University of California Plans to Deduct Pay for Employees who Participated in Strike 

The University of California is planning to retroactively dock pay of the 48,000 workers who participated in the historic strike last year. The UC distributed attestation forms in mid-January to academic workers that requested each participant report an estimate of the amount of duties they missed. 

The form asks workers to list days, percentage of work, or hours missed during the duration of the strike, which will presumably be used to calculate the deductions. While it is legal for workers to participate in strikes, employees who fill out the form are at risk of losing their pay during the duration of the strike which lasted from Nov. 13 through Dec. 23 (or Dec. 9 for academic researchers and postdoctoral units). 

An email sent to academic workers containing the attestation form leads with the following statement: 

“The University respects its employees’ right to strike. The University has a concurrent responsibility as a public employer to align compensation with work effort provided to the institution, consistent with the award of federal grant funds and the allocation of State funds committed to the University as a public trust.”

During the strike, many employees were paid by their respective unions for fulfilling their strike duties, receiving $400 per week in addition to their normal payroll. The majority of academic workers are not paid on an hourly basis, and it remains unclear how such calculations will be made or how much of employees’ pay will be deducted.

The UCSD Guardian contacted Ryan King, the Associate Director of Media Relations for UC Office of the President, for comment regarding the deductions and processes involved. 

“As we move from gathering information through the attestation process to applying that information to our payroll, we will continue to work with our campuses, employees, and the union on the best way to fairly record that time, provide information to our employees, and align pay to the work performed,” King said. 

Furthermore, he echoed the same sentiment that the retroactive deductions will be made as a part of responsible management of public funds.

“The rules for these funds provide that the University may not legally pay our employees or gift them funds if they did not provide a service to the institution,” King said.

King did not relay any further information regarding how the UC will move forward with the information gathered from the forms or if there will be any repercussions for those who have chosen not to complete them. 

According to the Fair UC Now website, which publishes communications to all of the represented union workers including UAW 5810, UAW 2865 and SRU-UAW, they recommend workers to complete the form in order to receive protection from disciplinary action and accusations that they did not complete their duties. However, since the UC does not have the right to dock workers’ pay without their permission, they advise workers to change the form to the following: 

“I do not authorize the University to dock my paycheck for any overpayment without my express written consent. I request that the University provide me with an accurate accounting of any overpayment made during the course of the strike, a reasonable opportunity to review the University’s overpayment calculation, and a process to correct the amount if necessary. Along with the University’s overpayment accounting, please also provide me with several options of how I can repay any overpayment, including the option of docking the overpayment in equal amounts via payroll over the course of three months, so that I can select the option that works best for me.”

The three unions have filed an Unfair Practice Charge against the UC for their pursuit of deducting employees’ pay prior to gaining their consent and not notifying the deduction amounts. 

Such responses to the strike by the UC come amidst complaints against professors retaliating against strikers at UC San Diego. Accusations have burgeoned against Assistant Teaching Professor in the chemistry and biochemistry department Jeremy Klosterman has been accused of assigning more ‘U’ grades against strikers than any other professor in the UC system. According to flyers distributed across campus, union representatives have allegedly contacted and initiated discussions with Professor Klosterman, however, he has refused to attend such meetings. 

UCSD administrators have yet to make any announcements regarding this matter.

Photo by Kathleen Shiroma for The UCSD Guardian.

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