Unionized UC Berkeley workers rally against new pay calculations

Elaina Provencio/Staff

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Some unionized UC Berkeley employees held a rally Friday morning, calling attention to grievances with the University of California.

The rally was organized by the union Teamsters Local 2010, with endorsements from the University Professional and Technical Employees, or UPTE, and the UC Student-Workers Union. Around 20 to 25 demonstrators gathered for about an hour on the corner of University Avenue and Oxford Street, holding picket signs. Teamsters Local 2010 spokesperson Matthew Mason said most of the attendees were on break or using vacation time to attend the rally.

UC spokesperson Shelly Meron said in an email that the university has shifted employees who are nonexempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act — including those working at UC Berkeley — to biweekly pay instead of monthly pay. But according to the unions, there have been alleged miscalculations in the accrual of employees’ vacation and sick leave, and Mason said there were reports of some employees allegedly receiving incorrect pay.

According to Jean Day, president of the local UPTE union chapter, under the new biweekly pay system, union employees will be paid for eight fewer hours per year. Mason said this change, while small, was not agreed to by the unions, and Day said the unions consider this a “violation of past practice.”

Employees from the UC Student-Workers Union were not affected by the alleged reduction in paid hours. Day said UPTE is facing the same issues as the Teamsters Local 2010 members.

Adding to their grievances is the systemwide change from paper timesheets to a new system known as “CalTime,” which demonstrator Marchella Thomas said is not easy to use.

“For a campus where social justice is important, you would think that this would be of more importance,” said Laura Spautz, a Teamsters Local 2010 member and UC Berkeley alumna who attended the rally.

Mason said that some of these lower-paid employees are already living hand to mouth and that this mistake by the university is “adding insult to injury.”

Teamsters Local 2010 said in a press release that the goals of this rally were not only to educate the public on the employees’ grievances with the UC system but also to highlight the pay that UC employees receive. According to a recent Economic Policy Institute study cited in the press release, 80 percent of the union’s members are not paid enough to live in the cities in which their campuses reside.

Meron said in an email that the UC system recognizes wages and high costs of living are a national issue but that “the university does its part” and sometimes leads the market when it comes to wages and benefits for union-represented employees.

Halfway through the rally, Teamsters Local 2010 employees met with UC Berkeley labor relations advocate Joyce Harlan in regards to a grievance filed by the union. The meeting lasted more than three hours.

Campus spokesperson Janet Gilmore said in an email that the campus was working to resolve issues that occurred when employee information was imported into CalTime.

Mason said after the grievance hearing that there are still some points of confusion that the university agreed to work through but that union workers will be content as long as the “UC continues to work with (them) and respond quickly to members.”

Contact Elaina Provencio at [email protected].

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article stated that union employees will be paid or eight fewer hours per year under a new contract. In fact, the change came under a new biweekly pay system.