Monday Memo: news & views about working at UC

For the Week of May 08, 2017

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“Take a flower in memory of Sheri,” read a memorial at UCLA marking both Workers’ Memorial Day (April 28) and International Workers’ Day (May 1). Students and employees stopped by all day to read the memorial for the late Sheri Sangji, an UPTE-represented lab worker at UCLA, who died 18 days after suffering severe burns in a lab fire in 2008. Both the UC Regents and her UCLA faculty supervisor Patrick Harran, were charged with felony charges of “willful violation of safety regulations.” UC chemistry-biochemistry labs had been out of compliance with California labor laws, and were forced to revise their safety procedures after her death.

In the wake of a scathing state audit report that UCOP had accumulated $175 in secret funds, emails that show UC president Janet Napolitano directed administrators under her to reveal their confidential responses to the auditor, contradicting her previous testimony on the case, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“This report is going to haunt the University for a good while,” writes UCLA professor Michael Meranze on the Remaking the University blog.
Sheri Sangji Memorial
Students at a memorial for Sheri Sangji, who died after a preventable UCLA lab fire. (photo: Rita Kern)

Meanwhile, the number of higher paid executive and faculty positions at UC has increased recently. A San Francisco Chronicle analysis of wage data for all UC employees, including faculty and physicians, found that the number of employees making more than the governor increased from 5,900 in 2010 to 9,600 in 2015.

San Francisco’s CBS station, KPIX, is reporting that 25 highly-paid recalled retirees are receiving pensions of $300,000 each per year while receiving a paycheck for coming back to UC after retiring.

Legal periodicals are reporting that employees at Berkeley are suing UC for not being properly paid overtime.

Such news has led lawmakers to try to change UC policies by using funding as leverage. Last year there were 14 bills in the Legislature over UC policy, but only one survived to become law. This year, state Senator Cathleen Galgiani has introduced a constitutional amendment, SCA-13, that would prohibit UC from raising tuition and paying substandard wages in any year when more than 600 administrators earn more than the governor. If the proposed amendment is passed out of the Legislature, it would go to the electorate for approval.

The UC system will require incoming students in 2018 to be fully vaccinated as a requirement for enrollment, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Activists at UC Santa Cruz shut down both entrances to the campus for the day on May 1, demonstrating in support of workers and immigrants on International Workers’ Day.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce will be releasing a new report Tuesday praising the UC system and the University of Southern California for enrolling large numbers of students receiving Pell grants. The proportion of students on Pell grants at UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC San Diego range from 31 to 40 percent, while UCs Riverside and Merced hover around 60 percent.

Republicans in the US Senate have killed an Obama-era regulation that encouraged states to create retirement plans for private-sector workers who do not have access to an employer-based retirement plan, according to the Hill.
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