The University of California and a select few employees sit comfortably atop an $11.2 billion endowment. Jim Mora, UCLA’s head football coach, makes over $3 million. George Blumenthal, UC Santa Cruz’s chancellor, makes over $380,000. Meanwhile, according to a 2016 Occidental College study, more than two-thirds of UC’s clerical, administrative and support staff struggle to put enough food on the table.
For the workers who live in Santa Cruz, Los Angeles, and other expensive UC cities, a college degree, a full-time job and an average $22 hourly wage often isn’t enough.
According to MIT’s Living Wage calculator, a single parent in Santa Cruz County needs to make at least $29.22 an hour to support their family — that’s $7 more than the surveyed average, according to the Occidental study.
That same single parent competes with thousands of students, not to mention other workers, to find housing, which the Living Wage calculator estimates to be just over $21,000 a year for one adult and one child in Santa Cruz County.
These high costs are compounded by inadequate real wages, which Teamsters Local 2010, a union of 14,000 UC employees, say decreased by 24 percent over the past 18 years and continue to disproportionately affect women and underrepresented communities.
Protesting these unethical wages, UC clerical workers, the CX-unit of the Teamsters 2010 union, rejected the appalling status quo, one wherein the wealthy UC system continues to uphold income inequality by favoring low pay for many over fair pay for all.
On Jan. 10, Teamsters staged a UC-wide protest that attracted thousands of striking workers, students and community members, showing the UC that workers matter regardless of their title.
Across California, more than a thousand clerical workers risked their jobs to pick up signs and protest unjust UC wages. At UC Santa Cruz, around 80 protesters picketed across UCSC’s main and west entrances in the rain, nearly shutting down the campus.
In anticipation of the protest, the UC offered a 12 to 18 percent raise over five years that guarantees a yearly average raise of 2 percent. But the proposal’s higher medical costs could completely eliminate this small raise, which merely keeps up with California’s projected inflation.
As their offer stands, the UC would continue to leave thousands of UC employees without basic necessities like livable wages, affordable health care and reasonable retirement benefits.
By moving away from a defined guaranteed income pension plan to a riskier, more expensive 401(K)-type plan, the UC’s inadequate and insulting offer jeopardizes workers’ current and future livelihood. In other words, the UC continues a greater trend of income inequality, where workers that matter — our librarians, financial aid officers and tech staff — are overlooked, while the UC’s top 15 highest paid executives continue to receive benefits and bonuses like the recent pay hike in 2015.
UC President Janet Napolitano, who voted in favor of the executive pay raise, championed $3.3 million to fight student food insecurity. In a July 2016 statement, she highlighted its urgency, saying “Food security is a critical issue not only on college campuses, but throughout our country and the world.” While this commitment is admirable, it begs the question — how can Napolitano recognize and fight for student food insecurity, while overlooking the UC system’s own food insecure workers?
Especially since, compared to California residents as a whole, UC clerical staff are more than five times as likely to be food insecure. These facts are appalling, and the university should be ashamed it contributes to the amoral, fiscally-driven paradigm that favors the profits of a few over the well-being of the collective.
For the university to simultaneously overlook these concerns while condemning the Teamsters’ protests as “unlawful” and to say a resolution “will only be achieved if both parties engage in respectful and productive dialogue at the bargaining table” is absurd, considering negotiations between Teamsters and UC began months ago.
This language, along with UCLA’s request for an injunction to block the strike, an injunction which the California Public Employment Relations Board rejected, exposes the university’s condescension. The UC touts their supposed “market-competitive wage increases, good benefits and stability,” yet they’re deaf to the facts and their own employees’ calls. And when they do listen, they respond by trying to silence workers.
As Californians, the law protects the right to strike, and when families can’t feed themselves due to incommensurate wages and greed, protesting isn’t merely a symbolic act — it’s a just act of survival we at City on a Hill Press stand behind.