Striking workers at University of California have to repay wages

, Spencer Irvine, Leave a comment

Several weeks after ending their months-long strike, graduate student workers at the University of California received shocking news: they will have to repay their wages to the university.

Although the University of California said it respected workers’ decision to strike, it means that the “principled decision” meant that there will be a reduction of wages because of workers choosing to withhold work from their employer.

According to university spokesperson, Ryan King, the university is legally obligated to seek repayment of wages paid out to striking workers. The statement said that the university “may not legally pay our employees or gift them funds if they did not provide a service to the institution.” Specifically, King referred to both state and federal regulations that prevent the payment of workers who are not working and are on strike, which regulations govern grants and other income to the university.

The university said that the workers who went on strike have the option to spread out the repayments over multiple pay periods, or other options such as “direct pay options, providing additional appointments when available, and working to increase work on grants when it comports with the terms of the grant.”

Instead of accepting blame, a union president criticized the university for a lack of transparency on how much needs to get repaid to the university. Rafael Jaime, UAW 2865 president whose union represents 19,000 teaching assistants, tutors, and instructors, said, “There needs to be a fair process to make sure that workers aren’t left with additional hardships.” UAW 2865 and other unions filed an official unfair labor charge with California’s employment relations board over not being consulted about the wage repayment announcement.

Additionally, workers who chose to strike have to fill out some paperwork, such as a “self-attestation” form to record their work hours during the strike. A complicating factor with the form is that the various unions went on strike or ended their strike on different days and workers will have to figure out how to accurately record their work hours.

Then, there is the additional headache that the strike could affect Social Security and Medicare wages when filing taxes. The University of California said that the university will have to reissue the tax form IRS Form W-2c to reflect labor withheld and crediting work towards Social Security and Medicare.

The university’s response was that it has “been communicating with UAW since before the strike began on a self-attestation for covering work missed over the work stoppage period.”

Time will tell how much the university is owed by its workers and how the situation is resolved between the unions, workers, and university administration.