Cleaning up UC's mess - Page 3

Low-wage University of California workers live in poverty while top executives get big bonuses

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Arnold Meza doesn't make enough to support his family as a custodian at UC Berkeley.
PHOTO BY MAGGIE BEIDELMAN

No matter how many cars Meza fixes on the weekend, he never seems to have a break from the stress of trying to cover fuel, rent, heating bills, doctors' bills, and other necessities. He's only 43, but he feels much older after 20 years of working two jobs, seven days a week, providing for four children on his own.

UC workers, unions like AFSCME and other stakeholders have proposed $600 million in budget alternatives such as reducing the excessive 7-to-1 employee-to-management ratio (at UC Berkeley, the average is four employees to one manager). Yet UC does not appear to be seriously considering these alternatives; its current goal is to take back the $3 million dedicated to its low-wage service workers.

"We think this is a matter of finding the will within the UC administration to do what's right by honoring their word to protect working families' a path out of poverty," Bas said.

Two months ago, Meza and his fellow union members marched into UC Berkeley's Chancellor Robert Birgeneau's office and asked him to spend one day in the life of a service worker on campus. He still hasn't answered their request.

"People are really struggling here. We are committed to working and we give 110 percent — that should be accounted for," said Meza. "Give us our 3 percent. We earned it."

Comments

Posted by Guest on Jun. 22, 2011 @ 10:31 am

RE: “Cleaning up UC's mess”, by Maggie Beidelman

While I share the Guardians disgust at UC execs pulling in six-figure incomes and justifying this with cries that such largess is required to retain the best and brightest, I am less thrilled with the analysis on the economic plight of janitor Arnold Meza who is depicted as struggling as a single father to provide for four children. It may be a human right to have as many children as you want, but it is not an intelligent choice to father so many kids on a janitor’s salary - even the $40,000 plus health care and retirement benefits he brings home.

One can only ask: had he had eight children would he have earned twice the Guardian’s sympathy?

Posted by WandaBerger on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

Wanda Berger,

Since when is it okay to form lifestyle restrictions on the blue collar workers of America? Shall we force him to live in a one bedroom house, ban him from shopping for a new car, or tattoo his arm so he cannot purchase jeans more than $20 a pair? It's not at all okay to victimize the staff of UC who merely want to pursue a life dream, which is to have a family. Arnold Meza is a brave man who (as hard as it is for you to believe) does not live in China where there are restrictions on how many children you have, depending on how much money you have. What I am saying is: your point is not remotely relevant to this article.

Yes, statistically the Hispanic population is the fastest growing and the least educated, but guess what: the nation's youth is now a majority Hispanic, meaning this country in a few odd decades will be a largely Hispanic country. If you and others don't stop the prejudiced "it's their fault, they brought this on themselves" argument which has a smattering of racism, you will soon find yourself in a minority.

There is more to life than economic decisions. He made the intelligent choice of having a family, which is far more important than squeezing a penny here or there. He works hard and is not asking for an increase in pay, per se, he is asking to keep pace with the other employees at UC who have appropriately adjusted incomes every year to cope with the financial burdens, and have a proper staff to be sure that they aren't overworked.

Arnold Meza has a family to raise. If he had eight kids to raise then he has eight kids to raise then so be it, nobody has the right to tell him otherwise, at least not in America.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 09, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

RE: “Cleaning up UC's mess”, by Maggie Beidelman

While I share the Guardians disgust at UC execs pulling in six-figure incomes and justifying this with cries that such largess is required to retain the best and brightest, I am less thrilled with the analysis on the economic plight of janitor Arnold Meza who is depicted as struggling as a single father to provide for four children. It may be a human right to have as many children as you want, but it is not an intelligent choice to father so many kids on a janitor’s salary - even the $40,000 plus health care and retirement benefits he brings home.

One can only ask: had he had eight children would he have earned twice the Guardian’s sympathy?

Posted by WandaBerger on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 12:59 pm

(The author has 35 years’ consulting experience, has taught at UC Berkeley (Cal) where he observed the culture & way senior management work)

Cal. Chancellor Birgeneau ($500,000 salary) has forgotten that he is a public servant, steward of the public money, not overseer of his own fiefdom (these are not isolated examples): recruits (uses California tax $) out of state $50,000 tuition students that displace qualified Californians from public university education; spends $7,000,000 + for consultants to do his & many vice chancellors jobs (prominent East Coast university accomplishing same 0 cost); pays ex Michigan governor $300,000 for lectures; in procuring a $3,000,000 consulting firm he failed to receive proposals from other firms; Latino enrollment drops while out of state jumps 2010; tuition to Return on Investment drops below top 10; Breslauer all employees meeting – only 50 attend; visits to Cal down 20%; NCAA places basketball program on probation, absence institutional control.

It’s all shameful. There is no justification for such practices by a steward of the public trust. Absolutely none.

Birgeneau’s practices will not change. UC Board of Regents Chair Sherry Lansing and President Yudof must do a better job of vigorously enforcing oversight than has been done in the past over Chancellors who, like Birgeneau, see the campus as their fiefdom.

Posted by Milan Moravec on Jun. 25, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

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