UC Berkeley: No Cuts! No Furloughs!

As the pandemic continues, University of California (UC) is crying poor. An investigation done by AFSCME, one of the unions of workers at the University, found UC had more money in April than in March of this year. They have plenty of money that’s supposed to be set aside for a rainy day. It’s looking like there might be a hurricane, but UC still cries for cuts and furloughs.

Janet Napolitano, the president of the University of California system, has taken a 10 percent pay cut in preparation to show “solidarity” when she calls for furloughs and pay cuts from the rest of us. Ten percent of $578,000 (data from 2018) is manageable. Ten percent of $50,000 will likely be the difference between having food on your table or not. Wasn’t she retiring this year? So, her cuts are even less significant since she likely will not finish out the year!

Something seems fishy around campus. Only essential workers are allowed on campus, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re doing “essential” work. Maintenance workers are essential. They make sure the power is on, the plumbing is working. Teams of them are disinfecting door handles and bathrooms. But is it essential work to replace all the equipment in the kitchen at Golden Bear Café? The café isn’t that old. How could the equipment be worn out? Why does the university have money for replacing a kitchen in a café but no money to keep people working?

The UC is taking this “opportunity,” using up its reserve funds at the same time that it is claiming that it has these huge deficits and is anticipating more losses of revenue. It’s spending money on non-essential projects. They’ll claim it keeps people working, but it’s unnecessary work, and it puts workers at risk of COVID-19. They are spending money on renovations that aren’t necessary. (Golden Bear Café is not that old. The equipment was “repurposed,” so it wasn’t nonfunctional.) These renovations contribute nothing to the education of the students, and drain resources at a time when UC is crying poor, asking for pay cuts and furloughs.

The UC has now voted, under the CARES act, that workers can borrow from their pension fund at this time. This is terribly concerning. This could undermine the pension fund and allow UC and the organization that manages the fund, Fidelity Investments, to cry “crisis,” calling for privatization of the fund, moving the money into a 401k-type system managed by no one else but…? Yes, Fidelity! Fidelity has been pushing people into wanting a 401k investment for years even though this is a losing proposition. The funds are strictly reliant on the stock market, and so these funds are never secure.

Meanwhile, the optometry department at UC Berkeley is basically an internship program for optometry students. It does eye exams not only for students, but also employees, retirees and their families. UC is testing all the optometry students so they can come back to work. It’s cheap labor and likely good income for UC Berkeley.

They will also be testing all the athletes every two weeks. I understand the rationale of the greater risk to athletes, but as a school, shouldn’t we be working on a plan to bring students in for the purpose of educating, rather than entertaining?

How long until the maintenance workers who worked on Golden Bear Café renovation are furloughed? The university’s priorities are not the priorities that benefit students or working people!

featured image credit: Charlie Nguyen / Creative Commons