To the Editor:
The current struggle between the University of California and its employees, which has resulted in two recent strikes at Berkeley, Davis, Riverside, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Irvine, is not just about money. It is about the allocation of money. UC keeps saying they would like to give its employees a raise but they can’t because of state budget cuts. They are implying that they have no choice because it is “the law.” The unions are saying that paying employees from state funds is only a “tradition” which can and should be broken.
All of this reminds me of a conversation I had with my son when he was a teenager. One day he asked me for some special basketball shoes that he said would transform him into the next Michael Jordan. I told him, “We don’t have the money.” He replied, “But what about that money you put away for a ‘rainy day?’” “That,” I retorted, “is for emergencies.” “Well this is an emergency,” he said. “No, it is not,” I replied. Things got heated at this point on the issue of allocation. Finally, my son marched off, and I thought that was the end of it.
What happened next? Well my son went on strike . . . so to speak. I will spare you the details. Let’s just say that by the end of the week I was at my wits end. Not wanting to cave in, I sat down with my son, and we talked things over. He explained to me that these shoes were important for his morale. He had just barely made the basketball team. He wanted to do well and shoes were important. They would cushion the impact of the running and jumping. He would not stand out like a sore thumb next to the other kids on the team whose parents had more money than we did.
By the end of the conversation, I realized we were not talking about money and shoes. We were talking about self-esteem and success. So I gave in. I went to the “rainy day” fund (even though it was sunny outside), took out what amounted to about 1 percent of the money and bought him the shoes. Karl went on to be the MVP of the basketball team and got a full scholarship to Dominican College in San Rafael.
The point of my story is this: The unions at Cal have found the “rainy day” fund that the university says is earmarked for other things. It amounts to billions (not millions) of dollars. As hard-working employees, we want them to give us some of that money so we can pay our bills, give up our second job, and take care of our kids’ needs.
Boalt Hall School of Law