Voices of UPTE
UPTE-CWA Local 9119 is comprised of thousands of University of California employees -- all individuals with stories to tell. Following are the words of Eric Cardenas, who has worked for five years at UCLA's Anderson School of Management as an Administrative Analyst.
I oversee the day-to-day operations of the Policy academic unit and provide administrative support to faculty. I do everything from sorting mail and making copies, to planning events with 100 guests, creating and editing web pages for faculty, and managing all of their accounting, travel, and reimbursement needs. I serve a dozen faculty members, and provide back up to co-workers who do the same work in other academic units. I also supervise student employees and attend information sessions and trainings on accounting and administrative procedures in order to relay them to my faculty.
The biggest challenge I face isn't the difficulty of the work, but the amount of work needed to be done. The Anderson School is one of the top business schools in the country but the staff to faculty ratio is much lower here than at other schools. High staff turnover also makes the work more difficult. Employees leave because they can make more money elsewhere. Not getting a raise in almost 3 years will do that.
I joined UPTE's campaign for 99's in order to stand up for fair pay and compensation. Living in Los Angeles with crumbling roads, skyrocketing housing and rental costs, and a poor excuse for a public transportation system, employees deserve to be paid a fair salary with increases that at least match inflation.
Most California state employees work for agencies that are having financial difficulties, but they have at least received small raises over the past 3 years. We haven't. Everyday, I interact with other 99s who say they don't want to get involved in unions, but are unhappy with the lack of raises. Sadly, they don't realize that UPTE is the ONLY organization that is still actively fighting for the rights of the 99 unit, dues paying or not, even without a collective bargaining agreement.
I serve on the UCLA UPTE executive board as a trustee. I also am part of the systemwide 99 organizing group and the local legislative/ mobilizing team. It has been great working with the nice people of UPTE these past couple of years. They have an outstanding commitment to lead the fight for fairer pay. UC executives go home from their jobs at night and enjoy their luxurious lifestyles, forgetting about the real employees who make the campuses work. With the support from our membership and UPTE leaders, we won't let them forget about us!
Labor Board Issues Charge Against UC
California 's Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has issued a complaint against the University of California for refusing to provide UPTE with information related to the 99 unit.
ast year UPTE requested a variety of pieces of information in order to effectively meet and discuss with UC's Office of the President about salary and other issues related to the 99 unit. The University either refused or failed to provide information including salary history of executive employees, aggregate savings from staff
turnover, salary surveys, amount of incentive award program funds remaining per campus, etc. UPTE has argued that it requires this information in order to effectively lobby for 99 unit salary increases and other benefits costs.
The PERB has scheduled a settlement conference between UPTE and UC. In the meantime, UPTE has requested the same information for next year (05-06) from the Office of the President.
Walking the Picket Line with AFSCME
Lisa Kermish, Senior Analyst, Berkeley
I spent Thursday, April 14 walking the picket line with custodians, groundskeepers, and food service workers at Berkeley. I arrived at Bancroft and Telegraph (the southern boundary of the Berkeley campus) at 8 am. This busy intersection was already filled with AFSCME-represented service workers wearing green strike t-shirts and carrying picket signs that said Strike for Justice at UC!
Unionized truckers, delivery people, and construction workers refused to cross the picket lines. Classes were canceled or held outside near the picket lines, which were set up at various locations around the campus.
I am a senior administrative analyst at a social science research unit. My co-workers are analysts, programmers, and clerical employees, not dishwashers or groundskeepers. So why did I honor AFSCME's picket line?
- What is good for one group of employees is good for all employees. Whatever AFSCME is able to gain in a contract will set the bar for what other unions can achieve as well as what the University decides to grant to non-unionized employees.
- AFSCME employees are grossly underpaid and deserve a living wage. Hundreds of service employees make less than $9.00 per hour, virtual poverty wages. No matter how much I can (and do!) complain about not having had a pay increase for almost three years, I'm not forced to choose between groceries or shoes for the kids. I don't have to work a second job to pay my rent. UC's service workers deserve the support of all UC employees in their battle to win fair pay increases.
- Friends don't let friends cross picket lines. Voting to strike is not an easy decision- it is a course of last resort. These low-paid workers chose to forego a day's pay because they felt they had no other recourse. The least I could do was to respect their choice and add my feet and lungs to their cause.
The mood on the picket line all day was upbeat. Thousands of AFSCME members, members of other unions, and student, faculty, and community supporters marched alongside our service employees. There were rallies at noon and in the afternoon at our new Chancellor's reception. At the afternoon rally, I had an opportunity to speak with the night custodian in my building, the man who empties my trash, vacuums my carpet and kindly takes my recycling down to the basement. He has worked at Berkeley for 20 years and makes $28,000 per year. When AFSCME was able to reach a tentative contract agreement six days after the strike, I thought of this custodian. The tentative agreement was ratified by 87% of those voting. Foregoing one day's pay seems to have been worth it.
Membership Has Its Privileges
To fill out an UPTE membership application, go to http://www.upte.org/join/
Member benefits include the right to vote in UPTE to help determine the direction of the union as well as access to the AFL-CIO's union benefits (discounts, insurance plans, credit cards, etc.) Joining UPTE also puts you in touch with others who are interested in their working lives and are willing to step up to the plate to do something about it.