friendly policies.
“Driving to campus is the safest way to socially distance from others (and avoid poor air quality during frequent wildfires), and workers shouldn’t have to decide between their health and their budgets during this pandemic,” Neal Sweeney, Vice President of UAW Local 5810, said.
“The University could easily maintain free parking at least through the end of the year as UC Irvine is doing, yet they are choosing not to. UC Davis has made it very clear that their priority is parking revenue rather than ensuring the health and safety of their employees,” he added.
According to the petition, students and workers should not be forced to choose between their safety or their livelihood.
The parking enforcement threatens and discourages any students and low-wage workers from taking the safest form of transportation in the community. The petition also adds that UC Davis should not be allowed to use the pandemic as an excuse to end goClub programs.
Instead, the petition demands that the university suspend all parking enforcement until the state emergency is lifted.
It also asks UC Davis to restore all goClub programs to benefit vulnerable students and workers in the community.
Getting rid of the parking enforcement for the fall 2020 quarter would not only protect the health of students and essential workers from the risk of COVID-19 but also avoid the risks of the low air quality.
Throughout the past month, the air quality has been poor due to the recent wildfires so close to the community.
Re-instituting free parking for essential workers can help protect them from health concerns while they continue their efforts to make the campus operate smoothly.
All who will be participating in the car caravan will be meeting at Visitor Parking Lot 15 on the UC Davis campus.
“It’s not the time to be thinking, ‘how can we [the university] make more money,’” said Sweeney. “We need to instead think, ‘I need to keep people safe.’”
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