Study finds UC service workers are underpaid

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Custodians, cooks and other service workers at UC campuses are earning too little to support their basic needs, according to a report released by the National Economic Development and Law Center.

The report showed that when comparing the wages of a UC service worker to that of a worker at a CSU or a California community college, UC’s wages are substantially lower.

Aimee Durfee, co-author of the report, said they put together the report based on “self-sufficiency standards,” which estimate the cost to live in California by only meeting basic individual and family needs.

In Los Angeles County, a single adult raising a preschooler would need to earn $35,000 a year for basic needs not including extras such as school supplies, Durfee said. The average service worker at a UC school makes $15,609 a year.

When compared to CSU schools, UCs are paying 15 percent less than similar employees doing the same job.

“These are the people who wash the floors, serve the food, and make the university function,” Durfee said.

Noel Van-Nyhuis, a spokesperson for the UC, said the way the information was collected in the study does not give accurate data.

Van-Nyhuis said the only way the two systems are being compared is by wage ranges, which he said is different from actual salaries.

“You can’t compare the two systems without actually knowing what people are getting paid,” Van-Nyhuis said. “We don’t know what service custodians are actually making.”

“It may seem like interesting data, but it really doesn’t tell you anything,” Van-Nyhuis said.

But Durfee said that even when using ranges, it is clear that workers are still underpaid.

The report showed many of the UC schools’ wage ranges ended close to where the CSU’s began, she said.

The report showed UCLA’s range is $9.75 to $12.51 and CSU Los Angeles’ range is $11.86 to $15.40. The range for some community colleges started at $14 per hour.

Van-Nyhuis said they are aware wages for service workers in the UC system have lagged behind the past two years, which he said has been due to the lack of funding from the state.

He said this is a problem that should be solved by the beginning of next year with the cooperation of the state to provide more funding.

About 19 percent of the UC budget comes from the state, compared to 72 percent for the CSU system.

Yet, CSUs are still able to pay their service workers more, she said.

“It really comes down to priorities,” Durfee said. “It’s undeniable that the wages are low.”

Faith Raider, spokesperson for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which represents service workers at UC campuses and medical centers, said many workers are happy their battle with low wages is now in the media.

She said they have been experiencing it for a long but it’s finally getting attention.

Workers have seen their fees going up and their wages staying the same, she said.

Raider said that many people at UC campuses, such as campus communities and faculty are getting together in support of their service workers.