UC Berkeley News


Letter to the Editor

22 August 2007

Your front-page report on the "chancellor's chat" sponsored by the Berkeley Staff Assembly (July 12) repeated remarks Chancellor Birgeneau made concerning the recently concluded wage settlement between UC's lowest-paid workers and the Office of the President (UCOP).

Birgeneau said that he had been "quite vocal" in his opposition to the settlement and that he'd made his opinion known to UCOP. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) members in the audience found it discomfiting that Birgeneau expressed his disagreement with the settlement before a largely non-unionized audience.

In writing that the settlement included special raises for custodians, the Berkeleyan reinforced the chancellor's division of staff from unionized workers. In saying that he "didn't think it was fair" that one group of workers got the pay hikes while others in similar ranges did not, you and the chancellor both ignored the so-called "compensation crisis" at the top of the system and the fact that Birgeneau could yet join efforts to bring the entire workforce up to market.

Unmentioned in the Berkeleyan writeup, but of concern to our members, the chancellor said that 60 percent of the cost of the raises would be borne by students (except those on financial aid) in the form of increased housing fees, even though, in an Oct. 12, 2006, letter to UC President Robert Dynes, state legislators Don Perata and Fabian Nez stated that the Legislature had set aside "additional funds [AFSCME estimates the amount as $9 million] to address pay equity for U.C. custodians and groundskeepers at Berkeley, Irvine, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz." Why the discrepancy, only the chancellor knows.

That AFSCME successfully lifted the poverty wages of staffers who keep the campus safe, clean, and well-fed is something to celebrate. We at AFSCME are sorry the chancellor does not agree.

Hank Chapot
UC Berkeley gardener/AFSCME steward