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California pay equity bill for UC contractors vetoed

California Gov. Gerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have required full-time contractors at University of California campuses to be paid the same as comparable UC employees. Separately, a UC supplier is under federal scrutiny for allegedly underpaying contingent workers.

Senate Bill 376 was introduced in February by Senator Ricardo Lara. “Recent research has shown that [UC contractors] are paid as much as 53% less than comparable UC employees,” Lara wrote in an opinion piece [1] for the Orange County (Calif.) Register newspaper. “Contingent workers are also twice as likely to live in poverty and rely on food stamps and Medi-Cal. The state has a vital interest in addressing poverty and reducing the demands on our taxpayer-funded social safety net.”

“The effort to provide increased compensation to those who work for UC — either directly or on a contract basis — is well-intentioned, but I’m not prepared to embrace the provisions of this bill,” Governor Brown said in his veto message [2].

The UC system, which opposed the legislation, announced a plan to address contingent worker pay in July, mandating the minimum wage for UC contractors to increase to $15 by Oct. 1, 2017 [3]. Gov. Brown referred to this program in his veto message, and encouraged the university system to provide a transparent accounting of its contracts and clearly demonstrate how the interests of all its lower paid workers are being protected.

Separately, the Los Angeles Times reports [4] federal authorities are investigating allegations that a contractor underpaid contingent workers assigned to clean up after UC Berkeley sporting events. Under California law, a buyer of staffing services can be on the hook if its suppliers do not pay their contingents appropriately. However, government agencies are exempt.