Following last fall’s academic strike, United Auto Workers, or UAW, members are receiving overpayment notices from the UC Office of the President, or UCOP.
Tanzil Chowdhury, unit chair of UAW 2865 at UC Berkeley and graduate student research assistant in the material science engineering department, said UAW members began receiving letters about overpayment notices two weeks ago for about $2,000 per worker.
“We did not get any direct notice from the university that this was happening,” Chowdhury said. “(UCOP) sent notices out eight months after we were on strike and have not provided options that don’t financially burden members, have not provided real accounting for the numbers requested and no system to dispute the amount requests.”
The UAW is currently evaluating how many workers have received notices, he added.
Chowdhury alleged that UCOP’s response indicates that the overpayment notices are not being requested in a lawful manner.
“In the context of numerous contract violations since we have signed our contracts and our attempts to make sure they are followed, the University has done widespread retaliation attempts,” Chowdhury alleged. “(We) can not help but read this as another part of the retaliatory puzzle.”
He further alleged that since signing contracts eight months ago, there have been numerous violations, and at UC San Diego, some UAW members faced student misconduct charges and arrests.
Further allegations against the UC, Chowdhury noted, include a wide range of contract violations such as disregarding the respectful work environment article, bullying, improper appointment of members, health and safety issues and late or inaccurate paychecks.
“The contract is only as strong as our ability to enforce it, and the University’s retaliation is something we are not going to let stand,” Chowdhury said. “We will keep fighting — we are going to win.”
Ana Sanz Matias, who recently finished her contract as a postdoctoral scholar at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, or LBNL, received an overpayment letter from LBNL.
Sanz Matias, an international scholar who has left the country, received the letter on July 25, a month after her contract ended in June.
“I was surprised,” Sanz Matias said. “The letter had no details with employee numbers, specific numbers or money I had to give back. Apparently, we should be given some repayment options, but that was not clear at all in the letter.”
According to a statement by UC spokesperson Ryan King, the UC is in full support of unionized employees’ right to engage in legally protected actions.
As a public employer, workers cannot be paid for work that is not performed, according to the statement.
“Consistent with this obligation, the University sent letters to employees who didn’t perform assigned work over the strike period, and the amount they owe the University for pay they received while not working,” King said in the statement.
According to the statement, the letters give employees options for repayment. Payments can be spread out over a year for any amount greater than $100. Emergency loans and advancements on individual’s financial aid can be made available, King added that employees are “encouraged” to inquire into possible financial assistance.
In addition, employees have the option to contact UCPath to discuss alternate repayment options, according to King’s statement.
Despite UC’s statement, Sanz Matias noted a discrepancy in her reported time.
She said she already received her pay dock in December 2022, and was aware this would happen when she struck, and noted that she didn’t report her time in November during the strike.
Despite Sanz Matias having no time to report due to the strike, LBNL asked her to report her time for November and December in the following months.
“I am proud that I was on strike and the wins we got,” Sanz Matias said. “This feels frustrating.”