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."

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