warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

University of California Employees Fight For A Fair Wage

Braden Holly |
July 14, 2011 | 8:27 p.m. PDT

Assistant News Editor

Protest Sign ©. Photo by and property of Braden Holly
Protest Sign ©. Photo by and property of Braden Holly
Employees, students, and faculty of the University of California system gathered on the campus of University of California Los Angeles Thursday to protest what they claim are unfair wages and a system that disproportionately compensates those at the top.

The protest was organized by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which expected a turnout of nearly 400 union members from five different universities, many of whom work at other UC schools and were being driven by bus to UCLA.

“The UC Regents cannot be balancing their budget shortfalls on the backs of the low-wage workers,” said Mario Fuentes, a lead organizer for AFSCME.

Many UC workers feel that their benefits are being cut unfairly while executives continue to receive exorbitant bonuses and salaries.

“Our wages have stagnated over the last ten years when you account for cost-of-living increases,” said Lakesha Harrison, AFSCME union president.  “During that same time management pay has gone up.”

In fact, the University of California Board of Regents gave large pay raises to three executives Thursday while also voting to increase UC tuition by another 9.6 percent, making tuition more than double what it was in 2005, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“When you are tightening the budget but still giving a CEO a $150,000 bonus and you have a president who makes twice what the president of the United States does, something is wrong,” said Bob Hardrick, a UC employee.

According to President Obama’s 2009 tax return, which can be seen at the White House website, his salary was about $375,000. 

University of California President Mark Yudof’s 2009 salary was about $577,000, up from about $326,000 in 2008, according to the Sacramento Bee’s state worker salary search.  That’s around a 77 percent pay increase.

Members of AFCSME also said that the universities have been hiring workers per diem, which has an adverse affect on the retirements of full-time university employees because these workers do not receive benefits and therefore do not contribute to retirement plans.

However, The University of California claims that AFSCME employees are receiving fair compensation.

Employees represented by AFSCME received at least a 3 percent salary increase in each of the past two years, are paid wages closer to market average than other all other UC employees, and their total compensation with benefits is 18 percent higher than workers in similar positions at other institutions, according to a report by the University of California.

Though she seems to feel that there are currently serious inequities within the UC system, Harrison also appeared to be fairly optimistic about the union’s ability to work with newly appointed Chairman of the Board of Regents, Sherry Lansing.

“We’re hoping we can get off on a better foot with Regent Lansing,” said Harrison.  “I’ve had a few conversations with her and she has always been supportive.”

In addition to the march held on the campus of UCLA, members of AFSCME also planned a vigil in front of the home of UCLA Chancellor Gene Block.


Follow the author on Twitter.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.