Tuesday, November 20

[A closer look] Referendum could raise eatery wages


Student workers' starting pay may increase to $1 above California minimum

Students who work for the Associated Students UCLA may get more
of a direct benefit from the SAFE referendum.

While much of the fee referendum would go toward renovating new
facilities, some of the funds would be allocated to increasing the
wages for ASUCLA student workers an additional 50 cents.

Wages for new student workers are already set to be around 40 to
50 cents higher than the California minimum wage, and wages are
adjusted to maintain this gap when minimum wage increases. With the
increase, starting student wages could be almost $1 above minimum
wage.

The gap between ASUCLA student wages and the minimum wage has
narrowed as ASUCLA’s financial performance fluctuated over
the past 10 years.

“When the store was in a tough financial position, the
boards of the past and the management of the past didn’t
increase the starting wages as fast as the minimum wage has gone
up,” said Bob Williams, interim executive director of
ASUCLA.

In the early 1990s, the association began losing income as
expenses outpaced revenues. Losses started in the hundreds of
thousands, but got worse as they crept into the millions. On the
brink of bankruptcy, the association took a $20 million loan from
the university to finish paying the debt from renovation of
Ackerman Union.

The starting ASUCLA student wage was not always only about 40
cents above the California minimum wage. It was as high as 30
percent over minimum wage from 1991-1996, and has been as low as 4
percent above minimum wage starting in 1998, when ASUCLA was coming
out of its financial troubles and began to see positive income.

ASUCLA student wages for all other positions, including
management and supervisory positions, would increase 50 cents an
hour as well, Williams said.

Student workers, who would also have to pay the fee, feel that
an added 50 cents may not merit an eventual increase of $48 in the
annual fee spread over the next five years.

“I just kind of feel it’s a little
disproportionate,” said Lisa Musca, a musicology graduate
student who works in the textbook store. “Obviously,
I’d love to be making 50 cents more an hour.”

On average, ASUCLA student workers currently start at about
$7.20 an hour and see an increase of about 20 cents after job
evaluations every April. If SAFE passes and the minimum wage stays
the same next year, starting wages could be almost 15 percent above
the minimum wage.

Employees in food services, in addition to seeing wage
increases, would be working in renovated food facilities, which
some see as beneficial.

“From working here, it’s obvious things need to be
fixed, so extra money would be helpful,” said Ryan Ishikawa,
a fifth-year biochemistry student who works in the Cooperage.

While the current fee of $7.50 would go up $12 every year to
$55.50 by 2009-2010, the impact of the increase would have little
effect on student worker wages, ASUCLA management says.

“I think the average employee works about 10 to 12 hours a
week, so I don’t think (the fee increase) represents a major
part of what they get paid,” Williams said.
“We’ve made every effort to consider the students in
designing the fee strategy and hopefully we’ve done that
well.”

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