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As E Love wrote on Monday, 8,500 low-wage service workers at the University of California are engaged in monumental struggle this week to bring their families out of poverty.

I wanted to share this very moving video about these workers' struggle, and ask you to take action to support them:

More below the fold, as well as an opportunity to take action in support of these courageous workers...

Jaron Quetel, a Storekeeper at UCLA who is supporting his young son alone told Bill Moyers Journal in June:

"Working the best job I've ever had in my whole life, I'm still, I mean, I am a breath away from drowning. I'm $20 away from being on the street. I am one car payment away from being re-poed. I'm barely surviving. I'm leading a substandard lifestyle because I make substandard wages."

It is hard to believe the conditions being faced by these workers at the University of California - one of the most well-respected universities in the country.  For example, 96% of these workers - who clean hospitals and dorm rooms, maintain buildings and grounds, provide lunches to students and faculty and drive shuttle buses - can qualify for at least one of  the following forms of public assistance: food stamps, WIC, and childcare and public housing subsidies.

In the video, Mario Pinto, a senior custodian at the UC-Santa Cruz campus, says:

"We are living with our whole family together, our kids and grandkids, packed in one house, but we still can’t get by because everything is so expensive....It is a very critical situation for us. We can’t live in peace. We always have to be thinking about how are we going to make it next month and put food on the table for the kids."

UC’s poverty wages are as low as $10 per hour.  Because of this, many UC service workers are forced to take second jobs or go on public assistance just to meet their families’ basic needs. Skyrocketing gas and food prices have deepened the crisis for UC families that are already living paycheck to paycheck. Typically, service workers live in low income communities farther away from campus, forcing a longer commute and higher fuel costs that use a disproportionate portion of their budget.

I think that most of you will agree that it is outrageous that workers at one of the most prestigious universities in the country are struggling to survive.  I also think that there are probably many UC alumni, students or just California taxpayers who will want to join me in taking action to support these workers.  

Click here to send an email to UC Chancellors, Medical Center CEOs and UC's new President Mark Yudof (whose new salary, by the way, is $828,000) to demand fairness and dignity for UC service workers!

Originally posted to UnionMaid on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 02:26 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My family is living paycheck to paycheck (25+ / 0-)

    I lost my job at the beginning of the summer and we just found out that my husband's company is closing its doors.  We are living on mac and cheese, Ramen noodles, and hot dogs, and we're far from being the only ones.  We're about to lose our health insurance, and I'm very worried about losing our home.  Every day in my community I see more and more people begging, and more and more people living under bridges.  Right now I'm trying to save up $20 to send to Barack Obama because even though it means taking food out of my child's mouth, it is the only hope I see to end all this nonsense.  I don't mean to sound harsh, but times is tough all over, baby.

    •  Couldn't you volunteer for Obama in some way (17+ / 0-)

      like registering people to vote/phone banking instead of sending money?
      Boots on the ground is a better donation than money you need for your family.
      I hope things turn around for you.

    •  Yes... time are tough all over (11+ / 0-)

      You don't sound harsh and I'm sorry about your family's situation.  It is unfortunately a more and more common story...

      What I find inspiring and wanted to share about the UC workers is that they are saying that they aren't going to stand for it. They are standing up and fighting for better jobs.  I hope that the DKos community will join them by supporting their fight!

      •  Unions have a long history at UC... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JG in MD

        and with organizing new workers, made easier with card checks. (Last week's victory by PRO/UAW is a perfect example.) Let's get these workers organized!


        -7.88 -8,77 Just a wine sipping, brie eating, $6 coffee drinking, Prius driving, over educated, liberal, white, activist, male New Englander for Barack Obama.

        by EquationDoc on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 05:42:44 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  They are organized (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JG in MD

          The UC service workers are members of AFSCME Local 3299. They are already organized.  And you are right, Unions do have a long history at UC and many of them, including Local 3299 and UAW, have being building and growing their strength in the last several years. This strength is what has given the 8500 service workers the courage to stand up against one of the most powerful University systems in the country!

    •  I send thoughts and prayers to you dclarke.. (7+ / 0-)

      But please, for the love of God, take care of home FIRST.  Barack will be okay with you trying your level best to keep things afloat.  Save your $ for your family and donate when you can.  

      When you have faith, all things are possible

      by 3O3 on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 04:06:26 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Obama will bury McCain under Goldwater (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JG in MD

      in the history books no matter how much more money he gets.

      Keep your child feed.

      Tomatoes, cantaloupes, and watermelon are fairly cheap now.

      Roast whole chickens are good and can be made into soup.

      We are living on mac and cheese, Ramen noodles, and hot dogs, and we're far from being the only ones.  

