SB 698, which won bipartisan support on May 23, would eliminate the University of California’s exemption from strict wage laws and make it illegal for UC workers to be paid late if it is passed, according to a press release from the UC Student-Workers Union, also known as United Auto Workers Local 2865.
Introduced by state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, the bill, which passed in the Senate with a 38-0 vote, will encourage the UC system to “prioritize the accurate and timely payment of their employees” if it is passed, according to the press release. According to UAW Local 2865 President Kavitha Iyengar in the press release, for most employers, failure to pay employees on time is considered wage theft, but when the new UC payment system, UCPath, was launched, “hundreds if not thousands of UC employees were underpaid or not paid at all for months.”
“Because there is no penalty for this, UC chose to use its own workers as an interest-free bank as they worked out the system’s glitches,” Iyengar said in the press release. “Without accountability measures in place, we have no doubt that UC will continue to take advantage of workers who have no legal recourse.”
According to the press release, for some, any delay in pay can result in severe consequences. Rent-burdened student workers who earn an average annual salary of about $21,000 could face challenges to their academic goals. Workers who have been affected by UCPath have had to take out loans and run up credit card bills, and they have lost their health care as a result of late payments, according to the press release.
Student workers who received late payments from the UC have had their classes dropped and have been threatened with eviction from campus housing after being unable to pay their bills, according to the press release.
“As a worker, when I can’t meet my financial obligations, I am held accountable – and it shouldn’t be any different for UC,” UCLA graduate student worker Laura Muñoz said in the press release. “I want to thank Senator Leyva for taking action to protect us against these abuses, and I hope the State Assembly will follow her lead.”
Muñoz was charged with student loan fees after not being paid at all by the UC in November, according to the press release.
According to UC Office of the President spokesperson Amy Weitz, the UC has been “tracking the progress” of the bill “closely” and is in discussion with Leyva.
“We are encouraged by today’s vote, and look forward to moving this bill forward in the Assembly,” Iyengar said in the press release.