CA Gov. Newsom signs bill ensuring UC workers’ timely pay

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Earlier this month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed SB 698 into law, which will now require the UC system to have the same wage and hour protections as private employers and encourage university administrators to “prioritize the accurate, timely and fair payment of their employees.”

The legislation — authored by state Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, and signed Oct. 4 — will eliminate the exemption of UC system workers from Section 204 of the California Labor Code which guarantees workers the right to be paid on time, according to the bill’s fact sheet.

Since September 2018, hundreds of low-wage UC system workers continued to work without a paycheck for many weeks. According to a press release from Leyva, this delay in wages was the result of the poor implementation of the UCPath payroll system.

Mia McIver, president of the UC-AFT, who has supported the ratification of this bill since March 2019, said UCPath has put UC system teaching faculty through many pay complications, and believes SB 698 will help avoid them in the future.

“There are just overwhelming numbers of employees who get paid less than they should or don’t get paid at all,” McIver said. “This bill is going to help issues that the UC creates with its policies and programs like UCPath, but it’s also going to help with other issues for the teaching faculty that are just kind of more typical and that happen on an everyday level.”

According to McIver, there are a large amount of faculty members that go a long period of time without a paycheck. McIver added that many UC system workers will not receive their first paycheck of the school year until Nov. 1.

“No wages, no paychecks,” McIver said. “It’s a really long time to go without any salary, so we are hopeful that the bill will be able to negotiate a better pay schedule for fall quarter paychecks.”

The affected academic student employees — many of whom make approximately $21,000 or less annually — were directed to food pantries by administrators during times when they were without pay, according to the fact sheet for SB 698.

More than 160 teaching assistants, tutors and researchers at UC Berkeley have reported missing pay since April of this year, according to UAW Local 2865 President Kavitha Iyengar and Hero Ashman, head steward of UAW Local 2865.

Andrew Gordon, a UC Office of the President spokesperson, said in an email that the UC system has resolved the issues workers have experienced and compensated those employees who experienced delays in pay. Gordon also noted that the bill will not have any impact on the UC system’s autonomy or finances.

In the bill, Leyva said with the signature of this legislation, California will now “stand firmly on the side of workers and will continue to battle the fight of wage theft.”

“We continue to apply the lessons learned, and we continue to plan for unforeseen issues by providing extra support staff to provide customer support after campuses have joined UCPath,” Gordon said in an email.

Contact Olivia González Britt at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @Oliviagbritt.