Calif. union demands pay increase...right after blaming high tuition on hefty salaries

The University of California (UC) has tentatively complied with union demands to raise salaries by at least 20 percent for unionized staff members, even as the union itself has called out high salaries and increasing tuition rates. 

UC research, healthcare, and technical professionals, represented by the University Professional and Technical Employees-Communications Workers of America (UPTE), anticipate having five-year-long labor agreement contracts ratified on August 8, reported The Orange County Register.

The overall contracts provide boosts in compensation, extra health benefits, and more retirement benefits for some 13,000 UC staff members.

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Healthcare professionals will see a 20 percent increase in pay in the next five years, while technical and research professionals will see a boost of 22 percent. 

“We are very pleased to have reached these agreements with UPTE, giving our employees the competitive pay and excellent benefits they so deserve,” Peter Chester, the UC system’s executive director of labor relations, stated, according to the Register. “These employees make significant contributions to UC’s mission and we deeply appreciate their hard work and dedication.”

UPTE President Jamie McDole also acknowledged the agreement. 

“UPTE is pleased to have reached an agreement with the university that respects the work of our represented employees while maintaining wages that keep up with the growing cost of living in California,” he said, the Register reported. “Both sides worked hard to craft a contract that would meet the needs of both the workers and the university.”

“The gap between those who have and those who don’t is growing at the university,” the union alleged.

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UPTE has, for more than two years, been pushing UC for a raise and has engaged in strikes five times now. It even created a report that points to a salary disparity, showing that the top ten percent of UC staff earn higher salaries than the entire bottom 50 percent.

In May, according to the union, UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive received a salary proposal of $425,000, while UCLA’s vice chancellor of student affairs Monroe Gorden Jr. obtained one for $350,000, according to The Register

“It’s no wonder the university is saying tuition needs to be increased when they are paying their vice-chancellor of student affairs so much money,” the union said, despite advocating for the previously mentioned staff pay raises.

Amid all the salary pay hikes, UC’s tuition will rise 2.6 percent for out-of-state students, the fifth year in a row that tuition has increased for students who do not live in California, according to The Los Angeles Times.

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“As we all recognize, our needs are great,” UC President Janet Napolitano said, according to the Times. “Without this, we add another $30-million hole and that will have an impact on the education programs we can provide.”

“My journey to this moment has been riddled with pain and hardships,” University of California, Los Angeles student Ashraf Beshay said. “My parents’ income now would not have allowed me to afford an education here anymore. If you increase our tuition, you would be perpetuating a passively unapologetic and unsustainable discourse around UC financing.”

Campus Reform reached out to the UC president's office and UPTE for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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