Study: UC service workers underpaid

    Service workers within the University of California earn 15 percent less than their California State University counterparts and as much as 26 percent less than those in community colleges, according to a new study from the National Economic Development and Law Center released in February.

    NEDLC released the study in the midst of contract negotiations between the university and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299, which represents UC service workers. The study was commissioned by the union.

    Talks between the two have currently reached an impasse and workers are scheduled to vote on a strike in March. Among the issues up for debate include increases in wages and health benefits.

    The study concludes that salaries of UC service workers are low enough to qualify them for nine welfare benefit programs. It compared the current wages of UC service workers to a “self-sufficiency standard,” defined as the amount of earnings needed to cover the basic necessities to live in a given area.

    “UC cannot control the cost of living in California, only what it can offer in terms of salaries and benefits within available resources,” the UC Office of the President stated in a written response to the findings. “We are committed to paying our employees market-competitive salaries and benefits, provided we have the resources to do so.”

    The self-sufficiency level varies depending on the county and compares a family’s income to its cost of living. NEDLC then compared wage ranges to those at CSU and community-college campuses.

    UCOP believes that the analysis is inaccurate because it compares wage ranges and not actual salaries, according to the university’s statement.

    “We use a methodology that is pretty straightforward,” NEDLC Senior Program Specialist Aimee Durfee said. “But even if we use actual salaries within the wage range, the top wage for UC is still below the bottom wage for community colleges at all of the campuses but two.”

    Nearly half of all UC service workers do not have enough income to sustain families with two working parents and two children, and more than a third of workers earn wages that fall below self-sufficiency for single adults, according to the study.

    The study also reported that UC senior custodians earn a minimum hourly wage of $10.06 and a maximum hourly wage of $13.02. The numbers compare to a CSU minimum wage of $11.86 and a maximum of $15.40. Community college custodians earn up to $13.82 as a minimum hourly wage and $17.61 as a maximum.

    At UCSD, the study found that 58 percent of single adults and 99 percent of single parents with a preschooler earn less than the self-sufficiency standard.

    “Many UCSD workers already knew that their counterparts at SDSU, K-12 and community colleges earn more for doing the same work, but this report makes these findings formal and public,” AFSCME local organizer Jessica Lopez stated in an e-mail. “The overall consensus among workers is that it’s about time somebody aired UC’s dirty laundry.”

    Lopez said that wages for service workers have been stagnant for the past 15 years while the cost of living has continued to rise.

    “UC has undertaken several measures to help recognize all employees — represented and unrepresented alike — given disappointing state funding for salary increases,” the university stated in response to the study.

    The NEDLC study coincides with the release of another fact-finding report by a state-appointed arbitrator designed to assist in talks between a separate clerical workers’ union and the university.

    The report suggested that $20 million in nonstate money originally intended for clerical wage increases was “reabsorbed into other projects, such as expanding dormitories and parking facilities, or other activities related to the university’s academic mission.”

    The Clerical University Employees union, which represents 16,000 clerical workers on nine UC campuses, has been in negotiations with the university since July 2003. A state-appointed arbitrator was hired after talks between the university and C.U.E. stalled.

    However, a written response issued by UCOP states that C.U.E. has misrepresented and mischaracterized the report’s findings.

    The university stated that salaries are continuous expenditures, requiring long-term funding, and are not based exclusively on one-time appropriations.

    UCOP has also criticized C.U.E. for bad-faith bargaining, suggesting that the union violated a confidentiality provision after the report was released to both parties.

    The university has submitted a letter to request an investigation into the matter.

    In response to the studies, the university has pointed to the recent state budget crisis as the cause of stagnant salaries.

    However, only 19 percent of the UC budget comes from the state, while the CSU system receives 72 percent from the state, according to the NEDLC report.

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