Dear Students: As the people who cook, clean and care for you and your campus, the work we do is essential to the UC’s ability to provide you with a world-class education. Our work isn’t glamorous, but the purpose of our work is to support you — our future — and we take real pride in that. Today, we are engaged in a struggle with the UC administration over issues that affect us and our families deeply: retirement with dignity, wages and jobs that sustain us, as well as the ability to advocate for ourselves and the people we serve, like all of you.
At age 60, after 20-plus years of hard work, we will retire with permanent injuries, unaffordable healthcare and an average retirement income of $18,000/year. By contrast, UC President Mark Yudof can retire after just seven years of service to UC on more than $350,000/year, with decreased health insurance costs.
We pay for our retirement benefits each month of our working lives so that we can afford to stop working when we are old. We have foregone hefty raises for the promise of healthcare when our bodies are too broken to work. The UC Regents, however, have proposed changes to these benefits that will leave us impoverished: We would retire at age 65 — well past the point of physical ability — and for some of us, the increased cost of our health insurance would exceed our monthly retirement income. Yet our risk of work-related injury is only increasing.
UC now hires fewer custodians, maintenance workers and gardeners to clean your restrooms, fix the lights in your classrooms and make your campus clean and safe. Increasingly, this work is being done by people who work for outside contractors, make poverty wages with no benefits and have no rights at work. This creates unsafe working conditions for us, and poor conditions for your education.
For this, you are paying higher fees, yet the training and research you do while at UC is the foundation for what is a highly profitable university system. We think that the UC system can and should do better.
The UC system is the third largest employer in the state, impacts one out of 46 jobs in the state and reported an increase of $414 million in net assets last year. The University of California is an economic engine that can either help drive the state’s economy forward or help drag it down, but the administration is making further and deeper cuts to your education and our livelihoods. How will workers be able to retire if the UC continues to cut our pensions? How will you be able to earn your degree if the UC continues to raise fees and cut classes? How will California recover and grow if the UC system’s workers and graduates are living in debt?
As you see us on the picket line this month, please understand that we are putting our greatest effort into reaching a fair agreement with the UC administration — one that honors our dignity, safety and livelihoods, and that can help to restore the excellence that you deserve and should expect from the University of California.
President, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Local 3299