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Editorial: ASUCLA staff treatment reflects UC’s disregard for student worker well-being

By Editorial Board

July 23, 2023 12:47 p.m.

This post was updated July 23 at 7:41 p.m.

Editor’s note: Editorials do not represent the Daily Bruin as a whole. The board encourages readers to respond to our editorials at dailybruin.com/submit.

Though Associated Students UCLA prides itself on the accessibility and flexibility of its student jobs, UCLA’s policies fail to reflect this in the treatment of its student workers.

With students comprising 85% of the association’s staff, it seems reasonable for ASUCLA to accommodate employees managing a full-time academic course load. However, demanding scheduling and rigid pay policy weaken this goal.

California’s Department of Industrial Relations mandates an employee’s overtime compensation to be paid at the rate of one and a half times their regular wage for each hour worked over eight hours a day and double their regular wage for each hour worked over 12 hours a day.

But an exemption from California labor law granted to the University of California has led to ASUCLA student employees being faced with no overtime pay, even when scheduled for shifts as long as 16 hours.

The board sees the UC’s compliance with this exemption as a devaluation of the well-being of student workers and an obstruction of ASUCLA’s claim of providing accessible, flexible employment. The UC, and on a larger scale, California’s labor division, must reevaluate this exemption in order to protect its employees. It is the board’s stance that no UC employee should be exempt from overtime pay, especially the students the University works so hard to serve.

This policy goes against former efforts on UCLA’s part to ensure its student employees are not overworked. The most prevalent of these efforts is the limitation of ASUCLA student employees to a maximum of 20 hours per week, a restriction imposed in order to promote an emphasis on academic duties without excessive work hours interfering with student performance. However, ASUCLA’s scheduling of shifts up to 16 hours, in combination with its willingness to remain exempt from law mandating overtime pay, undercuts any efforts to prioritize the well-being of student employees.

The UC does offer overtime pay for employees exceeding 40 hours per week rather than over eight hours a day, but because of the aforementioned 20-hour cap, student workers would not qualify.

The dispute over how the University addresses labor rights is not new. The UC Board of Regents has a history of lawsuits from former employees alleging that the UC had shortchanged their wages. Additionally, unrest from University employees was pushed to the forefront in late 2022 when the United Auto Workers labor union led 48,000 UC workers in a six-week strike for increased pay and benefits, impacting class schedules and usual academic procedures on all 10 campuses.

The pattern of the UC falling short of the needs of its workers now continues with its failure to provide overtime pay. However, this situation proves to be even more restrictive, as these student employees are not unionized and may not be able to go on strike in the same fashion as UAW graduate students. As a result, the UC must act now to reject this exemption in order to remain consistent with its academics-first philosophy.

ASUCLA employs approximately 1,500 UCLA students each year, many of whom rely on their earnings to financially support themselves and fund their education. Not only is adequate pay essential, but juggling employment with the responsibilities of a full-time student is demanding and must be taken into consideration. Inflexible scheduling on the part of ASUCLA does not place value on these factors.

Students working 16-hour shifts are forced to prioritize their part-time employment over their coursework, academic obligations and, most importantly, their personal well-being. Not offering additional compensation for these hours devalues students’ work in addition to their school commitments. This decision does not align with the UC’s alleged prioritization of students’ academic well-being and puts student workers in a tough position.

The UC’s negligence regarding the well-being of student workers must be reconsidered in order to maintain the integrity of what is promoted as an accessible and flexible on-campus job.

Student workers are an integral part of UCLA – and their wages and scheduling must reflect this.

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