U.C. Workers Are Skipping Meals to Make Ends Meet

Sather Gate marks the original southern entrance to the U.C. campus.

From The New York Times


If you work for the University of California, don’t count on having enough to eat.

That’s according to a study released this week that found that 45 percent of the university system’s full-time administrative workers sometimes go hungry.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Peter Dreier, an author and politics professor at Occidental College.

The survey, which drew responses from nearly 2,900 workers across a system that includes 10 campuses, was done in coordination with the Teamsters union that represents the clerical workers.

There are nearly 14,000 of the workers — who hold jobs such as administrative assistants, library assistants and collections representatives — in the U.C. system.

Dianne Klein, a university spokeswoman, said in a statement that she had not examined the specifics of the report. But she and other officials noted the timing of its release as the university system is holding contract negotiations with the union.

“I’m not surprised to see these kinds of things sort of planted, if you will, to affect the collective bargaining process,” said George Kieffer, a university regent.

Still, university officials have acknowledged that reports of hunger among parts of the campus population were troubling.

In July, after conducting its own survey, the system discovered that roughly one in five students sometimes went hungry because of financial difficulties. In response, it dedicated $3.3 million to fight campus malnutrition.

Harvard has faced problems of its own, with cafeteria workers picketing over what they say are unfair wages.

Dr. Dreier strongly defended the U.C. study, calling the union’s motives irrelevant to his team’s findings.

The Times reviewed a sample of the written accounts from the workers, which were kept anonymous. Even with wages that averaged a little under $23 an hour, well above the state minimum of $10, many said they skipped meals or visited food banks. One described eating mayonnaise packets. Many cited the soaring cost of housing around the campuses, in locations like Irvine, Santa Barbara and San Francisco.

Read more from The New York Times.