UC student workers and part-time employees are criticizing UC President Janet Napolitano’s recently announced plan to increase minimum wage for UC employees, claiming the plan is not inclusive of employees working less than 20 hours a week.
The Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan, which Napolitano announced at the July UC Board of Regents meeting, will raise the minimum wage by $1 per year for direct and service contract UC employees to $15 an hour over the next three years. Companies which provide services to the UC through contracting will also be required to comply with the new minimum wage policies. According to a UCOP press release, the cost of the wage increases will be covered by “non-core funds” such as bookstores and food services, which are separate from “core fund” revenue sources, which include tuition.
Fifth-year sociology major Alberto Perez said the plan benefits full-time UC and UC contract workers, but excludes student workers who typically only work 20 hours per week at most while attempting to provide for tuition and living costs.
“For student workers, the UC has had this kind of unspoken rule that suggests students don’t work over 20 hours because it might cut into their schoolwork and education, which makes sense in most cases,” Perez said. “However, you have … students that need to work at least 20 hours to be in school in the first place.”
According to Perez, the limitations of the new minimum wage hike and exclusion of certain employees have been overlooked in favor of “positive press” for the UC system.
“So their motivation is trying to be the beacon of light,” Perez said. “The one minor detail that nobody really covered is that many employees are left out.”
President of the UC Student-Workers Union (UAW 2865) and graduate student at UC Santa Cruz Robert Cavooris said the UC has good intentions with the minimum wage increase, but the exclusion of many part-time workers is questionable.
“UC trying to encourage workers with this increase is laudable, but the way they are doing it doesn’t really seem to show that they care about all of their workers,” Cavooris said.
According to Cavooris, the limitations of the plan are difficult to amend because UC Office of the President (UCOP) is directly in charge.
“I don’t know that there are any specific union actions planned, however, we know that when people are together and working together, workers are in a better position to have more power,” Cavooris said. “So this is the best thing we can do to ensure that people get a fair wage and we have power as workers.”
Cavooris said unionization will be critical to ensuring worker benefits for all UC employees as the plan develops further.
“This is a totally top-down initiative on one level … it also is related to a more general climate of work connectivity across the country which includes the fight for $15 an hour in many industries,” Cavooris said. “We’re organizing ourselves to make sure we can continue to push for things like this in the future, while making sure this doesn’t just apply to a few workers again.”
Second-year electrical engineering major Himangshu Chowdhury said he thinks the announcement is a step in the right direction, and he hopes more wage increases will follow.
“I just don’t think UC has the budget to universally increase wages for every worker at the moment,” Chowdhury said. “Hopefully, as they revise their budget, student workers will see more benefits follow in the near future.”
According to Perez, the UC would rather hire more workers with fewer hours than take on the costs of an increased minimum wage for part-time employees. Perez also said the wage increase affects him as a part-time employee at Portola dining commons.
“The students never will see the $13 hours, and on top of that students will have less to work with, so that’s the concern that I have … a lot students like myself that have to work at least 20 hours to get by,” Perez said.
Perez said if the UC aims to cut costs and students lose the freedom to increase hours, productivity and morale will decrease.
“Things come up for students, and they will want to have the flexibility to work more … if they can’t, they might quit, causing management to hire more people which we have to train, and thus productivity goes down in general,” Perez said. “Ultimately, I just feel the UCOP put this policy out there without thinking what it means for certain people.”