Capitol Alert

‘Hundreds if not thousands’ of missing paychecks: California lawmakers move UC wage bill

Watch UC Davis residents and fellows demand university recognize their union

Physician residents and fellows at the UC Davis Medical Center rallied May 1, 2019 to urge leaders at the University of California, Davis, to recognize the union they elected in April to represent them.
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Physician residents and fellows at the UC Davis Medical Center rallied May 1, 2019 to urge leaders at the University of California, Davis, to recognize the union they elected in April to represent them.

The University of California would be required to pay its employees on a regular payday under a measure moving through the California Legislature in response to the university system’s ongoing payroll problems.

Senate Bill 698, sponsored by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, would mandate that employees paid monthly receive their wages no later than five days after the close of monthly payroll, while those employees paid on a frequent basis would get their wages according to a regular pay schedule.

It won unanimous approval in the state Senate and now moves to the Assembly. A UC system spokeswoman said that the university president’s office has been tracking the bill closely “and is in discussions with (Sen. Leyva) on the bill.”

“Hundreds if not thousands” of UC employees experienced missed, delayed or miscalculated paychecks as a result of their switch to the UCPath payroll system, according to Kavitha Iyengar, president of the United Auto Workers Local 2865, which represents nearly 19,000 student workers in the UC system.

UCPath is intended to unify all universities under one payroll program. The program has been rolling out university by university, with UC Berkeley the latest to be added. Other schools using UCPath include UC Santa Barbara, UCLA, UC Merced and UC Riverside.

In February, The Sacramento Bee reported that the UC system paid out more than $162,000 to make employees whole. Many of them were graduate students on a limited income. The UC system also covered any taxes incurred by the payout, and offered affected students up to $450 to assist with financial hardships incurred by late or missed payments.

That’s not enough, Iyengar argued in a statement.

“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. “Without accountability measures in place, we have no doubt that UC will continue to take advantage of workers who have no legal recourse.”

SB 698 is supported by several unions and associations, including the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, the California Teamsters Public Affairs Council and the UC Student Association.

There were no organizations or individuals listed in opposition to the bill.

According to an analysis of the bill, the University of California has yet to determine how much SB 698 will cost.

“However, costs would likely be, at most, in the hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to implement the provisions of the amended version of the bill,” according to the analysis.

That money would come from the state’s general fund.

“As a worker, when I can’t meet my financial obligations, I am held accountable — and it shouldn’t be any different for UC,” said Laura Muñoz, a UCLA graduate student who said she went unpaid last November and was charged with student loan fees as a result. “I want to thank Sen. Leyva for taking action to protect us against these abuses, and I hope the state Assembly will follow her lead.”

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