By Annie Liebman

The topic of wage equity for UC Santa Cruz service workers dominated the conversation when Chancellor George Blumenthal took the stage for a faculty Brown Bag lunch last Wednesday.

A diverse group of faculty members filled the Stevenson event center for the first of two opportunities this quarter for faculty to discuss concerns with the chancellor.

Blumenthal addressed a crowd that ranged from campus service workers to undergraduate advisors: “We are working like a well oiled machine,” he said. “I want to thank [the staff] for your efforts.”

But the staff seemed less content.

During the question and answer section, one UCSC custodian told Blumenthal that service workers earn 35 percent less compared to other custodians in the area, and that many custodians at UCSC have to work two jobs just to support their families.

“I would argue that I have already made that commitment [to increase salaries],” Blumenthal said in response. “Everybody [at UCSC] is underpaid relative to local institutions.”

He then brought the question to the collective: “If you’re paid too much, raise your hand.”

No one moved.

According to an often-cited 2006 report done by the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), UC custodians make 25 percent less in salary than their CSU counterparts.

In addition to faculty, UCSC students also made their way to the lunch and most sympathized with faculty members.

Laura Barringer, a second-year student, thinks that Blumenthal should try to put himself on the same level as some of the lowest-paid workers on campus. “Is [Blumenthal] saying his salary is insufficient?” Barringer asked.

When asked if he would be willing to decrease wages of some of the higher-paid staff on campus to make wages more equal, Blumenthal said, “I don’t think I would feel comfortable doing that.”

Blumenthal stands to make approximately $310,000 per year, according to a Sept. 19 press release on the UCSC website.

Kate Flannagan, a fourth-year feminist studies major who also attended the meeting, does not believe Blumenthal is doing enough to make wages equal.

“He believes in this idea of class hierarchy and that some people should be paid more,” Flannagan said. “Everyone should be paid enough to work just one job.”

Among the other issues brought up at the Brown Bag forum were concerns over departmental funding. An undergraduate advisor from the social sciences department raised concerns over dwindling resources in her division.

According to the budget summary for 2007-08, the total funding for the Social Sciences division is approximately $5 million less than that of the Physical and Biological sciences division.

Blumenthal then said that there is a lack of funds among all divisions. “There are tremendous demands on our operating budget,” Blumenthal said. “We simply don’t have enough money.”