Thousands of Frontline UC Workers Protest Wednesday as UC Regents Met to Approve More Raises for Top Executives

Rallies Held Across the State

Oakland, CA —   Thousands of Union members from AFSCME 3299, other labor and student unions and community allies rallied at campuses and medical centers across the University of California (UC) system yesterday to demand the UC Board of Regents address the growing affordability and staff vacancy crisis plaguing tens of thousands of its frontline workers, as the UC Regents voted to grant another round of massive raises to their highest paid executives.

On Mar. 14, ASFCME 3299 leadership sent President Drake a letter outlining the urgency of establishing a $25 per hour minimum wage for all UC workers.  In doing so, they’ve documented how real-wages for tens of thousands of UC’s frontline service and patient care workers have actually dropped by 5% over the past two years, while noting that the share of this workforce priced out of local housing markets near their jobs had surged past 70%.   The trend has set off a system-wide staff vacancy crisis, which UC’s Chief Financial Officer Nathan Brostrom recently warned has tripled since the start of the COVID pandemic.  Yet this week, the Regents have voted to give dozens of their highest paid executives—almost all of whom already earned well over $500,000 per year—raises ranging from $20,000 to $400,000 (4.6%-45%).

“This week’s regents action on executive pay raises is beyond shameful — it’s embarrassing,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger.  “Instead of standing up for workers fighting to keep a roof over their heads and the facilities that students and patients depend on sufficiently staffed, UC chose instead to invest in making yachts more affordable for their growing legions of ivory tower elites.”

“By paying all of its workers a minimum of $25 per hour, UC could bring food and housing security within reach for thousands of the dedicated staff who make this institution run,” said Davina Woods, a senior custodian with 12 years of service at UCLA. “I don’t make $25 per hour but if I did, it would be the difference between living and just surviving.”

Protesting UC workers have also demanded that UC divest more than $7.5 billion from Blackstone Investments, including $4.5 billion in recently acquired holdings from Blackstone’s Real Estate Income Trust (BREIT)—much of which was drawn from the pension funds of UC workers already struggling with skyrocketing housing costs. Blackstone Investments has been accused by the United Nations of being a major contributor to housing crises all over the world.

“Many UC workers can’t find affordable housing in the communities in which they work”, said Michael Avant, Executive Vice President of AFSCME Local 3299, which represents 30,000 of UC’s lowest-paid workers. “What we’re dealing with are the choices UC is making.  The choice to underpay workers and ignore the realities of the labor market only creates more poverty and more staffing shortages that undermine the quality of the student and patient experience.  The choice to do so while also granting massive pay raises to already high paid executives calls into question the seriousness of the people making the decisions.”

AFSCME Local 3299 is the University of California’s largest employee union, representing more than 30,000 Service and Patient Care Technical workers at UC’s 10 campuses, 5 medical centers, numerous clinics, research laboratories, and UC Law, SF.