      Those foods can cause cardiovascular problems if eaten for an extended time.

      •  And They Can Ruin Your Mood (0+ / 0-)

        Those foods would have me bouncing off the walls or stupefied or yelling at my friends or kicking the cats.

        I'm single and manage to feed one person, and friends give me food.

        You need to eat protein and veggies and whole grains to handle the stress. It takes some work, shopping the sales, looking for the reduced-price rack in every store, but please do try.

    •  This is exactly why we need to support UC workers (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You're absolutely right--times are tough for everyone--and  it's a sad day when stories like yours are all too commmon.  Corporate greed has no bounds and the politicians in Washington think it's their sole purpose to indulge the richest 1% of Americans instead of looking out for the taxpayers and voters who elected them.  But this is exactly why we need to support UC workers.  We need to change the way things work in this country, and the only way we are going to do that is if we all come together and demand a better life for all of us, one step at a time.  Change doesn't happen overnight and it doesn't happen simply by electing Barack Obama.  To bring about real change, we need actually make change happen.  The UC workers' struggle is an important step in the long road ahead.

  •  UC problem but (6+ / 0-)

    many many other working poor families not working for UC have less protections worse jobs less stable than UC in the same boat or worse.... it points up people are being pushed into workin poverty the great regressive economy engineered to shift wealth to 1% and regressively load society with corporate debts in taxes and costs from the government bailouts for business, corporate welfare, R & E for big business;

    U.S has fallen badly going towards third world country Reagan to Bushco to Phil Gramm that was/is the plan; wages have not kept pace with inflation for decades and actually have fallen backwards factor inflation in 20th century;

    you know all this though;

    the economy has to put back in the right direction before the bleeding out of employees labor wage class can be cauterized and stitched back together;

    the band aids fix they might/hopefully win at UC will come at the cost of job cuts at UC more than likely; they will do more work because there will be less staff;

    I want Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future and to reach the political accommodation necessary for long-term stability. - Sen. Obama

    by pollwatch on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 02:43:16 PM PDT

    •  3:36 about 10 minutes now kos page not operating (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the front page left hand column partially loads; the image on left column streaks into pieces; the right hand funtions are not visibleat all no diary list nothing on right side; can't open discussion function on left hand front page first diary... googled dailykos and the cache shows same loading problem;

      the only way I can get this comment box is to go under my user name through google and then reply  here everything else is failing... if someone has functioning contact feature could they contact the kos-admin and let them know kos page has loading and visiblity problems ....

      I want Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future and to reach the political accommodation necessary for long-term stability. - Sen. Obama

      by pollwatch on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 03:51:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  fantastic! says Bush (16+ / 0-)

    "You work three jobs?  ... Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that."  —President George W. Bush, to a divorced mother of three, Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005  (with audio of the asshat)

    My kitty is softer than your kitty. And my basset hound is dumber than your box of rocks.

    by sele on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 02:50:09 PM PDT

  •  Most every (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cassandra Waites, dsharma23, Norbrook

    enlisted service member that has served , three years and is married qualifies for food stamp/WIC/AFDC...

    This is a by product of the never ever ending drive to drive down per unit of manpower expenses so the leadership can earn their mega millions in bonuses.

    Just look at the kickers the heads of these major universities  get if they grow their endowments by certain percentiles.  In other words, stiff poor students & staff for bigger bonuses.

  •  I hope this diary is rescued tomorrow night. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    UnionMaid, Orj ozeppi

    I think it is too late for the cut-off tonight.
    This is a very sad story and had me crying which I don't do easily.
    Mark Yudof left the University of Texas System for the UC job. Iirc he is making about twice as much as he did in Austin. His salary is unbelievably high given what the workers are being paid (although the Athletic Director is probably taking home more than double what Yudof is getting).
    Faculty salaries at UT have been stagnant for several years and I would imagine that is the norm across the country). I was not aware of the service staff wages and missed Moyers and the other diaries on this.
    The situation makes me sick.
    Thanks for your diary and the Chancellor's email link.

  •  Blame it on the students (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib, Norbrook

    I am  a  UC student and this problem is created by teary-eyed idealist students.

    On on end they rail about raises in tuitions and university fees

    AND  then they demand that workers should be paid more. You can't have it both ways.

      Ask students  to pay more in tuition and fees if you want a living wage.  As your parents told  you, there isn't a money tree.

