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Sunday, February 20, 2005
The Chronicle Piles on Over UC's Shitty Treatment of Low Wage Workers
Last Wednesday I linked to a Daily Cal article about the low wages paid to the workers on the bottom rung of the university ladder, and offered my own comments.
On Friday, the SF Chronicle had another article on the matter, "Arbiter says UC clerical workers underpaid" and the UC administration ends up looking even worse:
In a rebuke to the University of California, a neutral fact-finder has ruled that UC's denial of raises to low-paid clerical workers last year was based on excuses that were false or unjustified.It was bad enough when the UC system was just paying abysmally low wages, but now a neutral investigator has all but called bullshit on the excuses offered up by the administration to justify these low wages.
On Friday, the Coalition of Union Employees (CUE) held a rally in Oakland at the UC Office of the President. The Daily Cal report on that rally had this additional information, "According to the report, UC diverted $20 million, earmarked for clerical worker wage increases, to other funds and programs last year, leaving a bad taste in many workers’ mouths." [I believe the "report" mentioned by the Daily Cal is the same one as the Chronicle article, although there aren't enough details to be sure.] CUE has protested on and around campus a number of times before, and it largely seems like an ineffective tactic.
The University has offered up a third excuse, after their first two (mentioned in this previous CalStuff post) apparently fell flat. (Probably because they were bullshit excuses...) Here is the latest justification from the horses' mouth:
The statement from Dynes' office said the university disagrees with the retroactive pay recommendation in part because it would amount to an across- the-board salary increase for one group of workers that "would be unfair to the other UC employees who also had to forego increases for 2003-04 when the state was unable to appropriate funds for UC salary increases."I guess there would be a certain perverse fairness that would be commendable about reasoning like that, if the UC hadn't been handing out pay increases right and left to top level UC administrators. I have no idea how long this latest excuse will remain operational for, although my guess is not very long.
The Chronicle article includes a quotation from a union attorney, saying "the workers are now legally cleared to strike if UC refuses to follow the nonbinding recommendation". The potential downside of a strike is that it falls into the trap of pitting the low level staffers at the University against the students. That could lead to resentment in the student body, although most likely against both the striking workers and the University. This makes it unlikely that students will engage in any useful support on behalf of the workers. A strike therefore becomes a game of chicken between the University and the Union, and it's hard to speculate how that would turn out (although students would definitely suffer if it happened.)
Above all, reading article after article about how poorly the University is treating some employees is extremely disheartening. Shoddy labor practices should be reserved for places like WalMart, that bastion of liberal condemnation, not the University of California. Being ashamed of the school I attend, and feeling impotent to do anything about it, is not what I envisioned I would find at Berkeley.Email This Post!
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