Sunday, August 25

Study shows about 70 percent of UC employees lack food security

News, UC

University of California administrative and clerical workers face many of the same food insecurity problems as students who visit the Community Programs Office Food Closet. (Courtesy of Deborah Elkins)

University of California administrative and clerical workers face many of the same food insecurity problems as students who visit the Community Programs Office Food Closet. (Courtesy of Deborah Elkins)

University of California administrative and clerical workers struggle to feed themselves more than students do, according to a study released Monday.

Occidental College’s Urban and Environmental Policy Institute surveyed about 14,000 members of Teamsters Local 2010, the union that represents UC administrative and clerical workers. The survey found about 70 percent of the 3,000 respondents were either food insecure or very food insecure.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “low food security” involves eating lower quality food and “very low food security” involves skipping meals.

Peter Dreier, one of the study’s authors and urban policy professor at Occidental College, said he thinks the study is an accurate representation of workers’ situations at the UC.

“Respondents reflected (most) of the same demographic characteristics of the population, including on gender, race, job category and campus where they worked,” Dreier said.

He added the survey included an open-ended question at the end, where respondents shared stories about their experiences with hunger.

“At the end of the survey, they told heart-breaking stories about working full time and still going hungry,” Dreier said. “About 900 people gave their stories, which generated human interest.”

One of the comments described a person’s struggle to feed their family.

“It’s very hard to explain to your kids we don’t have enough money to buy more food,” the comment read.

Dreier also said he hopes the University doesn’t respond with one-time funding for programs, as it did after the UC released a survey about student food security.

“(Workers) don’t need charity, they need a better wage,” Dreier said.

In response to the student food security survey, UC President Janet Napolitano announced $3.3 million to fund food security projects, including expanded healthy food options at food closets, increased educational resources and new healthy cooking programs.

Each campus received $151,000 in August and will receive another $151,000 next year.

[Related: UCLA groups to receive increased funding to address food security]

UC spokesperson Dianne Klein said in an email statement the University has not examined the specifics of the report and will not comment on its findings. She added UC continues to bargain in good faith on a systemwide contract for clerical workers that expires next month.

“We respect the collective bargaining process and believe matters such as wages and benefits should be negotiated at the bargaining table,” Klein said.

[Related: UCLA skilled workers union calls for higher wages in protest]

She added the UC believes its total package of *wages and benefits* is competitive for the many different jobs within its workforce Benefits include guaranteed pension payments on retirement and subsidized health care for UC employees, she said.

“Those in lower paid positions contribute as little as $47 a month for their entire family, including a spouse or partner who may be employed elsewhere,” Klein said.

Teamsters spokesperson Christian Castro said Occidental College conducted the study independently, though the union approached the college to investigate the food security issue.

He added he thinks the study shows that even with benefits like subsidized health insurance and pension programs, workers still do not earn enough to feed themselves as they should.

“At the end of the day, our workers don’t have the money to make ends meet,” Castro said. “UC is deflecting to other things aren’t related. Union members have had to skip meals, avoid nutritious food and choose between feeding themselves or paying the bills.”

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  • disqus_dI3rWSLwEk

    The larger issue lies with exorbitantly high standard of living costs in California. No one in California can keep up with the ridiculously high rent and bills for groceries, utilities, etc. To say that UC employees are hit the hardest is quite the overstatement. $15/hour is the starting wage for most UC clerical/administrative positions, which is considered by far more than decent. The study completed by Occidental College is too one-sided (surveys only one subgroup of California’s working population) and only benefits the union representing UC workers. The bigger question is what can be said about the low-wage workers across California (a much larger working group) with no retirement and subsidized health plans like the UC workers and who earns far more less? Are they doomed?

    This economy is biting away everyone’s pocketbooks, irregardless of how much we earn. Unfortunately, our salaries will not be able to keep up with inflation at the end of the day and it’s becoming a growing pain for everyone to make ends meet. The problem doesn’t lie with the UC not paying their employees enough, it’s this economy.

    • peepsqueek

      I grew up below the poverty line. Me and my brothers took every kind of odd job to help our parents. My mother would by cheap meats and vegetables and make big pots of nutritious soups or brown rice and beans. We were all healthy and strong, and we did fine. My mother used to say that we are not poor, we just don’t have money. Our apartment was so small that our kitchen table was right up against the bathroom. Me and my brothers each did a stint in the military, which guaranteed us a free education when we got. The point is that we all did find and now we all have grandkids that are ready for college.

      The majority of the poor in this Country today did not finish some kind of basic education, started a family before they were adults, or made babies without the benefit of a committed partner from a good family, which is the [statistical] formula for joining a special class of people called “the poor”.

      What is ironic is that we send a disproportionate amount of food and medicine around the world to humanitarian crisis’, while forty million people in the US are on food stamps.