In recent months, the UC system decided to raise the minimum wage on its campuses to 15 dollars per hour over the next three years. While this raise does stand to benefit some of the UC system’s employees, it deceptively excludes students from its benefits via a twenty hour minimum work load requirement. To put it bluntly, the new wage is a deliberate slap in the face of student workers. In the long run, this choice will be to the detriment of both the UC system and its students, but in the meantime, the UC system will continue to make a mockery out of what it means to be a part-time worker.
The prospect of paying part-time workers less than full-time workers does have merit. To some, this seems pragmatic — the more you work, the more you should get paid; but, in this case, condemning students to less pay because you force them to work part-time is simply unfair.
Currently, the UC system mandates that students work less than twenty hours per week; furthermore, students who exceed that twenty hour limit are subject to penalty. The issue with these requirements is that even if students wanted to work full-time on campus, they just can’t. This does a huge injustice to students in desperate need of money, as they must then turn elsewhere for additional hours, which butchers their pay even further.
UC Berkeley has even acknowledged that students working more than twenty hours have the highest dropout rate, yet the school ignores this recommendation and force students into this dangerous ultimatum.
If the legislation allowed students access to the new wage boost, then we could give the university the benefit of the doubt. But it’s apparent that students were intentionally excluded for the sake of profit. This broaches a question for both current students and their posterity: should we continue to work on campus or take our work elsewhere?
Competition is the lynchpin of capitalism. It keeps firms honest and, in turn, keeps consumers satisfied. If the university had increased student wages, it could’ve edged out its competition through convenience, flexible hours and better benefits. But instead, they chose to keep student wages stagnant. Students who are employed by universities already lack the insurance and health-care benefits that other workers have, so this move only adds further incentive for students to seek out local alternatives to on-campus employment. Eventually, the university’s refusal to offer students the same rights as their counterparts will backfire, as students will begin to default to nearby jobs that offer benefits and better pay.
This trend already occurs in the realm of on-campus housing. Students deliberately disregard the convenience housing provides in order to frugally reside in Isla Vista. While housing and working situations do differ, you can still draw conclusions through a bit of extrapolation. That being said, it would benefit neither the university nor the students for students to look elsewhere for jobs.
Students, who arguably need the money most, shouldn’t be inconvenienced with having to search for better jobs, especially not at the hands of the school they attend. Having to fulfill numerous responsibilities as students puts us at a significant disadvantage compared to our counterparts, who can spend their time exhausting every possibility in Isla Vista. And while some students may have this luxury, other students find themselves gasping for air between classes and work.
Students shouldn’t hesitate to take initiative. Standing idly and complying with this legislation would be almost a nod of approval in the eyes of the university; it signals that we find nothing wrong with the current labor situation. Students should consider a wholesale rejection of this legislation and attempt to negotiate new legislation that will also benefit them. This would demonstrate to the university that we are more than just another way to maximize profit, and simultaneously foster a better relationship between students and faculty. At the end of the day, it is up to students to contest discriminatory legislation, and prevent the university from putting out legislation that is out of hand.