While members of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties’ small business community mingled within the hub of the Fess Parker DoubleTree Inn in preparation for the Spirit of Small Businesses awards on Thursday, August 6, members of the UCCC404 union rallied out front, questioning the selection of the day’s keynote speaker: UC President Mark Yudof.
“What is he going to do to protect his employees from budget cuts?” asked Silvia Marquez of the Coalition of University Employees (CUE). “We’re here to protest the fact that Yudof is the main presenter.”
Inside the event, many of the dozens of attendees at the event seemed optimistic about the economy and sympathetic toward cuts to education. Congressmember Lois Capps said the University of California’s recent exposure to furloughs and pay cuts “pains” her, but that Yudof and the Regents “have to do what they have to do.”
“Education is the key to getting our economy back on track,” said Capps. “Every time they have to [make cuts] it’s a hardship.”
However, Capps said the day’s award ceremony shows that the community is “paying attention to how the economy is going.”
Alberto Alvarado, Los Angeles’ District Director of the Small Businesses Association agreed, saying in his welcome address that the small business community is “responsible for economic recovery.”
Stories such as that of Jimmie Cho - director of the Southern California Gas Co., whose father came to the states with “$100 in his pocket and no friends and started a business” - inspired a sense of economic renewal. Capps, who discussed the American Recovery and Investment Renewal Act and green technology, lightened the typically downtrodden attitude toward the economy by giving her respects to those “trying to create jobs in the midst of downsizing.”
Still, protestors outside the DoubleTree wondered why Yudof was chosen to speak in lieu of someone who actually runs a small business. Shouting slogans like “Lay Off Yudof” and slinging signs displaying his yearly earning of “$800,000 ++,” UC workers said they felt the slump in California’s economy the strongest. “These cuts have serious detrimental effects on the over 170,000 faculty and staff [in the UC system] for many years,” said Rodney Orr, legislative and political chair of the University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE). “Our bone of contention is whether we have the ability to weather the budget crisis [without cuts.]”
Taking the stage, Yudof made a small joke about the cuts. “I wasn’t sure what to expect in his intro,” said Yudof of UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang’s introduction. “I just cut his salary by 10 percent.”
Good humored, Yudof explained that managing the UC’s $19 billion budget was difficult because much of the money was restricted to certain projects, such as construction, and that many did not understand that the state’s 20 percent reduction of funds for the UC this year forced Yudof to make tough decisions. “A lot of people ask me what it’s like [being president],” said Yudof. “As you can see from the protests out front that it’s not as lonely at the top as I was hoping.” Yudof said the UC system was similar in many ways to the Small Business Association, with “researchers like small businesses” and working with patents to earn the UC money.
But although Yudof said in a later interview that the UC’s biggest revenue sources come from the state at $2.5 billion, patient revenues at $5 billion to $6 billion, and research enterprises at about $4 billion, “the money just isn’t there.” This, said Yudof, is why the UC must impose furloughs. Yudof said that the reserves are there, but “tied up” because much of it is in the form of bond proceeds or endowments.
“The reason we did the furloughs instead of a straight pay reduction is because we thought a lot of our employees deserved to get the day off, and if they could find part-time employment, that would be great,” said Yudof. “And they could reduce some of their expenses, so if they pay day care, they could reduce day care because they can stay home with their children that day.” Yudof said that if they were state workers, they would be furloughed three days per month and would take a salary reduction of 15 percent.
But Orr says workers are already working overtime and other jobs as well. “Eighty to 90 percent of all UC employees are on other sources of income already,” said Orr. “When I worked at the college of engineering, my entire pay came from grants!”
Still, Yudof said that although professors’ wages lie 19 percent below the market and chancellors are under one third, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) worker wages are level.
“They have a five-year contract with a 4 percent wage increase in the first year and every year after that [and] they have step increases all along the way,” said Yudof of AFSCME members within the UC system. “They’re sitting pretty well I would say in this economic downturn, where there are so many people who are unemployed who are not getting raises.”
Yudof said that his own salary was cut and that bonuses and incentive pay for those at the top have been “frozen.” “I did get a 10 percent reduction [in pay], and all I can say is it was not always what people agree with, but there are markets.”
Despite discrepancies in pay cuts, Yudof said he expects “everyone to sacrifice some” which is why they have to ask - because, he said, “we can’t demand” for AFSCME workers to accept furloughs, too.
Yudof said that students especially “really take it on the chin no matter what the solution.”
He said he expects larger classes, fewer classes, and less courses that students need to graduate this coming fall. In addition, he said, tuition costs and other student fees will increase.
“When the state cuts your budget by 20 percent, they send a message that the state’s not going to support you in a fashion to keep those fees down,” said Yudof. “So I would urge the students to make their voices heard in Sacramento, because that’s where they need to be heard.”
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story contained a quote from Janet Garufis, CEO and President of Montecito Bank & Trust, that has since been removed after Garufis said it did not accurately represent what she said at the event.
Bianca Licata is an Independent intern.