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.
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.
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.”