UCLA staffers protest cutbacks

More than 2,000 UCLA employees, including researchers, custodians, nurses and secretaries, gathered at Pauley Pavilion on Wednesday to protest plans for pay cuts and furloughs proposed by the University of California.

Because of the state budget crisis, UC leaders are considering three proposals to reduce payroll spending by about $195 million in the next school year. One plan would cut salaries by 8% for all faculty and staff earning more than $46,000 annually and 4% for those earning less; another would require 21 unpaid furlough days for all employees, and a third would combine pay cuts and furloughs.

The UC regents are expected next month to approve some version of the proposal for all 10 UC campuses and their many satellite facilities, although negotiations would be needed for union contracts, officials said.

UC President Mark G. Yudof outlined the pay and furlough proposals last week and promised they would be implemented “in the most equitable manner possible.” The proposed cuts would make up about a fourth of what UC projects will be an $800-million shortfall in its state general revenue funding over this year and next; the rest would come through a recently approved 9.3% increase in student fees for the coming school year and through program and class reductions, Yudof said.

Lynn Kessler, a UCLA clinical study coordinator in neurology and union activist who attended the town hall-style meeting, warned that the proposals, if acted upon, could cause some staffers to lose their homes and others to leave UC for the private sector.


“Even in this bad job market, people are insulted,” Kessler said.

Wearing lapel stickers that proclaimed “Chop from the Top,” she and other UCLA employees attending the campuswide staff meeting said the regents should first reduce more sharply the salaries of administrators who earn $200,000 or more, tap endowment funds more deeply, halt campus construction projects and further reduce administrative overhead.

They also expressed concern that furloughs might harm patient care at UCLA’s medical center and clinics.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and other campus officials took questions from the crowd and said they would urge the regents to fine-tune any reductions to ease the pain as much as possible.

But they said they did not think such cuts could be avoided and added that reductions in class offerings, faculty hiring and campus services are in the works.

“This will be devastating,” Block said. “I recognize your concern, and my concern is that we all personally get through this and that this institution remains strong. But there is no doubt that this is going to have an impact on our salaries and an impact on our programs we offer to students. And that concerns me greatly.”

Several UCLA employees on Wednesday noted the irony that they gathered in Pauley Pavilion, the nearly four-decades-old arena for which officials recently announced a $185-million renovation plan. Although more than half of that cost is to be financed by private donations, staffers wondered whether some donors might instead be persuaded to support UCLA’s general finances.

“It’s a luxury to replace this now, and we are not in luxurious times,” said Alan Toy, associate director for UCLA’s Center for Neighborhood Knowledge.

Dave Haugland, a campus sign maker and a shop steward for skilled trades workers in the State Employees’ Trades Council-United, said UC employees shouldn’t accept the pay cuts or furloughs without better explanations of why they are needed and larger reductions for top administrators. He said unions would go along only if UC “can prove to us that without an 8% cut, the university is going to suffer. But we’re going to fight it unless they prove it.”

At the California State system, meanwhile, officials have proposed furloughs of two days a month for employees at all 23 campuses. Some unions have voted to discuss the plan with the administration, but the faculty group’s leaders are asking for more information.

“We’re willing to do something. . . . The budget cuts are disastrous,” said faculty union spokeswoman Alice Sunshine. “But we want to be sure what we’re voting on.”


Times staff writer Gale Holland contributed to this report.