The unionized workers' mood didn't brighten at all with the U.C. regents' recent decision to augment many of the execs' salaries while dipping into theirs. Also miffed was State Sen. Leland Yee, who has become one of the most pointed critics of the U.C. system.
"Well, I'm just not surprised by U.C. policies anymore. The most outrageous and arrogant things happen," he told SF Weekly. "When you have these top administrators making hundreds and thousands of dollars, clearly there are other ways to balance this particular budget" other than furloughing workers.Yee's efforts to win the legislature more fiscal oversight of the U.C. system have rattled the Regents into seeking the aid -- and influence -- of a number of local multi-millionaires. When asked what millionaires or billionaires he had in his corner, Yee laughed.
"The only people I have are the workers," said the U.C. Berkeley alum.
Yee would like to change the state constitution to allow him and other elected officials to compel the U.C. system to divulge its balance books. But even without going over the system's ledgers he feels the Regents brushed off a number of solutions to their fiscal crisis in favor of the easy move of bleeding workers.
"They can look at their reserves, look at their endowments, or private enterprise departments like hospitals," he said. "There are many other revenue streams they have access to."
While U.C. President Mark Yudof (salary: $828,000) said draconian moves were necessary to offset roughly $813 million in anticipated state shortfalls, Yee feels that's a cop-out.
"U.C. continually makes the argument that they're getting less and less money from the state, so they ought not be held accountable by the state of California," he said. "Last I checked, they were not a private country club. They're a public asset. And so long as they're a public asset, the people represented need to have some say what goes on within that institution. There are many other things U.C. should be looking at other than furloughing faculty members and employees."