Oakland, CA — Unions representing approximately 110,000 University of California workers—almost half the total workforce at California’s third-largest employer—today called on the University of California to divest more than $6 billion from Blackstone Investments, including nearly $4 billion in recently acquired holdings from Blackstone’s Real Estate Income Trust (BREIT).
Click Here to read the UC Union Coalition’s Letter to University of California Chief Investment Officer Jagdeep Bachher.
The letter details how Blackstone and similar private equity real estate investments have fueled rents rising at two to three times the rate of inflation, alongside displacement of working families and evictions—even during the COVID 19 pandemic. It notes that Blackstone also spent millions to defeat a California rent control measure in 2018, even as the vast majority of UC’s represented workforce struggle with housing affordability.
“UC investments are funded by its workers, pensioners, students and alumni—each of whom are struggling with the crushing burdens of California’s housing affordability crisis,” said AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger, who is also an advisor to the UC Regents’ Investment Committee. “To then push those hard earned dollars into investments designed to push housing prices even higher is beyond negligent—it is a betrayal of this institution’s core obligations to its workers, students and the communities in which it operates.”
AFSCME 3299, which represents 30,000 UC service and patient care workers, reports that 95% of its service worker members are unable to afford single-bedroom housing near work, according to an analysis of recent data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Late last year, 48,000 UAW-represented UC graduate student workers, postdocs, and academic researchers waged the largest higher education strike in US history, with low wages and housing affordability at its core. UAW noted that more than 92% of UC’s graduate student workers were paying more than 30% of their incomes on housing.
“If UC is serious about addressing the affordability crisis plaguing its students and workers, it will immediately divest from Blackstone and make investments that actually reduce housing cost burdens for more Californians,” said Michael Kennedy, a Registered Nurse at UC San Diego.
Blackstone is a residential and commercial landlord giant, managing a $565 billion portfolio. The University of California is California’s largest landlord. It controls 150,000 student beds and as of June 2022, a $6.3 billion real estate investment portfolio and has faced criticism for attempting to raise rents on some tenants by as much as 60%.
“The University’s latest investment in Blackstone has tied our school’s financial future to driving up the cost of residential housing in California and around the world,” said Trevor Griffey, Vice President of Legislation at UC-AFT. “This is self-defeating because it will drive more UC students into debt and make it harder for the UC to recruit and retain workers.“