Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

LOCAL News :: Labor & Economics

Study Finds UCSC Service Workers Paid Poverty Wages

UC wages lag behind CSU, Community Colleges and Kaiser


Researched by the National Economic Development and Law Center (NEDLC), the report finds that despite UC’s high profile as a premier public institution of learning and opportunity, 46% of UC service employees earn wages that would not meet basic needs for a family with two parents working full-time and raising two children, if both adults earned the amount paid by UC. 35% earn wages insufficient to support only the employee and 93% percent earn wages that would not meet basic needs for a single adult raising a child.
OAKLAND – A report released yesterday finds that the wages of many service workers at the nine University of California (UC) campuses and five medical centers are too low to cover the bare-bones cost of living for a worker and his or her family.

Entitled High Ideals, Low Pay; A Wage Analysis of UC Service Workers, the report analyzes the wages of 6,374 mostly immigrant and minority workers who do the unglamorous but vital work of keeping UC campuses and medical centers clean and functioning all across the state. These workers include custodians, food servers, cooks, bus drivers, and groundskeepers.

The 457 career service workers at UC Santa Cruz receive low wages and a high cost of living, according to the study. The average annual wage of a food service worker at UCSC was $20,619 in 2004, while the average senior custodian at UCSC made $24,564.

The report compares the wages of the lowest paid UC employees to a county-specific cost of living index that measures the minimum income that working families need to get by in California. This index, the California Self-Sufficiency Standard, is an updated measure of poverty that takes into account the basic costs associated with working and raising a family: child care, transportation, housing, health care, food, and taxes. The Self-Sufficiency Standard for California was developed by Dr. Diana Pearce of the University of Washington in conjunction with NEDLC and Wider Opportunities for Women. The Standard and High Ideals, Low Pay are available at

For Santa Cruz County, the self-sufficiency standard for UC workers was estimated to be $24,464 for a single adult, $42,059 for an adult with one child, and $28,082 for two adults and two children (both adults working for equivalent wages). Forty-six (46%) of UCSC service workers were not making enough just to support themselves, 99% did not earn enough to support a single parent with one child and 72% did not earn enough to support a two adult, two child family, even if the other adult is also working. The latter rate was the highest among the nine campuses.

The report also finds that UC’s wages were below the market rate, when compared to similar occupational wages in the California State University system (CSU), California community colleges, and Kaiser medical centers. Even compared to other employers who have received state budget cuts, UC’s food service and custodial wage rates lagged behind comparator institutions by up to 26%.

For example, the published wage ranges for a senior custodian at UCSC is $10.36 to $13.47, compared to $11.86 to $15.40 at Cal State Monterey Bay, and $13.04 to $17.48 at Cabrillo Community College.

The report’s third major finding is that some UC service workers earn wages so low that they meet income eligibility requirements for up to nine public assistance programs, including food stamps, housing assistance, child care subsidies and Medi-Cal. While these programs may allow workers to feed, house and clothe their families on a day-to-day basis, they also represent a public payout subsidizing UC’s low wages. The average food service worker at UCSC is paid so low that they would be eligible for section 8 housing subsidies, the free/reduced school lunch program, and the state child-care subsidy.

In response to the report, California State Assembly Speaker and UC Regent Fabian Nuñez said, “As a Regent, I am surprised and saddened to learn that UC denies service workers the chance to move into the middle-class. As one of the largest employers in the state, UC is creating an additional burden for taxpayers when its salaries are so low that employees qualify for public assistance.?

Service workers feel the hard pinch of UC’s low wages. Diamond Robertson, who has been a food service worker for four years at UC Davis, describes how her working conditions limit her child’s future success: “I want my baby to succeed, to go to college someday – but when UC pays wages so low that I need public assistance to get by, I wonder if I’m going to be able to provide her with that opportunity.?

“If UC can afford to provide $2.4 million in bonuses to retain 65 top managers, the University system should be able to pay service workers a living wage,? said Tim Lohrentz of NEDLC and a co-author of the report. “When large employers don’t pay family-supporting wages, local communities have to take up the slack.?

Community members gathered yesterday in Oakland to release the report and support the workers, including the office of California State Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Leland Yee. Speaker Yee commented, “It’s unacceptable for prestigious institutions like UCSF and the rest of UC to pay their workers so significantly less than those in the Cal State University system and the community colleges. By this practice, UC shifts its own burden to taxpayers when its workers qualify for public assistance because of their low pay.?

New Comments are disabled, please visit


No events for this day.

view calendar week
add an event


Media Centers

Syndication feeds

Account Login

This site made manifest by dadaIMC software