Members from one of UC Santa Barbara’s student-worker unions called for a meeting with Chancellor Henry T. Yang on Tuesday to demand a resolution to UCPath’s ongoing issues, citing widespread miscommunication problems.
Union members of UAW Local 2865 marched into Cheadle Hall around noon on Tuesday and presented a letter to Yang, which asked that the administration “fulfill the fundamental legal obligation of the University of California to pay its employees on time.”
Yang brought in several other high-level administrators to the impromptu meeting — including Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall, Office of Budget and Planning Assistant Chancellor Chuck Haines and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn — all of whom he said would be able to provide more insight as to how UCSB can help ensure its students get paid.
Although UAW representatives entered the meeting intending to leave with a strict commitment from the university to either solve or follow up on these problems, the two hour meeting ended with no direct promises on UCSB’s part.
Administrators at the meeting cited legal barriers in dealing with unions that prevented them from making promises without coordinating with UC Labor Relations.
The two groups discussed “unexpected stress on our families, unnecessary credit score reductions, and extreme strain on our mental health,” as stated in the letter from UAW union members. They attributed all of this to the disruption in their pay, an issue they said plagued both undergraduate and graduate students.
“When we are unable to fulfill our financial obligations as students, such as paying tuition and fees, we are penalized,” UAW member Mariah Clegg said, reading the letter to Yang and other administration members seated around the table.
“Why shouldn’t the university be held accountable for compensating workers for the losses caused by its failure to pay workers on time?”
UAW presented several demands to the administration in their letter, the most urgent of which asked UCSB to pay all workers what they are owed by Feb. 1.
“A lot of people are told that someone is working on it, but it’s not always clear what that means, if there’s any sort of timeline,” Lisa August-Schmidt, sergeant at arms on the UAW Statewide Executive Board, said in an interview with the Nexus.
“In general, what I’ve found to be incredibly frustrating in dealing with the university via Labor Relations or directly, [is that] they’ve been really unwilling to acknowledge how big of a problem this is.”
Administrators continually noted throughout the meeting that while they knew about the pay problems and had been actively working to fix them, they had been unaware of many of the ripple effects of the delayed pay. They thanked the members for bringing it to their attention.
Marshall admitted there was a “flaw in the design” of UCPath and said the administration was working to help address students’ grievances.
“We’re meeting about this every week and trying to make it work,” he said during the meeting. “I think we’ve made some progress, but every new payday is another test of the system.”
The union members shared personal anecdotes regarding their own experiences with UCPath to emphasize the urgency of the problem.
One member said she had been overpaid by $900 during Fall Quarter 2018. After returning the money then, she said she received a letter on Jan. 15 saying that she needed to pay the money back by Jan. 14, or it would be sent to collections.
“On top of missing pay, many workers were faced with credit card late fees, unexpected transportation costs when bus passes were denied due to late fee remission, and were forced to skip meals to make ends meet. One worker’s car was repossessed for not making timely payments,” the letter stated.
UAW representatives and administrators agreed that communication was one of the largest issues exacerbating the payment issues; both noted that there was not one office that students could approach if they were experiencing payment issues.
One of UAW’s demands was to establish a single point of contact “so that workers’ problems do not have to go through multiple bureaucratic layers before coming to the attention of UCPath,” the letter stated.
Throughout the meeting, Yang asked his administrators about what issues could be solved immediately, expressing concern that there were still students not being paid on time, leaving them unable to pay rent.
He was especially thrown off by the figure listed in the letter, which stated that “none of the thirty-some tutors and readers in the Accounting program were paid at all during fall quarter as a result of complications with UCPath.”
Since its implementation at the beginning of Fall Quarter 2018, UCPath, a program aimed at streamlining the way all UC workers get paid, has caused an uproar among student workers at UC campuses, primarily graduate students.
The union first filed a grievance regarding UCPath issues on Oct. 19, according to August-Schmidt. The union put out a survey on Oct. 8 regarding UC Path’s issues; they have received over 500 responses across the UC system so far.
One of the difficulties with the new system is that it consolidated payroll at UC Riverside, meaning that individual campuses had less power to address any issues that emerged.
UAW workers at UCSB felt that the deployment of UCPath at other campuses should be delayed until the full scope of problems it has caused has been solved.
“There hasn’t really been a satisfying acknowledgment of the kind of havoc this creates in people’s lives,” August-Schmidt said.
Updated [Feb. 2]
A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the Jan. 31, 2019 edition of the Daily Nexus.
Evelyn Spence is the county news editor at the Daily Nexus and can be reached at email@example.com. Sanya Kamidi is an asst. news editor at the Daily Nexus and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.