Black women face greatest income disparities of low-wage workers in UC system, study finds

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Eunice Chung/Staff

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Black women face the greatest income disparities among low-wage workers in the UC system, according to a study commissioned and published by AFSCME Local 3299, the university’s largest employee union.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees spokesperson John de los Angeles said women and people of color earn as much as 21 percent less than their white male counterparts, according to the study. He added that it takes six years for Black women to catch up to the starting wage of white males.

The study found that Black and Latinx individuals are more likely to be hired for lower-paying jobs. Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders are typically hired for higher-paying jobs, according to the study.

“We’re finding simply that the University of California hiring practices are not giving fair consideration to women and people of color,” de los Angeles said.

UC spokesperson Claire Doan said in an email that the university cannot confirm the accuracy of the figures or the conclusions in AFSCME’s study because it does not know how the union arrived at this information.

“We take issues of fairness and equitable treatment seriously, have mechanisms in place to respond to these types of issues, and follow appropriate Equal Employment Opportunity policies,” Doan said in an email.

The study noted that in 1996, Black people composed 19 percent of all UC service and patient care workers. In 2015, however, this number dropped to 12 percent, according to the study.

“The University of California must do more to combat inequality within its ranks,” the study said. “The lowest-paid jobs at UC must be preserved as ladders to the middle class for communities of color, and UC should enact policies that promote career advancement and strengthen protections against discrimination.”

According to de los Angeles, he had heard anecdotes of the UC’s disparities before and was not surprised by the hard numbers of the study. He said, however, that he was surprised to see this in a publicly funded institution.

“University of California is the third-largest employer in the state,” de los Angeles said. “It’s really, really surprising for a taxpayer-funded institution. … Taxpayers would not be happy or approve of these race and gender disparities.”

AFSCME represents 25,000 service and patient care workers at UC, including custodians, groundskeepers and nursing aids, according to de los Angeles. He said AFSCME wants to give low-wage workers every opportunity to allow them to live a middle-class lifestyle.

“The hard numbers will trigger an intense period of self examination from University of California,” de los Angeles said. “They need to work to ensure that tax dollars are being spent to provide opportunities to not only students but also to their workers.”

Contact Ella Colbert at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @colbert_ella.