| Striking Low-income Workers Had Pay Reducing Contract Imposed While Top Earners Get Increases
by Brian Leubitz
Janet Napolitano is just moving into her new offices in the East Bay Office of the UC President. And right on her first day, she got a letter calling out the treatment of some of the lowest paid workers in the system. But let's back it up, and give some background. From the Davis Enterprise:
The University of California this week notified the union representing about 8,300 service gardeners, food service workers and custodians that would impose its final offer after more than a year of negotiations.
"Having completed all stages of the bargaining process, including state-assisted mediation and fact-finding, the university is legally entitled to implement its last proposal," said Dwaine Duckett, UC's vice president for systemwide human resources and programs, in a statement. ...
UC will impose a new pension and retiree health benefits program that includes an increase in the university's contribution from 10 to 12 percent and an employee contribution increase from 5 to 6.5 percent.(Davis Enterprise)
Of course, for workers that are making an average of $35,000 per year, that increase is a big deal. According to their union, AFSCME 3299, the imposed contract is a 1.5% reduction in pay at a time when the top earners are getting 3% pay increases.
Now, Napolitano obviously wasn't involved in that background, but she is getting a talking to from legislators about the imposition of a contract on a group of workers that represent the most diverse and lowest income of UC employees. From the letter, authored by new Assembly member Lorena Gonzales and signed by nine more legislators:
UC has applied a different standard to its patient care and service workers - 90% of whom are immigrants and people of color. Service workers are the only ones that have been singled out for a wage freeze. These womenand men are already the lowest-paid UC employees.
We recognize and respect that UC's administrative staff are people of good will. We are confident that they are not consciously singling out employees of color. But we also recognize that most often discriminatory practices evolve from equitable theories.
Whatever the reason, whatever the recent history, singling out the University's largest population of minority workers for the harshest treatment at the bargaining table sends a deeply disturbing message. Nothing could be less consistent with the values you have embodied throughout your career. (Full Letter on Scribd)
Labor negotiations are never easy, whether for the top employees or for the critical employees who make the educational environment possible at UC. But it is critical that all employees be treated fairly, and that is what this letter is all about.
This is hardly the only major contentious issue facing Napolitano as she enters the office, but it is clearly one worthy of her immediate attention.