    The upcoming book by yours truly. How the New Deal Democratic Party was Hijacked by Environmentalists, Ethnocentrists, and Peaceniks

    by leftyhammer on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 04:06:13 PM PDT

    •  Blame it on the UC Executives (7+ / 0-)

      Lefty - although I appreciate your perspective I hardly think that students are to blame. UC executives have, time and again, found money for HUGE salary increases for themselves ($924,642 for the new President alone), loans for homes for themselves, new buildings, a $300,000 rental home for the new president... the list goes on and on. The problem is UC's misplaced priorities... UC students AND workers are getting the short end of the stick.

      •  yup, UC is a corporation (3+ / 0-)

        with corporate priorities and huge waste at the top tier.  The students are victims, too.  Many of them are probably putting themselves into future poverty to pay off loans for an education that should mostly be free.  

        -8.25, -6.25 "War: a massacre of people who don't know each other for the profit of people who know each other but don't massacre each other." -Paul Valéry

        by smellybeast on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 04:21:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  1 million? (0+ / 0-)

        How much is the total value of the money the UC  workers want.   I bet it's in the millions.

        Where do you think this money will come from?  It has to come from student fees  and tuition raises.

        The upcoming book by yours truly. How the New Deal Democratic Party was Hijacked by Environmentalists, Ethnocentrists, and Peaceniks

        by leftyhammer on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 04:26:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I think (0+ / 0-)

        the totals of administrative salaries above $60,000/year,$70,000/year,..., $200,000/year as percentages of tuition revenue per institution and system-wide would be interesting information for students and others.

      •  And, tax payers... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        esquimaux, dsharma23

        Tax payers are funding the UCs to educate students if the students who are supposed to be educated by the UCs are not being educated because they cannot pay for it, then the tax payers are getting shafted.  If the UCs are paying for things not related to the educational process then the tax payers are getting shafted.

    •  I'm a student at Cal (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and I heartily disagree with you. The whole purpose of the University of California is to provide higher education to the students of California, and it was supposed to be free. How much do we pay now? Around $11,000 for tuition, and another 10,000-14,000 living expenses.

      This lies squarely at the feet of UC Regents and our legislators, and ESPECIALLY our dear Governator, who would all rather students pay higher tuition than instituting a sales tax on yachts, while simultaneously promising "no new taxes".

      Sure, you can blame the students, who have absolutely no sway compared to labor interests and k-12 advocates.

      "I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent" --Gandhi

      by dsharma23 on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 04:35:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  As a former UC student (both undergrad and (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      grad work was there) all I can say is...that's complete bullshit.

      The State of California gives UC only about a quarter of its budget, yet maintains 100% control of the University. Students have literally zero control over anything other than their exam scores--I was there for the big fee protests of the early 1990s, and trust me, our efforts had zero effect. The governor and all of his appointees control the entire system.

      Students can demand anything they want, it has no effect. Blame the regents, and the governor who appoints them.


      -7.88 -8,77 Just a wine sipping, brie eating, $6 coffee drinking, Prius driving, over educated, liberal, white, activist, male New Englander for Barack Obama.

      by EquationDoc on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 05:48:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  the president and execs needed signing bonuses, (4+ / 0-)

    free accommodations, office renovations, etc., in order to attract the top talent and keep UC competitive...just like the private sector!

    Oh, you've probably heard that one before.

    We don't have time for short-term thinking.

    by Compound F on Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 04:12:34 PM PDT

    •  right! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      and just like the private sector, the wal-martization of America continues at UC!

      Unfortunately, this public-sector employer is double-dipping... using public funds to overpay its executives AND THEN forcing the responsibility for supporting its poverty-wage workers on the public through various forms of public assistance.

  •  California Food Stamp eligibility (0+ / 0-)

    Citizenship/Immigration Status
    Certain non-citizens such as those admitted for humanitarian reasons and those admitted for permanent residence are eligible for food stamps. Eligible household members can get food stamp benefits even if other members of the household are not eligible. Food stamp eligibility is available to most legal immigrants who:

    Have lived in the country for five (5) years, or
    Are receiving disability-related assistance or benefits, regardless of entry date, or
    Are children under 18 years of age regardless of entry date.
    Non-citizens who are in the U.S. temporarily, such as students, are not eligible. A number of States have their own programs to provide benefits to immigrants who do not meet the regular Food Stamp Program eligibility requirements. California's program is the California Food Assistance Program.

    Food stamp households, except those containing an aged or disabled member or where all members receive cash assistance, are subject to gross and net income determination tests. Gross Income – all non-excludable income from any source including all earned income and all unearned income. The maximum gross allowed is 130% of the Federal poverty level (FPL) or 165% of the FPL if the household has an elderly or disabled person who qualifies to be a separate household. If the household passes the gross income test, then the net income test is computed. Net income is computed by deducting the following, if applicable, from gross income. The resultant amount cannot exceed 100% of the FPL.

