Complementing a University of California systemwide petition, union members in two UCSB campus departments are collecting signatures in an effort to increase their wages.

Members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) who work for UCSB Facilities Management or for Housing & Residential Services hope to garner enough support on the petition to influence their rate of pay. Organizers began petitioning early last month and will probably conclude their efforts this week, whereupon they will present the signatures to Chancellor Henry Yang. AFSCME represents nearly 18,000 UC employees, including custodial workers.

Although they have similar goals, the local petition is separate from another, current UC systemwide AFSCME petition. The UC-wide petition looks to pressure the University into increasing custodial wages on all its campuses, while the UCSB petition only applies to UCSB workers.

While it has already obtained 900 signatures, AFSCME local representative Claude Piller said the union aims to collect at least 1,000 from faculty, students and staff.

AFSCME Executive Board Member Marie Thomas said UCSB wages remain stagnant regardless of the effects of inflation, while other institutions compensate for the difference.

“We aren’t getting a cost-of-living raise – people out there are getting a cost-of-living raise,” Thomas said.

Citing questionable UC wage-compensation practices recently uncovered by the San Francisco Chronicle, Thomas said many UC executives and upper management make excessive sums of money and find loopholes to increase their wages. She said custodial workers are the lowest-paid employees in the UC system.

Thomas, who began her custodial work at UCSB in 1984, said Housing & Residential Services understands the workers’ concerns. She said she remains confident that the department will increase the wages in due time.

“I feel as though something will be done, hopefully sooner than later,” Thomas said. “We’re not going to stop – we have so many channels to go through.”

Thomas said she, along with other workers and concerned students and staff, pass the petition around on breaks and during their lunch hour, as they do not want to take up the university’s time.

Students and staff have been very supportive of the petition, Thomas said, especially after being shown wage comparisons to other universities and institutions.

The petition states that the current starting wage for UCSB custodial workers is $10.75 per hour, while the Santa Barbara School District starts at $13.55, Santa Barbara City College starts at $15.86, and CSU Channel Islands starts at $12.85.

According to the petition, UCSB workers are asking for a starting rate of $14.00 per hour.

Housing & Residential Services Director of Residential Operations Jackie Treadway said she had not heard of the petition, but she said she was aware of workers’ concerns regarding their wages.

A representative for Facilities Management was unable to be reached for comment.

Senior custodian of Manzanita Village and San Rafael Hall Gilbert Robledo said he thinks the discrepancies in wages between schools are ridiculous. Robledo, who has been at UCSB for seven years, said workers at city schools get paid more to do less work than UC custodians.

“We do showers and toilets,” Robledo said. “I’m willing to go on strike for this.”

Regarding the potential of a strike, Thomas said she will join if the need arises. However, she said no plans to strike are currently in the works.

“We’re going to do whatever is necessary,” Thomas said.

Thomas said UCSB has lost some good workers in the past few years due to low wages. She said the workers could not afford to remain in the relatively expensive area of Santa Barbara.

Robledo said many workers at UCSB must hold more than one job to pay their living expenses, including transportation costs. Robledo said he commutes to UCSB from Carpinteria.

“The majority of custodians have families and two jobs,” Robledo said. “With higher wages, they wouldn’t have to have two jobs.”