UC can do better

Working to achieve better benefits and pay for UC staff

As the people who cook, clean and care for you and your campus, the work we do is essential to UC’s ability to provide you with a world-class education.  Our work isn’t glamorous, but the purpose of our work is to support you — our future — and we take real pride in that.  Today, we are engaged in a struggle with the UC administration over issues that affect us and our families deeply: retirement with dignity, wages and jobs that sustain us, and the ability to advocate for ourselves and the people we serve — like all of you.

At age 60, after 20-plus years of hard work, we will retire with permanent injuries, unaffordable health care and an average retirement income of $18,000 per year. By contrast, UC President Mark Yudof can retire after just seven years of service to UC on more than $350,000 per year, with decreased health insurance costs.

We pay for our retirement benefit each month of our working lives so that we can afford to stop working when we are old, and we have foregone hefty raises for the promise of health care when our bodies are too broken to work.  The UC Board of Regents, however, has proposed changes to these benefits that will leave us impoverished. We would retire at age 65, well past the point of physical ability, and for some of us, the increased cost of our health insurance would exceed our monthly retirement income.  Yet our risk of work-related injury is only increasing.

UC now hires fewer custodians, maintenance workers, and gardeners to clean your restrooms, fix the lights in your classrooms, and make your campus clean and safe.  Increasingly, this work is being done by people who work for outside contractors, make poverty wages with no benefits and have no rights at work.  This creates unsafe working conditions for us, and poor conditions for your education.

For this, you are paying higher fees, yet the training and research you do while at UC is the foundation for what is a highly profitable university system.  We think that UC can and should do better.

The UC system is the third largest employer in the state, impacts one out of 46 jobs in the state and reported an increase of $414 million in net assets in fiscal year 2010-2011.  The University of California is an economic engine that can either help drive the state’s economy forward or help drag it down, but the administration is making further and deeper cuts to your education and our livelihoods. How will workers be able to retire if the UC continues to cut our pensions?  How will you be able to earn your degree if the UC continues to raise fees and cut classes?  How will California recover and grow if UC’s workers and graduates are living in debt?

As you see us on the picket line this month, please understand that we are putting our greatest effort into reaching a fair agreement with the UC administration — one that honors our dignity, safety, and livelihoods, and that can help to restore the excellence that you deserve and should expect from the University of California.

 

Kathryn Lybarger is the president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 3299.

Contact the opinion desk at [email protected]

Contact the opinion desk at [email protected]