On Sept. 24, University of California announced that a 1.5 percent decrease in take-home pay will take place for members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 3299, the UC system’s largest union representing over 8,000 service and patient care workers.
This paycut will affect the lowest-paid employees in the entire system, most of whom earn an average of $35,000 a year. The decision came after a year of bargaining on behalf of AFSCME 3299 for higher compensation.
The UC defends this paycut as part of “pension reform.” And at first glance, that makes sense, right? These are tough economic times, and UC employees are simply tightening their belts for the sake of fiscal responsibility.
By the way, did we mention that 700 of the UC’s highest paid employees receive larger salaries than the President of the United States?
For the past year, AFSCME 3299 has campaigned for higher wage and more extensive health coverage and has met resistance throughout their efforts. The UC’s decision seems like a final attempt to scare service workers into silence — to take every possible avenue in order to remove collective bargaining rights.
Our leaders cry fiscal responsibility and argue their service compensation packages are competitive, but most of their service workers take two jobs just to stay afloat.
Yes, these are hard times. Yes, the UC is strapped for cash.
But is imperative that we remember that while the UC is responsible for enormous funds, it’s is not, first a foremost, a business. It is a public educational institution.
As the largest public university system in the nation, it is our responsibility to set the standard for how our employees are treated, from custodians to chancellors.