Laurence Young, a UCSB library employee of four years, finds striking parallels between his time as a graduate student and as a University staff member.
“I was looking at a bag of potato chips in the grocery store,” Young said. “I had to tell myself, ‘I can’t afford $2.50,’ and I really wanted it.”’
Young is the UCSB chapter leader of Teamsters Local 2010, a member-run union representing employees at the University of California.
In conjunction with the Teamsters, The Urban & Environmental Policy Institute of Occidental College produced a study on Oct. 17 that reported more than 70 percent of the UC’s clerical, administrative and support workers struggle “to put adequate food on the table.”
The survey was sent to 13,661 UC employees, and their median wage was reported to be $22.65 per hour.
“The Teamsters union commissioned this survey as part of an external campaign to influence talks with the University over the terms of its labor contract that expires next month,” said Dianne Klein, UC Office of the President spokesperson. “UC has been bargaining in good faith with the Teamsters, as it does with all the labor unions representing our workers.”
Furthermore, Klein said the UC “heavily subsidizes the cost of health care for our workers,” with those in lower paid positions contributing “as little as $47 a month for health benefits for their entire family.” The UC additionally offers a pension program with guaranteed payments on retirement.
“The University of California takes very seriously its responsibility to provide fair compensation and a safe work environment for all of its workers,” she said.
The University also implemented the Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan last year, establishing a new minimum wage for UC employees and service contractor workers at $15 an hour next year. This would amount to approximately $43,600 a year, in addition to overtime pay for full-time workers.
A 2013 California Budget Project study, however, estimated that a two-parent family with two children requires at least $61,000 a year to afford the cost of living.
“The survey just jumps off the page to us,” Young said. “This is surprising, we knew it was bad, but 70 percent is surprising.”
Young is almost 40 years old, and said it is “very upsetting” that he has to rely on his retired mother for support with groceries.
“It’s kind of humiliating frankly,” he said, but “relying on family support is not unusual, seven out of 10 of us are struggling.”
UCSB chapter members of the Teamsters Local 2010 staged a protest Wednesday at Elings Hall to gain attention for the movement, hoisting signs that said, “UC: Pay workers enough to LIVE,” and “UC You Can’t Hide Your Greedy Side!”
“A lot of my colleagues find the situations they find themselves in embarrassing,” Young said. “My story is not unique.”