    Earned income has an allowable deduction of 20% (i.e., 80% of the gross earned income counts in the calculation of benefit levels). Examples of earned income include wages and salaries, striker's benefits, etc.
    Standard Deduction – A deduction allowed per household per month. $134 for households of 1 – 3 persons, $143 for 4 persons, $167 for 5 persons, and $191 for 6 or more persons (effective 10/1/07).
    Excess Shelter – A monthly shelter cost in excess of 50% of the household's income after all above deductions are considered. The excess shelter deduction must not exceed the current maximum of $431 (effective 10/1/07).
    Homeless Household Shelter – Available to homeless persons who are not receiving free shelter for the entire month. If the homeless shelter allowance is used, separate utility costs are not allowed because the homeless shelter allowance includes a utility component. The current allowance is $143.
    Standard Utility Allowance (SUA) – Allowed for a household that incurs utility costs, which are separate and apart from the household's rent/mortgage payment. The current allowance is $274 (effective 10/1/07).
    Limited Utility Allowance (LUA) – Allowed for a household that incurs expenses for at least two separate utilities other than heating and cooling are eligible for a LUA.. The LUA allowance is $79 (effective 10/1/07).
    Telephone Utility Allowance (TUA) - A household that is not eligible for the SUA or LUA but incurs a telephone expense or in its absence an equivalent form of communication, is eligible to receive a telephone deduction. The TUA allowance is unchanged and remains $20 (effective 11/01/06).
    Dependent Care – The actual cost, not exceeding the maximum dependent care deduction, for care of a child or other dependent. Up to $200 per month for the cost of dependent care for a child, under 2 years of age and up to $175 per month for each other dependent can be deducted.
    Medical Deduction – The portion of medical expenses, excluding special diets, in excess of the allowable amount of $35 per household per month (incurred by any household member who is elderly or disabled).
    Exempt Income

    In-Kind Benefits – Any gain or benefit that is not in the form of money (i.e., meals, clothing, housing provided by the employer, etc.)
    Vendor Payments – Money paid to a third party for a household expense by a person or organization outside of the household.
    Deferred Educational Loans
    Grants and Scholarships
    Cash donations from a charitable organization of not more than $300 in a calendar quarter
    Income received too infrequently/irregularly to be reasonably anticipated but not more than $30 in a quarter.

    Reporting Changes
    Food Stamp recipients must notify their local County Welfare Department about changes in their income or other circumstances....

    A resource is something the household can draw upon or sell for financial assistance. Resource limits are $2,000 for all households except those that have a member who has a disability or who is 60 years of age or older. These households can have up to $3,000 in resources. Any countable resource will be added to the household's resource limit when making an eligibility determination. Types of Resources

    Liquid Resources – Includes all funds readily available to the household such as cash on hand, money in checking or savings accounts, savings certificates, trust deeds, notes receivable, stocks, or bonds, non-recurring lump sum payments (which includes retroactive payments, funds held in an individual retirement accounts (IRA) and funds held in accessible Keogh plans).
    Non-Liquid Resources – Includes personal property, buildings, land, recreational properties, and any other property. The value of non-exempt resources shall be its equity value, which is the fair market value less encumbrances.
    Excluded Resources – Resources which are excluded are the home and surrounding property, vehicles, household goods, personal effects, resources with an equity value of $1500 or less (excluding financial instruments), and resources with a cash value that is not accessible to the household (such as irrevocable trust funds, security deposits on rental property, etc.)

    Work Requirements
    All able-bodied persons (ages 18-49) without dependents must work 20 hours per week (monthly average 80 hours) or participate 20 hours per week in an approved work activity or do workfare, or else get only 3 months of Food Stamps out of a 36-month period. There are some exceptions so contact your local County Welfare Department to find out if you are eligible.

    •  High Ideals, Low Pay (0+ / 0-)

      Hi SingleVoter. I thought from your comment that this study (download .pdf) by the National Economic Development & Law Center might be of interest to you. The NEDLC study is the basis for the statistic that 96% of UC service workers are income eligible for at least one of the following forms of public assistance: food stamps, WIC, and childcare and public housing subsidies.

  •  California WIC Income Guidelines (0+ / 0-)

    Generally, WIC is available to low income pregnant, breastfeeding , and postpartum women and children under age five who are at nutritional risk and who are at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

    185% Federal Poverty Level Effective (Effective from July 1, 2008 to June 30, 2009)
    Gross Income # of persons in Family Unit

  •  outrageous (0+ / 0-)

    It is outrageous that UC workers don't make enough to keep up with the cost of living in California. It is more outrageous after the news this week about the increasing cost of living. Many of my family members are UC alumni and I am urging them to support the UC workers.

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