Today, thousands of University of California (UC) administrative, clerical and support workers are on strike across the Golden State, taking a stand against a UC system that has turned its back on them by not paying them a wage that allows them to support themselves and their families.
More than 12,000 workers, members of Teamsters Local 2010, walked off the job Tuesday to protest the numerous unfair labor practices and violations of state law committed by UC. It is the culminating act of five days of action that began last Friday at UCLA when some 600 skilled trade workers, also members of Local 2010, went on strike there.
These hard-working Californians have had enough because the UC system refuses to give them respect when it comes to providing fair pay. While executive compensation has increased 58 percent, total operating revenue is up 80 percent and in-state tuition has soared by a whopping 332 percent during the past decade, real wages for administrative, clerical and support workers has actually declined 24 percent during the past 20 years.
The state of pay is so bad for these workers, in fact, that a 2015 Economic Policy Institute report found 92 percent struggle to afford the basic necessities. Meanwhile, an October 2016 Occidental College document stated 70 percent of these UC workers don't earn enough to put sufficient food on the table for their families.
The UC Board of Regents are also trying to move these same workers from a secure defined benefit pension to a risky 401(k)-style plan that will decimate income replacement and make workers subject to the whims and fees of Wall Street. Pensions are essential to ensuring retirement security, yet this state system is endangering the futures of its own residents.
UC has refused to address these matters in a fair and just way, and now these employees are without a contract. Despite the fact that 58 percent of them have bachelors' degrees, their future is uncertain.
The Teamsters, however, are not backing down. Our 1.4 million members have stood by their side for months, and last June the union issued a resolution at its 29th International Convention publicly supporting their campaign for fair wages and benefits.
I was on hand during a September rally in Hollywood where Teamster women from all over North America joined their Local 2010 sisters and brothers to show their support for these thousands of UC workers, more than 80 percent of whom are women and about 63 percent who are people of color. They all understood that these workers deserved better.
And that is still the case. That's why workers at all 10 of UC's campuses, five medical centers and three national laboratories are not on the job today. They need to earn enough to live and protect their nest eggs, and female and minority workers deserve access to the same opportunities as everyone else. But that isn't happening.
There is no reason that UC, the state's third-largest employer, can't do better. UC President Janet Napolitano, the former Arizona governor and U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, must understand what is at stake. Working people need to earn enough to support their families now and themselves in retirement. That is what these thousands of UC workers want to do.
Everyday workers deserve to be treated with the same dignity as those at top of the ladder. UC has found the dollars to treat its top executives right. We ask now that they do the same for the rest.