The discrepancy between proposed benefits for UC officials and low-wage workers prompted the demonstration, which occurred in Kerr Hall, one of UC Santa Cruz’s administrative centers. Several weeks ago, a panel of UC officials appointed by UC President Mark Yudof released a set of pension reform proposals that would restructure employee retirement benefits. If these proposals are enacted, the retirement benefits received by UC officials would remain intact or increase, while pensions for employees in the service sector (custodians, shuttle drivers, and food service workers, for example) could be decreased by more than 50 percent.
The proposals incited indignation among workers, who already receive a fraction of the benefits enjoyed by UC executives. Yolanda Lopez, a senior custodian at UCSC, expressed her concerns about the proposals in the press release for the demonstration. “I am barely going to survive on the $1,500 per month plus social security that I will receive under the current pension plan,” she said. “I don’t know how a family would pay rent, let alone pay for other necessities on less than half that.”
To express their discontent, the gathered workers marked a large check as “void.” In addition to voicing grievances about these pending pension cuts, they discussed recently announced changes to UC employee healthcare that could require workers to pay 50 percent more for health coverage.
This demonstration is not the first recent display of apprehension and disappointment with UC officials’ decisions. 2010 has been a year of UC-wide protests and demonstrations over fee increases and cutbacks. The legitimacy of official decisions has also come under question; an eight part investigative article by Peter Byrne shines a light on executives’ ties with the corporate world and suggests that there are many “conflicts of interests” that cloud the ethics of their decision-making.
The maintenance of executive pension plans at the expense of workers’ plans added more fuel to the fire for the demonstration. “Retirement funds should be used to make sure that dedicated service providers are able to retire with dignity and without public assistance,” according to Julian Posadas, UC Food Service Worker and Vice President of AFSCME Local 3299, in the press release. “It is clear that we need to properly fund retirement benefits and cut exorbitant and excessive retirement perks for executives.”
To read Byrne’s investigative reports, visit: spot.us/stories/544-the-investors-club-how-the-university-of-california-regents-spin-public-money-into-private-profit
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