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Unions challenge U-C plan to dock pay of workers who went on strike

The Berkeley campus of The University of California
Flickr / Creative Commons
The Berkeley campus of The University of California

That’s because the raises University of California graduate student workers won after the historic work stoppage have come with a big caveat: Those same UC workers will have to repay all the money they earned while they were on strike.

Ryan King, a spokesperson for The University of California Office of the President, wrote in an email Friday to CalMatters that UC "may not legally pay our employees or gift them funds if they did not provide a service to the institution."

He cited state and federal rules that forbid the university from paying employees who didn't work.

But unions representing the striking workers allege that how the UC is going about this is all wrong.

Rafael Jaime, president of the UAW 2865, the union of 19,000 teaching assistants, tutors and instructors, said the UC is violating state labor law by unilaterally docking pay, without first allowing workers to review how much the university plans to claw back.

Lawyers representing the three unions that struck last year filed an unfair labor practice charge against the UC on Thursday with the state's Public Employment Relations Board.

Core to the complaint is that the UC will deduct pay "without getting employee consent or first notifying employees of the actual deduction amounts before money was withheld from their paychecks."

The move would affect at least the 12,000 postdoctoral and academic research workers, who struck until Dec. 9 and the 36,000 graduate student workers who formally went back to work Dec. 23.

Sunni M. Khalid is a veteran of more than 40 years in journalism, having worked in print, radio, television, and web journalism.