UC minimum wage will rise to $15 per hour in 2017

Napolitano
Michael Ball/File

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SAN FRANCISCO — The minimum wage for UC workers will rise to $15 within the next three years, announced UC President Janet Napolitano on Wednesday.

The plan, announced at the UC Board of Regents meeting, applies to all UC employees who work at least 20 hours a week. The minimum wage will rise to $13 an hour in October, $14 a year later and finally to $15 on Oct. 1, 2017.

“Our staff members also play a critical role in making the University of California a world-renowned institution,” Napolitano said at the meeting. “How we support our workers and their families impacts Californians who might never set foot on a UC campus.”

The university will also ensure that all contract workers are receiving at least the UC minimum wage, according to a UC press release. The university will establish a hotline and an online complaint system, and will carry out annual and spot audits of its contractors.

The plan is not designed to “supplant or minimize” the university’s contracting process, Napolitano said.

As the third-largest employer in the state, the UC system will be the first public university in the country to voluntarily establish a minimum wage of $15, according to Napolitano.

Criticism has been mounting around the university’s practice of hiring contract workers and its opposition to state Senate Bill 376, which would require the university to certify that contractors provide to its employees compensation and benefits parallel to those of UC employees.

Todd Stenhouse — spokesperson for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 3299, a union that represents UC workers — said the plan is a “flawed, marginal step forward,” calling it “a symbolic gesture at best.”

Stenhouse said the plan does not do enough for the thousands of contract workers who do similar work compared with that of UC employees but still receive lower wages, with no benefits or security.

“The standard is equal pay for equal work, and the plan falls far short of that,” Stenhouse said.

At a press conference during a break in the meeting, Napolitano said the new policy has been considered for a while and is mainly in response to public comments from previous regents’ meetings.

“We have responsibility here to make sure our lowest-paid employees are earning a livable wage,” Napolitano said. “This is an issue not just for the University of California but also for the state, for the country.”

Representatives from the California Nurses Association, who were observing the meeting, chanted, “It starts now,” in reference to Napolitano announcing that the $15 minimum wage will start in 2017.

Kevin Sabo, acting president of the UC Student Association, called the increase a good step forward but said it is not as comprehensive as what many students were hoping for, as students working less than 20 hours a week will not be covered.

The university will cover most of the costs of the wage increase using revenue from services such as bookstores and food services, according to the press release.

The UC wage increase will surpass the current state and city minimum wages, currently set to be $10 and $11, respectively, by the start of 2016. It is in line with efforts across the country to raise the minimum wage to $15.

Contact Tianyi Dong at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @dong_tianyi.