On Thursday, UC workers experienced the first of three planned increases by the UC system to their hourly minimum wage, which rose to $13.
According to a press release by the UC Office of the President, or UCOP, “thousands of direct and contract employees” will benefit from this increase over the next two years. Under the UC Fair Wage/Fair Work Plan, which was announced in July, all UC employees who work 20 hours or more a week will be guaranteed an hourly wage of $13 starting Thursday. In October 2016, this minimum will rise to $14 an hour, and in 2017, to $15 an hour.
Contract workers from companies doing business with the university must pay workers at the same level or exceeding the UC minimum wage, effective in contracts renewed or established as of Thursday.
“It’s really nice,” said campus junior Sarah Dhillon, a library employee, who said she received her raise approximately a month ago.“I can put in less hours and I still get paid the same.”
The UC system is the first public university system in the United States to implement a minimum wage of $15 voluntarily, the press release said. This new hourly wage will be higher than California’s, which is currently $9 an hour and set to increase to $10 an hour on Jan. 1, 2016.
Campus senior Kristian Kim, a member of the UC Berkeley Student Labor Committee, said that while this increase in UC minimum wage “will drastically transform the lives of the thousands of contract workers … it’s still not enough.”
Kim said a minimum wage of $15 an hour is not a substitute for retirement plans, job security, sick days or affordable health care.
“This gesture is not a benevolent gesture, but it’s a blatant attempt to pacify contract workers,” Kim said.
On Sept. 24, UC Berkeley contract workers went public with their demands to the university, through a “speak-out” organized by the Student Labor Committee.
“They’re making less than some students have been making on campus,” Kim said. “They can’t even dream about sending their own kids to this university. We’re in the process of rallying students and getting people informed about what’s really happening.”
According to UCOP spokesperson Kate Moser, the majority of the funding for this new plan will come from noncore funding in the form of sales and service revenue, generated by facilities such as bookstores. This funding is completely separate from the revenue generated by UC tuition and other student fees.
Moser also added that in order to ensure that these new minimum wage policies are being enforced, all contractors will be submitted to annual audits, paid for by the contractors themselves. These audits will be performed each time an existing contract comes up for renewal.
“(This plan) is another way that the University of California is a leader — leading in the effort to make sure workers are paid fairly,” Moser said.